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Economics of Climate Change in Indian Context!

Due to the unabated global warming over the years, some of the climate changes have become irreversible. According to climate scientists, extreme weather events like heat waves (causing wildfires), sea storms, torrential rains and cyclones are influenced by turbulations in the climate systems. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has reckoned heat waves and humid heat stress to be tyrannical and recurrent in South Asia during the 21st Century. It also states that both annual and summer monsoon precipitation will escalate during the same period.

A general wetting across the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya is predicted, with enhancement in heavy precipitation in the 21st Century, thereby leading to further intensified disasters. Also, if countries resort to fossil fuel burning to reboot their Covid ravished economies then this shall future aggravate the global warming crisis.

India is the third largest carbon emitter of the world after China and the US. India is also the second most populous country in the world and is ranked seventh in a major climate risk index of 2019. However, it will fall short in performance of Paris climate agreement pledge to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from the 2005 levels by the year 2030. The Paris climate agreement aims to maintain global average temperature rise to well below 2C and strive for 1.5C target to prevent runaway climate change. Greenhouse-gas induced warming is adding to more volatile monsoon seasons, further aggravated by not cutting down carbon emissions fast enough there by amplifying the harsh consequences. The planet's average surface temperature has gone up 1.1 degrees Celsius on compared to the late 19th-century. Yet, the Indian government has not come up with any specific date to become carbon neutral or to come up with any carbon reduction targets. It's time that policy makers find measures to cut down global greenhouse gas emissions otherwise its likely to lead to higher levels of troposphere ozone pollution and other air pollution across India.

Urbanization will inflame climate impacts like floods and landslides. Increase in pluvial flood in urban areas where precipitation is expected to be high especially at increasing levels of global warming. In years to come a more erratic monsoon season can be expected which will negatively impact the economy, food and agricultural practises — in India if global warming continues unchecked. For every degree Celsius of warming, monsoon rainfalls will likely increase by about 5 per cent, according to lead author Anja Katzenberger from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany (LMU). She added that global warming is increasing monsoon rainfall in India even more than previously thought: “It is dominating monsoon dynamics in the 21st century.”

India's own first-ever climate change assessment report published by the government in 2020 found that both recurrence and severity of droughts had increased notably between 1951 and 2016. As per the experts at the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), the report states that India’s average temperature has risen by around 0.7 degrees Celsius during 1901–2018. The report “Assessment of climate change over the Indian region”, predicts that unless steps are taken to curb this crisis between 2070 and 2099 average temperature over India will rise by approximately 4.4 degrees Celsius relative to the recent past (1976–2005). Meaning hottest days will be hotter. “The recurrences of summer (April–June) heat waves over India are projected to be 3 to 4 times higher by the end of the century under the RCP8.5 scenario, as compared to the 1976–2005 baseline periods.”

India is one of the 17 countries where water tensity is extremely high, according to a 2019 global report by the World Resources Institute. India is running out of ground and surface water and is listed alongside countries in the Middle East and North Africa where large swathes are deserts. Last year, five of the extreme weather events around the world were related to Asia's unusually rainy monsoon, according to a tally by the charity Christian Aid.

According to IITM experts’ calculations many areas of the mountains of the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) faced a declining level of snowfall and retreat of glaciers in recent past, though some glaciers in the high-elevation Karakoram range could dodge this retreat due to more winter snowfall. They also predicted that “By the end of the 21st century, the annual mean surface temperature over HKH is projected to increase by about 5.2 degrees Celsius under the RCP8.5 scenario” which will accelerate glacier retreat, resulting in melt water flows in the rivers of northern India to become unforeseeable in non-monsoon months, especially when such water is crucial for millions of people. Habitation in the Himalayas are already suffering as springs dry up, and these cycles will frequently repeat if the average temperature keeps going up by this extent.

According to the UN estimate 1.23 million people have died and 4.2 billon people have been affected by droughts, floods and wildfires since 2000. Over the past 10 decades, 20 million people every year have been forced to relocate from their place of dwelling by weather-related disasters, according to the international charity, Oxfam. It stated the number of such disasters has tripled in the past 30 years. In 2020 a single event, Cyclone Amphan, affected 13 million people, resulting in '13 billion damage. Anders Levermann from PIK and Columbia University said," If your roads are flooded, if your train tracks are flooded, that inhibits economic productivity."He added the year-to-year variability would also complicate strategies to cope with the increasing strength of the rainy season."More chaos in the Indian monsoon rainfall will make it harder to adapt."

The Indian summer monsoon plays a crucial role for India’s agriculture sector influencing the subsistence of a fifth of the world’s population. About 80 per cent of the annual precipitation over India occurs during the summer period, dispensing water to crops during the crucial phase of plantation. Excessive rainfall or a volatile monsoon pattern impacts negatively.

Overall, climate change has resulted in hotter and drier India since the middle of the 20th century, with more droughts, cloudbursts, floods, rising seas, stronger cyclones and a change in the monsoon pattern. The scientists forecast that even in an RCP4.5 scenario, by the end of the century the seas around India will rise by 300mm from the average level between 1986 and 2005. This would result in larger coastal area being inundated by saltwater intrusion.

In consolidated view, the fast-paced changes in India’s climate will put the country’s natural ecosystems, agricultural output, and freshwater resources, under pressure for sustenance while also causing stress to the infrastructure maintenance and growth. The warning signs if ignored will put the country in desperate consequences in cases of biodiversity, food, water, energy security, and public health. In the absence of informed, far-reaching mitigation, quick response mechanisms and adaptation measures, sustaining the country’s economic growth and achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted by UN Member States in 2015 shall become not only challenging but also compromising in certain sense.

Human-induced climate change if continues to be ignored shall have serious consequences some of which cannot be fathomed. No blame game will make it easier, only accountability can save humanity from such dire consequences.

Some of the obvious measures to handle this huge environmental crisis are: Curbing carbon emission, adopting pollution control measures, attempts to reduce indoor temperatures, proactive afforestation, encouraging urban green spaces, water conservation, rainwater harvesting, groundwater regulation, phasing out fossil fuels, reversing land degradation, minimizing wastage, waste segregation and recycling, urban development measures that do not compromise environmental health. Also increasing the area under irrigation and efficient use of agricultural water, forest conservation and, construction of coastal embankments, mangrove restoration, e-waste management, timely and efficient disaster management, controlling greenhouse gas emissions, more preparedness when it comes to handling natural crisis while implementing better forecasting measures, transition to renewable, electrification, less reliance on petrol or diesel and restructuring transport infrastructure to make it more environmental friendly.

If we don’t act and just play with words in the blame game and recklessly use our natural resources, soon we’ll be left with the only choice that is face the harsh consequences.