Facing the heat PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 02 March 2018 00:00
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Climate-change plan must focus on mitigating its effects, too


The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned of an exceptionally hot summer this year—the temperature will be more than 1oC above normal across half the country in the March-May period. While the monsoon is likely to be normal, the IMD believes, in the absence of “other large-scale signals during the March-May period”, the rise forecast can be attributed to global warming. Climate-sceptics may keep insisting that anthropogenic climate change is a conspiracy, but climate-change effects have been unravelling for some time now. This year, a heatwave in the Arctic, during its sunless winter, has caused wild blizzards in Europe. This has forced climate scientists, as per The Guardian, to revise downwards even their worst forecasts of climate change.

While the Paris climate accord is rightly hailed as a leap forward in tackling climate change—though the US, one of the top greenhouse gas emitters, has already bowed out of the agreement—scientists argue current and projected efforts may not be enough to stem perilous climate change. New research shows that, given global trends in economic and population growth, there is only a 5% chance of the planet being able to stave off the 2oC rise in temperature predicted at the end of the 21st century. Governments, thus, must gear up to respond to drastically altered climate scenarios as much as focus on tackling climate change. India, which has made responsible commitments under the Paris accord, already recognises the various threats it faces. The Economic Survey 2018 talks of how climate change will reduce agri-productivity and pull down farm-incomes by 15-18% overall and by as much as a quarter in unirrigated areas. It will also cause rain deficiencies in many areas as well as give rise to newer and perhaps hardier pests. Against such a backdrop, actively promoting GM technology to develop drought-resistant and pest-resistant crops is extremely important. This means the government has to do an about-turn on its current GM policy.

The Centre for Science and Environment has pointed out that excessive rainfall—unevenly spread over the monsoon period—in some areas skews the overall monsoon data by offsetting the deficiency in others. Between June 1 and August 28, 2017, nearly 37% of the districts in India had received rainfall that was classified by IMD as a large-deficiency or deficiency, while 5% had received rainfall in “large excess”. Flooding and rain-deficiency are problems that can be solved with efficient water-management. While India gets around 2,600 billion cubic metres (bcm) of rain in even a bad year—and just 1,110 bcm is enough to meet all its needs—it has the capacity to store a mere 253 bcm. Creating more reservoirs, and at the right places, and linking them to, say, a water-stressed Bengaluru or Chennai, could curb loss of water and lessen the dependence on a Cauvery. The need is for the Union government to pursue a mitigation strategy on war-footing, perhaps announcing a Swachh Bharat-like central scheme on responsible use and harvesting of water.


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