India in struggle against climate change

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India in struggle against climate change

Extreme weather events across the world are growing. India must leverage its advantages, such as its unique scientific and research capabilities, to bring succour to a climate change embattled world

The climate change process seems to be changing gears and the going is definitely getting tough with the world seeing two extreme ends of temperatures all within a span of a fortnight. As Christmas holidays unfolded, parts of the United States saw plummeting temperatures that resembled an Arctic blast which caused water pipes to freeze, and led to icicles forming everywhere.

Compared to this, barely a week thereafter, the other side of the world saw Sydney undergoing blast furnace-type weather with temperatures touching 47 degree centigrade, prompting the citizens to practically live on the beach near the sea to beat the heat. The heat wave impact was such that bats fell out of the sky with severe burns, whereas the asphalt on the road melted.

Heat waves have become a frequent phenomenon world over usually lasting several days to weeks comprising of abnormally hot weather that breaks the usually set pattern of temperatures.  In the past three to four decades, there has been an increasing trend in high humidity heat waves, which have also been characterized by the persistence of extremely high night-time temperatures.

A combination of high humidity and high night time temperature can make for a deadly pairing, offering no relief, particularly posing threat to the elderly. Extreme heat events are responsible for more deaths annually than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined.  At the same time, low humidity heat waves associated with droughts and fueled in part by climate change contribute to dry conditions that are also driving wild fires.

Scientific studies have documented that human-induced climate change has increased the frequency and severity of heat waves across the globe. For instance, thorough statistical analysis of many extreme heat events across the world are proving that heat waves would not have occurred without climate warming.

Globally, extremely warm nights that used to come once in 20 years, now occur every 10 years and extremely hot summers, those more than three standard deviations above the historic average, are now observed in about 10 per cent of the global land area, compared to 0.1-0.2 per cent for the period 1951-1980. This unmistakable worsening of weather is hard to miss.

These extreme trends have not occurred due to natural weather related variations, sufficient external anthropogenic influences are instrumental for these changes. In fact, during weather observation studies and research, it is only after including human influences the computer models are also able to reproduce the current climate changes. These changes include an increase in the number of warm nights, unusually hot days, and heat waves, as well as warming of the warmest night of the year, warming of the coldest nights and days of the year, and warming of the hottest day of the year.

The scale of weather-related extremities is rather large and sustained environmental disregard over the decades have brought the situation to such crisis. In order to diffuse this environmental abnormality, efforts must be taken on a global basis under a cohesive and effective agenda to get the desired results.

Nations across the world are currently engaged in one meeting after another at various exotic locations where the designated national representative animatedly discusses about how to protect the environment and slowdown global warming. But it is a conspicuous fact that inspite of these officious conferences on environment and post millions of dollars of public money being spent on them, there almost always absence of consensus.

However, one aspect is a common outcome of these meetings — the developed nations, having made sufficient economic progress without the carbon emission restrictions, now want the developing nations to cut down on their carbon emissions, which is feistily opposed by the developing nations.

It is critical for humanity that we get out of discussions and swing into action. The current NDA Government is an apt example of action-oriented governance. Whereas earlier regimes kept planning and re-planning, the current Government has put premium on action. With this level of initiative and competence available in India, it is surprising that the country is not taking a global lead on practical environmental protection that is action and result oriented — a ecological preservation strategy that marks a clear departure from the existing limbo and aims to get tangible and measurable results in environmental protection.

The current weather related extremities are taking the world through a common suffering and India must leverage the unique scientific and research capabilities at its disposal backed by, most importantly, the political will to bring succor to the climate change embattled world. If achieved, this can very well mark the beginning of India as an environmental superpower.

(The writer is an environmental journalist)

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