India and Climate Change

  • India has experienced a significant increase in average temperature, with a rise of approximately 0.7°C between 1901 and 2018.
  • This temperature increase is primarily attributed to the warming effects of greenhouse gases, leading to climate change. In 2019, India ranked as the 7th most impacted country in terms of both fatalities (2,267 people) and economic losses (66,182 million US$ PPP) due to extreme weather events caused by climate change.
  • These events, including floods, droughts, and cyclones, have rendered 17 out of 20 people in India vulnerable to such hydrological and meteorological disasters.
  • The alarming statistics highlight the urgent need for effective measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change in order to protect lives, livelihoods, and the economy in India.

India: Climate Change Impacts

As per the World Bank analysis , Climate change will have following impacts on India

  1. Episodes of extreme heat:
    • India is already experiencing a warming climate, and extreme heatwaves are becoming more frequent and widespread.
    • These episodes can have severe implications for agriculture, water resources, and human health. If global warming reaches 4°C, the west coast and southern regions of India are projected to shift to new high-temperature climatic regimes, posing significant challenges for farming and livelihoods.
  2. Fluctuating rainfall patterns:
    • India heavily relies on the monsoon season for its agricultural productivity. However, there has been a decline in monsoon rainfall since the 1950s, accompanied by an increase in the frequency of heavy rainfall events.
    • A 2°C rise in global temperatures will make India’s summer monsoon highly unpredictable. This unpredictability can trigger more frequent droughts and floods, affecting large parts of the country.
    • Some regions, particularly the northwest coast and the southeast coastal region, may experience higher-than-average rainfall, while dry years are expected to be drier, exacerbating water scarcity issues.
  3. Droughts:
    • Evidence suggests that parts of South Asia, including India, have experienced increased drought occurrences since the 1970s.
    • Droughts have significant consequences for agriculture, leading to crop failures and reduced food production.
    • In the past, droughts have affected more than half of India’s crop area and caused substantial economic losses.
  4. Groundwater depletion:
    • With over 60% of India’s agriculture being rain-fed, the country heavily relies on groundwater resources.
    • However, even without the impacts of climate change, around 15% of India’s groundwater resources are already overexploited.
    • Growing water demand from a growing population, urbanization, and industrial sectors further exacerbates the problem.
    • Falling water tables and groundwater depletion are expected to worsen, intensifying water scarcity issues.
  5. Glacier melt:
    • The Himalayan region plays a crucial role in India’s water resources, primarily through its glacier-fed rivers such as the Indus, Brahmaputra, and Ganges.
    • While glaciers in the northwestern Himalayas and the Karakoram range have remained stable or even advanced, most Himalayan glaciers, which depend on summer monsoon moisture, have been retreating over the past century.
    • The melting of glaciers and loss of snow cover due to warming temperatures pose a threat to the stability and reliability of northern India’s primarily glacier-fed rivers.
    • Changes in river flows can significantly impact irrigation, food production, and the livelihoods of millions of people.
  6. Sea level rise:
    • Being close to the equator, India is highly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Rising sea levels and storm surges can lead to saltwater intrusion in coastal areas, impacting agriculture, degrading groundwater quality, and contaminating drinking water sources.
    • Cities like Kolkata and Mumbai, with their high population densities, are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise, tropical cyclones, and riverine flooding.
  7. Agriculture and food security:
    • Climate change-induced factors like seasonal water scarcity, rising temperatures, and saltwater intrusion pose significant threats to crop yields, jeopardizing India’s food security. Substantial reductions in yields of major crops such as rice and wheat are expected in the near and medium term.
    • Without significant adaptation measures, India may need to import more than twice the amount of food grains than would be required in a scenario without climate change.
  8. Energy security:
    • Climate change can impact India’s energy security through its effects on water availability. Variability in river flows and decreases in water availability pose challenges to hydropower plants, while increasing temperatures increase the risk of physical damage from natural disasters such as landslides and flash floods. Thermal power generation is also at risk due
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