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Climate Change | With more weather extremes in future, India needs new, effective solutions

According to World Bank analysis, the rising temperatures and altered rainfall patterns brought on by Climate Change might cost India 2.8 percent of its GDP by 2050

August 02, 2022 / 08:28 AM IST
Rescue workers at Nenmara in Kerala's Palakkad after heavy rains triggered landslide and floods. (Image source: PTI/File photo)

Rescue workers at Nenmara in Kerala's Palakkad after heavy rains triggered landslide and floods. (Image source: PTI/File photo)

Amrita Jha

India has been identified as an increasingly climate vulnerable country, ranking seventh on the Climate Risk Index 2021, according to environmental think tank Germanwatch.

The United Nations (UN) defines Climate Change as the long-term shifts in temperature and weather patterns including rainfall and wind. These shifts could be natural as they have coincided with the shifting solar cycle.

However, since the industrial revolution began in the 1750s, human activities have been the primary cause of rising temperature, mostly as a result of burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. Fossil fuel combustion releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. As of 2022, globally carbon dioxide levels have increased nearly 50 percent since the 1800s, contributing to the rising concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

According to the World Bank’s analysis, the rising temperature and altered rainfall pattern brought on by Climate Change, might cost India 2.8 percent of its GDP by 2050.

Close

The reality is that India will still see an annual temperature increase of 1 to 2 degrees Celsius even if it implements every decision made in the 2015 Paris agreement. If no action is taken, the increase will be between 1.5 and 3 degrees Celsius per year. This year, the northwest region faced the hottest April in 122 years with temperatures touching above 40 degrees.

Also, severe and frequent flood events in the northeast are recent examples of Climate Change. According to the Assam State Action Plan for Climate Change (2015-2020), the annual mean temperature in Assam rose by 0.59 degrees Celsius in 60 years (1951 to 2010), and is projected to rise a further 1.7-2.2 degrees Celsius by 2050.

The rainfall has reportedly grown exceptionally fierce and more unpredictable in recent years. In July, a deadly flash flood occurred near the Amarnath cave brought on by heavy rains. The recent persistent rains in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh have raised water levels in certain rivers, and inundated low lying areas. As a result, human causalities and financial losses were incurred.

However, these destructions cannot solely be attributed to Climate Change. Another factor for growing devastations is negligent planning, such as placing pilgrimage tents on a dry riverbed in the case of floods in Amarnath. Such unplanned urban expansions including accelerated construction, and outdated drainage infrastructure, lead to urban floods.

Way Forward

Climate and weather extremes are a reality and their consequences are devastating. Our action and planning should be such that we are able to address the problems posed in its entirety. As far as mitigating the impending dangers from these hazardous phenomena is concerned, we have to look at the issue in the perspective of disaster management. An effective five-stage strategy (Prevention, Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery) will significantly reduce the risks from these events if implemented suitably. An early warning network based on the prediction of such hazardous events needs to be established to alert communities. An evacuation plan for safe guarding lives and livelihoods, capacity building and awareness should be envisaged during the prevention stage.

The mitigation stage aims to minimise the loss and damage from a disaster by both structural and non-structural measures such as a construction of flood protection measure structures, dam safety aspects, regular cleaning of congested drainage etc.

Ensuring regular update of disaster management plans and more importantly, their practical implementation can help manage disasters better. The response stage includes both short-term and long-term operations after the disaster occurs. The last stage is recovery which involves stabilizing the affected area and restoring all essentials. These include food distribution, clean water supply, and healthcare facilities to help the impacted individuals and communities. The disaster management agencies like, National Disaster Management Authorities (NDMA) and State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMA) have a greater role to play.

Still most of the guidelines developed at national and state level by these nodal agencies are not able to give the intended outcome. It is time we should think differently and do away with conventional methods and approaches as they have become redundant. A new perspective needs to be developed based on risk assessments and effective solutions with measurable potentials.

Amrita Jha is Associate Fellow at Earth Science and Climate Change division, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). Views are personal, and do not represent the stand of this publication.
first published: Aug 2, 2022 08:21 am
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