Climate Change Is Real, And This Is How It’s Creating Havoc In India

Posted by Pranith Kiran Akkanapelli in Specials
December 14, 2017

Climate change is the most significant environmental threat, and challenge humanity has ever faced. It is caused by the build-up of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and anthropogenic land-use transformations.

Climate change has already become apparent in a wide range of fields such as agriculture, native ecosystems, urban environment, m

elting glaciers, rising sea levels and shifting rainfall patterns are being observed. The devastation of this year’s hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and record flooding across Bangladesh, India, and Nepal serve as a reminder that the climate change is real. The death of coral reefs is one of the most serious consequences of climate change, since the many fish depends on these.

If left unchecked, all these will have broad social and economic impacts. We all need to work on ways to cut our emissions, adapt to the effects of climate change and become more resilient to the changes that are coming. While we are uncertain about the pace and scale of future change, we do know that planning for the future means planning for a different climate. A survey targeting the climate, ecosystem and civic life fields is essential.

Image source: Internet, by Paul Nicklen

This above photo was taken recently; a polar bear was starving to death because of climate change.

Climate-induced loss and damage are neglected globally. The Paris Agreement recognizes the “the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change” but at the same time it “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.”

Loss and damage can occur from sudden events such as storms, flash floods, and landslides. Currently, they are due to slow effects of climate change: increasing average temperature, sea level rise, drought, soil salinisation and ocean acidification. All these disrupt food production, water supply, infrastructure and settlements, and human lives and ecosystem.

With the monsoon floods in South Asia, many people have died, and many have lost their homes, crops have been destroyed, and infrastructure is damaged. Prolonged droughts in Africa have ruined many livelihoods. The land is the primary asset, and it’s becoming less arable due to climate change.

The Earth’s temperature is on the rise, and it affects countries very unequally. Even though developing countries or developing countries contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions, they would have to bear the adverse consequences of rising temperatures as most of them are situated in the hottest parts of the Earth (between the tropics).

India is among the worst affected by it. India had already witnessed severe droughts, floods, and cyclones. It is expected that the extent and strength of the impact in India will increase with the progress of climate change in the future. According to IMF studies, the effect of a 1-degree rise in temperature in India would reduce per capita output by 1.33% points, which lasts at least for seven years. Other countries in the region, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Malaysia are also greatly affected. The impact on most developed nations, located in the temperate zone is negligible. The above estimates signify the importance of policies to combat the impacts of climate change in countries like India.

Climate change also has a serious impact on water resources and threatens food security, triggering mass migrations, increasing socio and political conflict around the world. Given these changes, India has a serious problem with the uncertainty in the onset of annual monsoon, sometimes marked by prolonged dry spells and fluctuations in seasonal and annual rainfall. We also rely excessively on groundwater resources, which accounts for over 50% of the irrigated area. We have seen cycles of drought and flood years, with large parts of west and south experiencing more deficits and large variations, resulting in immense hardship particularly the poor people. Dependence on erratic rains and lack of irrigation facilities regionally leads to crop failures and farmer suicides.

The agricultural sector is the worst affected due to climate change, and 22% of the economic impact caused by extreme climate events is in developing countries. The farming sector in India is in distress, and several state governments have responded with loan waivers, which could affect their fiscal math and the ability to push the capital expenditure at a time when the Indian economy has slowed significantly. This comes after India faced deficit rainfall for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015. Uneven monsoons have caused the decline in the production of Kharif crops.

The possibility of such weather events is likely to increase in the future. It becomes difficult for a country like India where nearly 50% of its population directly or indirectly depends on agriculture. Weather does not affect the agriculture sector alone; it affects productivity in general. A decrease in output and lower productivity also affects capital formation which has a bearing on growth prospects.

