After the Glasgow climate summit at the end of 2021, climate change took a back seat, the Russian-Ukrainian war, the Covid pandemic, the elections, the hijab controversy, etc. making headlines. But there is no escaping the problem of climate change, which is becoming increasingly serious.
A UN climate report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) titled “Climate Change, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” was released on February 28 and quickly disappeared from the front pages. In recent years, the world has experienced unprecedented floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires, causing death and destruction.
The IPCC report, which is a consensus of the scientific community based on published scientific research, provided scientific evidence on the extent of ongoing impacts, projected impacts in the coming decades and potential opportunities to reduce vulnerability. and adapt to climate impacts.
When the IPCC report was released, the UN Secretary General said, “I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this.
One of the most chilling messages is that time is running out to slow or stop global warming, and for any coping or adaptation strategies to protect humanity and nature from the climate threat.
Scientists are not known to be alarmists and try to be optimistic, saying there is still a chance to save humanity and nature with actions to reduce greenhouse gas or carbon dioxide emissions. emissions by developing adaptation strategies and building resilience to climate risks.
Average global warming has already exceeded 1.1 degrees Celsius, compared to the average temperature of around 100 years ago, and is already impacting human societies and natural ecosystems. The world has seen the hottest heat waves, extreme floods, severe droughts, biodiversity loss and declining crop yields.
Studies have shown that between 1980 and 2019, global average crop yield potentials have decreased by 5.6% for corn, winter wheat by 2.1%, soybeans by 4.8% and 1.8% rice. Every warming of 0.5 degrees Celsius or even a tenth of a degree Celsius matters and could lead to irreversible loss and damage.
A new finding is that climate hazards compound each other to cause catastrophic impacts.
For example, extreme heat waves combined with drought will lead to a sharp drop in crop yields, severe forest fires and loss of life due to heat stress and food and water shortages. Scientists warn that billions of people will be unable to work in the field due to severe heat waves, affecting labor productivity and loss of wages, especially in countries like India.
Species extinction is projected to range from 14% at an average warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius to almost 30% at a warming of 3 degrees. According to many modellers, the world is heading for a warming of 3 degrees. Similarly, the global population exposed to severe flood damage could increase from 25% at 1.5 degrees Celsius to 30% at an average warming of 2 degrees Celsius. In addition, more than a billion people will be exposed to severe droughts which will impact food production.
Malnutrition is already rampant in India and many developing countries. A study has shown that the availability of protein, iron and zinc in wheat is expected to be reduced by up to 12% by 2050 in all regions. New research reveals that over the next 30 years, climate change and rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could dramatically reduce the availability of essential nutrients and reduce the growth in availability by around a fifth. per capita nutrients of protein, iron and zinc.
According to the UN report, more than 3 billion people already live in countries highly vulnerable to climate impacts (such as droughts, floods, wildfires and cyclones), with global hotspots concentrated in the small island developing states, South Asia, Central and South America, and much of sub-Saharan Africa. Projected climate change will increase the risk and vulnerability of communities, leading to loss of life and damage to infrastructure and food production systems.
A large developing country like India, with a population of over 1.2 billion, needs to have its own assessment of the impact of projected climate change on grain and fish production, nutrition, biodiversity, vector-borne diseases, infrastructure and coastal areas.
Unfortunately, the last report that assessed some (not all) of the impacts at the national level was published in a report submitted to the UNFCCC in 2012. Since then, many new advances in research and modeling have taken place, but India does not have a national level rating, even in a sector such as agriculture or food production.
In fact, we need climate change impact and climate risk vulnerability assessments at district and state level, to enable the development of short and long term climate risk resilience strategies and strengthen adaptive capacity of farmers, fishers and coastal communities, and natural ecosystems. Such assessments must be based on the best of science and modeling.
The Paris Agreement aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and preferably below 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to estimates by the Indian Institute of Science, many districts of Karnataka are expected to experience warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius by the mid-2030s. Thus, Karnataka could face severe impacts from climate change. climate in less than 20 years.
Thus, India and Karnataka should aim to develop long-term institutional capacity for research on climate impacts and vulnerabilities, and above all develop applicable adaptation solutions to enable rural and urban communities and natural ecosystems to cope with climate change.
Mitigation leading to a reduction in greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide emissions is a global challenge, but adaptation to the impacts of climate change will take place at the level of farmers, fishermen, villages and panchayats. Even urban centers such as towns and cities will need adaptation plans, as the report indicates that the bulk of the population residing in urban areas, including the poor, will be the most vulnerable to climate impacts.
Careful planning for long-term transformation and adaptation is required, as the report highlights that some short-term adaptation measures can undermine long-term capacity. Thus, Karnataka should aim to develop an “adaptation plan” for different crops, forest types, coastal areas, districts, towns and cities.
(The author is a retired teacher, Indian
Institute of Science, climate change
IPCC expert and author)