Climate change issue needs concrete steps - GulfToday

Climate change issue needs concrete steps

BRP Bhaskar


Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

As India braces up to face what may be the worst summer in living memory, concerns over climate change and the authorities’ preparedness to cope with the situation are rising.

Following forecasts of heat waves, Central and state authorities issued the customary warning to citizens to avoid problems like dehydration. Employers were told to give people working in the open a break from 11am to 3pm to prevent exposure to the hot sun. But the authorities themselves are sometimes lax in taking the precautionary measures they have laid down. In Maharashtra, where day temperatures soar to 42 degrees Celsius, 12 persons died and about 600 others had to be treated for heatstroke following exposure to the sun at a function organised by the government to present a prestigious state award. 

Media reports said the state government had brought people from far-off places to watch the event, and they were exposed to high temperatures for hours.

For VIP participants, the authorities pitched tents that could accommodate up to 1,000 people at the venue of the event. But they failed to ensure that the ordinary folks they transported there had adequate access to drinking water.  

This raises questions about priorities that need to be reviewed. Also, proper guidelines need to be laid down for those called upon to deal with emergencies.

There has been no shortage of warnings about calamities waiting to happen as India is passing through a phase of climate change.

On April 16, the Indian Meteorological Department identified large areas across the mainland where heat wave conditions could develop in the following week.

Last winter India had experienced above-average temperatures, and this year’s February was the hottest since 1901. All this led the IMD to warn of enhanced possibility of heat waves between March and May.

There have been warning from elsewhere too. The German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) quoted Abinash Mohanty, sector head of climate change and sustainability at IPE-Global, an international development organisation, as saying the summer of 2023 was a disaster in the making for India, featuring an unprecedented heat wave.

IMD data indicates that summer now comes earlier every year. Average day temperature is currently 3.4 degrees Celsius above normal.

Rising temperature brings with it threat of crop damage. Wheat is the staple food of those in the populous northern states. Since heat waves are occurring mostly in the wheat-growing areas, their impact on the food situation could be severe.

To the extent recurrent heat waves are the result of on-going climate changes, solutions to the problem have to be found in a wider context than is usual. The Centre needs to provide more information on the measures it is contemplating and enlist the fullest support of all sections, including industry. 

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government set up an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013. It came out with what was styled as a “synthesis report” the following year.

The IPCC met recently to start work on a second synthesis report.  A media report quoted IPCC sources as saying that despite progress in policies and legislation around climate mitigation since the 2014 report, it was likely that warming would exceed 1.5 C during the 21st century.

Although IPCC did not come up with a new synthesis report during the past nine years, it produced a series of assessment reports, giving an overview of the state of knowledge concerning the science of climate change, emphasising new results. It also produced a special report on managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation.

According to a study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, the frequency of severe heat waves in India will increase 30-fold by 2100. Under a business-as-usual scenario, heat wave frequency might increase 75-fold.

Essentially, IPCC activities are still in the nature of codifying the results of scientific studies on ways to deal with the impact of climate change. The time has come for the government of India to move forward to specific mitigation measures. In a country as large and varied as India, the problem is bound to be complex. Consequently, the solution may also have to be a many-layered one, rather than a simplistic one.

Along with rising temperatures, India has been experiencing changes in the pattern of monsoon rain for some years now. In a 2018 report, the World Bank said that if these trends continued, the gross domestic procuct could suffer a loss of 2.8 per cent, depressing the living standards of nearly half of the country’s population by 2050. One fact officials tend to gloss over is that climate change will hit the poor hardest. Their livelihood will be the first to be destroyed.

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