India is highly vulnerable to climate change due to its hugely varied socio-economic profile; topography that includes some of the world’s highest glaciated peaks and a long coastline; and climate that ranges from the cold temperate to hot tropical.
As an emerging economy, India is attracting considerable global attention on two climate change fronts – mitigation and adaption. With almost a third of its 1.2 billion people still without access to electricity, the country needs to address its growing energy demands in the context of greenhouse gas emissions. It also needs to step up its food production to feed a growing population, against shrinking water resources.
The country is among the highly vulnerable group to the impacts of global warming. Nearly two-thirds of its agriculture – the main stay of its economy – depends on the monsoon. Indian scientists are increasingly reporting increasingly erratic monsoon rains, with more frequent and intense extreme events such as drought, cyclones and floods. Minimum temperatures are changing across India, far above changes attributed to natural climate variability.
The latest research projections from India do not augur well. While research projections on impact of global warming on extreme events may differ in details, all concur on some aspects. The variability of climate over the Indian region will increase. Extreme rainfall events are likely to increase, which are already being witnessed in the past few years. And severe heat waves are likely to increase, which means more severe droughts and crop losses.
India is already beginning experience these climate shifts. The current natural disasters and future projections point to what the future could be for India if it does not initiate appropriate mitigation measures and manage its water sources right in the era of global warming.
Padma is a freelance science journalist based in India and writes for Nature, Nature India, New Scientist, Physics World, The Wire and India Climate Dialogue. In 2017, she was the sixth “Journalist in Residence” at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies.
Padma started as a science correspondent at India’s leading news wire agency Press Trust of India (PTI). She later worked on development communication projects at Panos Institute South Asia. From 2004 on, she served for 10 years as the first South Asia regional head of SciDev.Net.
A voice from the Triangulation through Science Communication project.