Climate Change and India

Climate Change and India
What is climate change? Climate change refers to a change in global or regional climate patterns, particularly seen from the mid to late 20th century onwards and is largely a result of the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels. Climate change will lead to changes in temperature and will affect several weather-sensitive sectors of the economy such as agriculture, forestry, water resources and so on. The impact of these changes will also be felt on human systems affecting human health, human settlements, and industry and energy sectors. Developing countries of the world depend more on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, forestry or fishing and hence have been estimated to be the worst affected by climate change. Climate change is likely to affect a country’s national resource base, with significant changes in agricultural patterns. Where does India stand? In India, agriculture and allied activities constitute a significant proportion of the economy and contribute to almost 19% of the total gross domestic product (GDP). The tremendous importance of agriculture to the Indian economy can be gauged by the fact that more than 60% of the workforce is dependent on this sector. Besides, the share of agriculture products in export earning is also significant. Therefore, agriculture has a direct impact on poverty and is an important factor in employment generation in a country like India. Agricultural productivity is sensitive to two kinds of climate-induced effects—direct effects from the change in temperature patterns, rainfall, carbon dioxide concentrations, and indirect effects through changes in soil profile and infestation by insects. Farmers in India are hugely dependent on natural factors that affect crop yield, and these natural factors are in a constant state of flux due to climate change, which results in low crop yield and low soil productivity, which affects the economy. For a country like India, sustainable agriculture is essential to meet the food demands as well as for poverty reduction through economic growth by creating employment opportunities in non-agricultural rural sectors. India has ranked 155th position in a global list that places countries on how well they perform on high-priority environmental issues. India’s vulnerability to climate change is caused by a huge population living in abject poverty and inadequate infrastructure to deal with complex weather systems characterized by irregular monsoons, flooding, rising sea levels, and higher temperatures. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 has warned India of disastrous consequences if the current trends of global warming are not checked at once. The rise in sea levels will have a disastrous impact on the country because of its large coastline and the number of people dependant on the sea for their livelihoods. The deadly heatwaves which have become a common occurrence during the summer months since 2015 could soon become the norm. The report mentions that the harm caused by global warming and climate change can still be minimized but for countries of South Asia, which are largely developing economies with limited resources, this can be very challenging. The estimated costs for building an energy-efficient and sustainable economy are well above $50 billion dollars, and it is unclear as to who will finance these enormous costs. Climate change is beginning to manifest in India with numerous reports on the dwindling groundwater levels in the country, irregular monsoons, droughts, floods, extreme weather in summer and winter months, inflation caused by low crop yield, increased frequency of cyclonic activities. The integration of issues regarding development with those of environmental concerns has been in the forefront of India’s policy-making. For a developing country like India, issues regarding climate change are intricately connected to social issues such as poverty and food scarcity, economic issues such a price rise and political concerns such as policy-making for a sustainable ecology. According to a report by the World Bank in 2018, over 600 million Indians are presently affected by climate change and this number is set to increase in later years. The report also mentions that climate change could cost India 2.8% of GDP and lower living standards of nearly half of its population by 2050. Average annual temperatures are expected to rise by 1-2 percent over three decades. What are the steps taken to control climate change? •India had adopted the National Environment Policy of 2006 which provides for several measures and policy initiatives to create awareness about climate change and take effective measures against them. •In 2008, the National Action Plan on Climate Change was formed to lay down priorities and future actions of the government for addressing the issue of climate. Eight national missions (energy efficiency, sustainable habitat, Himalayan eco-system, Green India, eco-green agriculture and knowledge, water, solar mission) have been outlined to advance India’s development and climate change-related objectives. •The “national water grid” was studied by the Central Water Commission through the National Water Development Agency under the Water Resources Ministry. Battery-operated vehicles have become a common occurrence in cities. Efforts are being made to extract energy from urban and industrial waste. Techniques like rainwater harvesting are being applied in various places. •The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has formed the country’s first state energy efficiency preparedness index to combat climate change. •India has planned a Rs 65,000-crore project to reduce greenhouse gases from agriculture. The objective of the project, with a run period 2018-2025, is to “sequestrate” 49.9 million tonnes of carbon gases through improved agro-ecosystems. •In 2018, India along with 170 countries signed an agreement in London to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 50 per cent from shipping by the year 2050. •The Delhi government's health department has come up with a road map on how to deal with the seasonal changes in the city. Similar arrangements have been done in Orissa and Bihar. Climate change is a subject that can have the most disastrous effects on all sections of the economy yet it is not being addressed in a proper manner. For a developing country like India, which lacks the funds necessary to convert to a green and sustainable ecology, climate change has never been more relevant. It has direct consequences on patterns of poverty, food scarcity, social and economic issues as well as political concerns, and governments across the world need to come up with more tangible, inclusive, environmentally sensitive and scientific solutions to tackle the menace of climate change before it gets too late.

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