Over 400 mn Indians to suffer because of climate-triggered calamities

By Quaid Najmi

Mumbai, Mar 26 (IANS): As the 2023 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released this week, experts again warned of a huge climate-related crisis which could affect over 40 crore (400 million) Indians, and how India remains unprepared ‘to tackle even a fraction of the global warming.

The IPCC-2023 has pointed at the increasing temperatures and the sea-level rise at the global levels, and experts say this has alarming implications for India and many regions particularly the coastal areas.

The experts point out how India is not compatible with a 2 degree C warming and the country may surpass even that based on the current trends, but each fraction would spell catastrophe for 40 crore people, especially those from the marginalised societies, coastal dwellers and those reliant on agriculture for survival.

The IPCC report consolidates 6 reports and spells significant ramifications for policy, said Dr Anjal Prakash of the Indian School of Business and IPCC Lead Author for two of the reports.

"Among the most significant implications for India is the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events which pose dire consequences for agriculture, public health and the economy. It highlights the need for policy-makers to prioritise investments in disaster risk reduction including early warning systems, evacuation plans and infrastructure development to protect the vulnerable populations," said Prakash.

The Asian Institute of Technology's Prof Joyashree Roy -- one of the 93 authors of the IPCC synthesis report -- bringing together thousands of scientific studies on the topic said this is the first time 6 reports were published in a cycle and provides very robust science that can influence action in the next few years of this decade.

"It clearly shows that it is theoretically possible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C, but the current scale and scope, and pace of global action pledged under 2030 is not enough. So, ‘we are not on track' is very clearly mentioned with high confidence in the report," said Roy.

Based on the IPCC-2023, experts urged a need to address the current shortfall in climate finances as this (India and the Global South) is the part of the world which has contributed ‘least' to climate change, but is also the ‘most vulnerable' and affected by the various climate events like cyclones, floods, water scarcity, impact on agriculture, food security and related disasters.

"There is a need to rethink how the climate finance world works and what other efforts can be done to boost the finance opportunities to ensure climate resilience," said the experts.

However, it is felt that looking at the Global North for solutions is not an option and it would be too late for action, and hence the need is to look ‘inwards', find solutions within India - the world's 5th largest economy - focus internally, and build national as well as state-specific resilient pathways.

For India and its states, the experts point at major risks from climate change and called for ‘urgent action' to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C, as outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

They want India to take ambitious action to reduce its emissions and invest in adapting measures to protect its people and economy, since we are both a major emitter of greenhouse gases and also particularly vulnerable to its ill-effects.

The IPCC-2023 provides a clear scientific basis for decision-making and underscores the importance of action by all stakeholders like governments, businesses and individuals to address this critical global challenge.

The experts said the recent bouts of unprecedented unseasonal rain in different parts of India, was predicted by IPCC reports and climate models, and point out how massive rains just before crop harvesting was never expected.

This has led to huge crop losses for farmers who need to be compensated and such extreme weather events create havoc with the lives and livelihood of people dependent on climate-related agriculture or similar jobs.

"It is alarming and India must take this into account, develop pathways to ensure lives of people impacted due to the changing climate scenario are protected," said Roy.

Prakash said there is a strong caution even for Maharashtra which has a 720-km long coastline with the sea-level rising upto 1.1 metres (3.7 feet) threatening coastal communities, cities like Mumbai and its infrastructure, increased flooding and coastal erosion, and other onslaughts by the end of the century as the Earth warms.

The state will have higher temperatures with more heat waves leading to major health problems, severe water scarcity for agriculture, industries and homes as Maharashtra depends largely on the monsoon. Flooding could become a common occurrence, agriculture could be hit in many ways with serious implications for crop yields and food security owing to changing temperature-rainfall patterns.



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