As the climate further changes in the future, it is expected that the range of adverse effects accompanying it, and more influences will appear on many animals and plants and ecosystems. To stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the ultimate objective of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, it is necessary to dramatically reduce the total emissions of domestic and overseas greenhouse gases over the next 100 years. The Kyoto protocol aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries by about 5%.

Many low income and vulnerable countries have limited resources and have huge spending needs. Domestic solutions will help only to a certain extent; we need a global outreach which can overcome the weather shocks. Advanced and developed economies have contributed a major share to the climate change. So, helping these vulnerable nations cope with its consequences is their duty and also sounds global economic policy.

The Paris agreement is the world’s first comprehensive regime within the UNFCCC, tackling with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance. Economic growth and the emissions growth are related to any country. It happened during the industrial revolution and also now. India is the 3rd largest carbon emitting country in the world and had ratified the Paris Agreement in Oct 2016. It accounts for around 6.5% of the total greenhouse gas emissions.

India had introduced a nationwide carbon tax in 2010. In 2014, India undertook green actions which include imposing significantly higher taxation of petroleum products and thereby reenergizing the renewable energy sector. The existing tax had been increased to ₹100 ($1.55) per tonne. It shifted from a carbon subsidization regime to one of the significant carbon taxation regimes, from a negative price to an implicit positive price on carbon emissions.

India is aiming to reduce its carbon emission intensity – emission per unit of GDP – by 35% compared to 2005 levels. It aims to produce 40% of its installed electricity capacity by 2030 from non-fossil fuels. India has started shifting significantly from coal-based power generation to clean energy generation from wind, wave, tidal and solar energy. Cochin International Airport is the first airport to run completely on solar power. Reforestation helps in carbon sinking. India has taken the initiative to increase the forest area by 5 million hectares along with an improvement in the quality of green cover by 2030.

International Solar Alliance has become the first treaty-based international government organization, ratified by 19 countries, which will be based in India. The initiative, jointly launched by India and France, attempts to reduce obstacles for deploying solar projects on a large scale, by increasing cooperation and coordination between solar-rich countries lying between Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn. It also aims to reduce costs incurred, by aggregating demand from member nations and accordingly invite vendors.

There are various suggestions and theories (like the climate change tax) which may help in further reducing the emissions, but to ensure that any rationalization of these taxes happens, we must take account of the implications for power prices. Hence, access to energy for the poorest in India and other vulnerable countries which is and must remain a fundamental objective of the new policy. Climate mitigation policies affect countries’ economic growth, investment levels, capital flows. These policies should be designed such that they provide price stability, adjust to changing economic conditions and are implemented broadly, and are accompanied by a broader fiscal form which can overcome the costs mentioned above.

Urbanization and modernization resulted in poor air quality and severe congestion. Recently, Delhi was covered with thick smog and became one of the most polluted cities in the world. The existing energy tax systems can be modified accounting to the above problems to improve the economic growth and performance. Developed countries can finance the mitigation and adaptation projects and programs. The vulnerable and developing countries have problems of their own. Vulnerable nations have an emphasis on financial aid from developed countries to handle the mitigation and adaptation measures.

The negative impact of the climate change cannot be avoided simply enough by strengthening measures to reduce greenhouse gases.

Adaptation is necessary to adjust people, society and economy to mitigate the effects of the climate that is changing. Continuing passive and ex-post facto response to climate change influence will increase the ecological, social and economic risks, resulting in fatal damage, resulting in damage repair. A large number of expenses are required.

On the contrary, if an appropriate prediction is made on the impact of climate change and drafting and implementation of predictive and systematic adaptation measures, the vulnerability concerning climate change in each division will be improved in advance, resulting in short-term as well as long-term which may be beneficial to the society.

The Paris Agreement also came up with some specific suggestions to avert or minimize loss and damage, such as early warning systems for storms and floods; emergency preparedness; comprehensive risk assessment and management; risk insurance facilities, climate risk pooling and other insurance solutions; and how to improve the resilience of communities, livelihoods and ecosystems.