The government’s decision to have a national climate change mitigation programme is a step in the right direction for India to cope with climate change. The idea is to have a pan-Indian approach — involving scientists from various fields — for drawing up a ‘national plan’ to monitor climate change impact and prescribe environment-friendly technologies to counter it. Seven key areas, including renewable energy, clean technologies and solar power for new research projects have been identified for the programme. This could not have happened sooner, considering the grim picture of the effects of global warming on the subcontinent that the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints in its latest report.
Climate change driven by unchecked greenhouse gas emissions affects all countries. But India is likely to suffer more than most, with poor agricultural output, more natural disasters, and increased deaths due to a higher incidence of diseases. The IPCC predicts a nearly 5°C increase in temperatures by the end of the century, which would substantially cut rainfall as many Himalayan glaciers start receding. Since the Ganga receives 70 per cent of its summer water flow from these glaciers, their retreat would imperil the lives of hundreds of millions of people who are sustained by the river. More drought in the western parts of the country would alternate with increased floods in northern and eastern India. Agriculture determines 22 per cent of India’s gross domestic product, and since crop production is heavily dependent on the monsoon rains, any wild swings in the monsoon pattern and intensity would impact the economy. Even a temperature rise of around 2°C could cost India an estimated loss of between 9 and 25 per cent of total agricultural revenue.
Sharply rising temperatures would also fuel the spread of mean vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever to higher altitude regions that are currently mosquito-free, with more deaths translating into lower productivity. Unfortunately, India’s efforts to curb emissions and invest in clean development mechanisms may not count for much as long as developed countries — that contribute 75 per cent of atmospheric greenhouse gases — refuse to share the burden of responsibility.