Climate change is a much closer reality in India now

Climate change is a much closer reality in India now

For the first time, a comprehensive assessment on what climate change would manifest in over the next two decades — by 2030 — has been made available to the country as compared to earlier scenarios that projected climate change far beyond 2050s.

Higher temperatures, heavier precipitation, rise in sea levels and adverse impacts on agriculture productivity and human health are forecast in a report, ‘Climate change and India: A 4x4 Assessment, A sectoral and regional analysis for 2030s’, released by the Union ministry of environment and forests.

By 2030, the country will be warmer by 1.7-2.2 degree Celsius as compared to the 1970s — the benchmark set for future projections in the study — that would result in myriad changes across agriculture practices, water availability, human health, and natural ecosystems and diversity in the country.

The report is unique in respect of its delineation of bio-diversity-rich areas in the country into four geographical divisions — the Himalayan region, the Western Ghats, the north-east region and the coastal region and their in-depth study for varied environmental impacts of climate change.

The report is the result of a networked effort of 120 institutions and over 200 scientists engaged in researching different facets of climate change under the aegis of the Indian Network of Climate Change Assessment (INCCA). It is the second report by the INCCA and is said to be a step towards building indigenous capacity to tackle climate change.

For the first time, an attempt has been made to explore the linkage between climate change and human health. With net temperatures set to rise in the next two decades coupled with overall rise in precipitation and humidity levels, the incidence and spread of malaria will show a remarkable increase in large swathes of Himalayan and north-eastern regions, says the study.

The projected rise in sea levels — currently pegged at a rate of 1.3 mm per year, will have adverse impact on coastal populations spread over 13 coastal states and union territories susceptible to sea-level rise in the country. It could result in displacement and impact livelihoods of the coastal communities besides cause more intense cyclonic systems. Human mortality due to drowning and water-borne diseases could be accompanying factors to the phenomenon of sea-rise.

The impact of climate change on people’s livelihoods will be most noticed in the agriculture sector which contributes to 17.1 per cent to the country’s GDP and has implications for food security. Estimates show that every 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature could result in a loss of 4-5 million tonnes in wheat production. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already forecast a loss of 10-40 per cent in crop productivity in India by 2080-2100 due to global warming.

Coconut yield

The present study says that in most of the Western Ghats region, the coconut yields may go up by 30 per cent due to rise in precipitation and lesser increase in temperature. But the south-western Karnataka region and parts of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra may lose coconut yield up to 24 per cent. The rice yield in the Ghats region could fall by 4 per cent and maize and sorghum crops could lose their yield by up to 50 per cent.

In the coastal region, the rice and maize yields could go down by up to 10 and 15 per cent respectively due to higher sea-levels.

Apple crop in the Himalayan region will show a gradual decline due to increase in temperatures while north-eastern region may witness a loss of 40 per cent in maize yield.

The country will have 3-7 per cent overall increase in summer monsoon fall in the 2030s with respect to 1970s. On a seasonal scale though, except for the Himalayan region, all other regions are likely to record lower rainfall in winter as well as pre-summer period.

Extreme rainfall events have shown an increase since the 1980s across the country. The study covered precipitation analysis of 165 stations across the four regions and found that many places had shown an increase of 40-370 per cent increase in intensity since the 1980s.

For example, Amini Devi in Lakshadweep islands recorded 170 cm of rain on a single day on May 6, 2004, as opposed to the previous one-day extreme rainfall event that had recorded only 25 cm. In parts of Western Ghats and north-eastern India, one-day rainfall of 50 cm and above has been recorded. The study noted that the intensity of rainfall has been rising in the period 1980-2010 and the pattern will intensity by the 2030s.

Sea-level rise will impact several areas on the country’s east coast. Three most vulnerable coastal areas studied for inundation due to sea-level rise were Paradip, Nagapatinam and Kochi. The study showed if the sea-level rises by one metre, it will inundate up to 478 square km coastal area around Paradip, 169 sq km around Kochi and 4.2 square km surrounding Nagapatinam which is known for storm surges and tsunami in 2004.

The study has recommended to the policy makers to make state-specific action plans on climate change for short, medium and long-terms.

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