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Aerosols increasing at 2% per annum, will affect climate change and public health, says eminent scientist

SK Satheesh, professor at the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, IISc, Bengaluru, was awarded Infosys Prize 2018 for his work in physical sciences. In an interview with Sibi Arasu, he talks about why his research is more important now than ever before.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2018 09:01 IST
Sibi Arasu
Sibi Arasu
Hindustan Times
SK Satheesh,Climate Change,Policies
The adverse impact of black carbon aerosols was discovered in the early 2000s. (AP/Picture for representation)

Professor SK Satheesh, professor at the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru and Director, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, was awarded the Infosys Prize 2018 for his work in the physical sciences.

Satheesh was one of six eminent academics and scientists who were recipients of the prestigious Infosys Science Foundation (ISF) award. In an interview with Sibi Arasu, he talks about why his research is more important now than ever before.

What have been the findings of your work, how does it connect to a warming India and the globe?

The adverse impact of black carbon aerosols was discovered in the early 2000s. Through our research and simulations, we have found that aerosols are increasing at a rate of 2% per annum. This is bound to create an adverse condition and will have increasingly negative effects on not only climate change but also the Indian monsoons as well as public health in the subcontinent.

Can you tell us a bit about your work at the Divecha Centre for Climate Change at IISc?

Our centre is ten years old now. We look into research on any type of climate change and climate variability. Our areas of research include not only black carbon aerosols but also changes in the Himalayan glaciers and its effects on water security in the mountain regions. We are also looking into renewable energy, solar and wind energy.

You are part of the Future Earth programme, can you tell us a little about this?

The Future Earth program is an international program led by the United Nations that began in 2015. While most work till now has been focused on climate-change issues, we deal with finding solutions. Our main objective is to find region-specific, solution-oriented research.

What do you feel about growing climate change skepticism? Do you think that is derailing progress made in terms of mitigation and adaptation to climate change?

Thankfully, India is very serious about its commitment to (addressing) climate change. While there is a problem of implementation, the right policies and rules are in place. The United States withdrawing from the Paris accord was unfortunate and we hope that doesn’t have a chain reaction. I believe most of the anti-climate-change talk is driven by the fossil fuel lobby.

How realistic is it that the world will manage to reduce emissions within the next few decades?

I think, unfortunately, there is a good chance that the ‘tipping point’, that is an irreversible change in climate, will take place. The new system afterwards will be much hotter than now and while a global mean of 3-4 degrees warmer temperature is predicted, areas close to the equator will heat up several degrees more. Having said that, a global effort is being made and many powerful countries are serious about their commitments. So I hope for the best.

What lies at the core of your research and work?

We’re essentially trying to link our science with policy and society. We are constantly reaching out to policy makers to take up measures to mitigate climate-change. We are also organising technical cooperation programs, through which young researchers from 25 South Asian and African countries attend a training and awareness programme on climate-change that they can carry back to their country. Recognition such as the Infosys Award as well as the American Geophysical Union Medal that I received last year, are a real boost to our efforts. These awards motivate us to continue our work and bring forward viable climate solutions.

First Published: Nov 14, 2018 09:01 IST