The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report this week on the increasing impacts of climate change around the world. While there is really nothing new in the report, it does underscore the urgency of addressing the issue.
India is one country that will be especially hard hit. An article by Nita Bhalla of Reuters lists ten ways that global warming will affect the sub-continent. In the face of great poverty, weak gender rights, habitat loss, endangered species and more, climate change will only make things that much more difficult.
As you read over the list below, bear in mind that supporting local communities, recognizing traditional knowledge and empowering women are some of the best ways to adapt, not just in India but everywhere (see my post on women and climate change). The good news (yes, there is some!) is that many people and organizations are already finding ways to cope. Check out the work of groups such as the International Development Exchange and Navdanya to get an idea of what’s being done, and be thankful they are out there.
How climate change will hit India:
1. More severe cyclones hitting densely packed citiesThe five most populous nations occupying low-lying coastal areas are developing and newly industrialised countries: Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, India and Indonesia
Tropical cyclones will cause powerful winds, torrential rains, high waves and storm surge, all of which can have major impacts on society and ecosystems. Bangladesh and India account for 86 percent of deaths from tropical cyclones.
2. Lower crop yields
A rise in the amount of ozone in the troposphere, the lower atmosphere, since pre-industrial times has probably reduced global yields of major crops, by about 10 percent for wheat and soybean and three to five percent for maize and rice, compared with what they would have been without such a rise.
Impacts are most severe in India and China, but are also evident for soybean and maize in the United States.
3. Changes in breeding of river species
It is fairly clear that in India, changes in a number of climate variables including a rise in air temperature, regional monsoon variation and a regional increase in the frequency of severe storms, have led to changes in the behaviour of fish species in the River Ganga.
As a result, less fish spawn is available for aquaculture in the river Ganga, but the breeding period of carp has been brought forward and extended.
4. Less water, more energy consumption
Due to water shortages, water may require significant amounts of energy for lifting, transport and distribution and for the treatment needed to use it or rid it of pollution.
Groundwater accounts for 35 percent of total global water withdrawal and its use is generally more energy intensive than that of surface water, irrigated food production being the largest user. In India, 19 percent of total electricity use in 2012 was for farming, much of this for groundwater pumping.
5. Higher temperatures in cities
Some Indian cities that are particularly large and crowded will become Urban Heat Islands, markedly warmer than the surrounding countryside, as a result of climate change.
The current trend of increasingly frequent extreme events is expected to increase with climate change.
Some urban centres serving prosperous farming regions are particularly sensitive to climate change if water supply or particular crops are at risk.
Urban centres that are major tourism destinations may suffer when the weather becomes stormy or excessively hot, leading to a loss of revenue.6. Livelihood pressures in rural areas
Climate variability and change interacts with, and sometimes adds to, existing pressures on living and working in rural areas, affecting economic policy, globalization, environmental degradation and HIV/AIDS, as has been shown in Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa, Malawi, Kenya and India.
Economic diversity of farming households within communities, in terms of farm and household size, crop choices and input use, will be important in determining the impact of climate change, as will social relations within households that affect production.
7. Tourism and recreation
One study combines a meteorological indicator of exposure with indicators of sensitivity and adaptive capacity, and uses this to rank the vulnerability of beach tourism in 51 countries. India stands out as the most vulnerable and Cyprus as the least vulnerable.
8. Human health
Extra costs will be incurred for treating additional cases of diarrhoea and malaria in India in 2030, depending on how greatly CO2 emissions rise.
9. Labour productivity
Higher temperatures are likely to impact work productivity, particularly in tropical and mid-latitude regions including India, Northern Australia, Southeastern USA.
10. Droughts and floods
More droughts and floods will intensify the pressure to send children out to work, impacting their education.
Indian women born during a drought or flood in the 1970s were 19 percent less likely ever to attend primary school than women of the same age who were not affected by natural disasters.
Studies in India have identified temporary migration as “the most important” coping strategy in times of drought in rural villages.