No hiding behind rising temperatures
Decadal mean temperature patterns and associated changes are suggestive of the fact that global warming is knocking at India’s door. The Government has a huge task ahead to not only improve the current state of affairs but to prevent the situation from worsening
Global warming and climate change have always been the topic for discussion in many forums and environmental conferences. But the unsettling situation is when actual environmental conditions turn these discussions into reality and that is precisely what is happening in India.
According to a study in the journal Scientific Reports, a notable warming trend in north-western India beginning in the 1970s and accelerating in the 2000s and 2010s has been found. The study calculated temperature rise in terms of change occurring from decade-to-decade, using information from two different data-sets covering the period from 1951 to 2013. The temperature data came from 395 meteorological stations across the country. Maximum, minimum and daily mean temperature data was analysed for summer, monsoon and winter periods.
The decadal mean of daily maximum temperature for April and May in the 2010s stood at 40 degrees to 42 degrees over large parts of India. In the 1950s, the area with this high temperature was limited with only a small spot in south-central India touching 41 degrees. The region with temperature over 40 degrees began to expand in the 1970s and 1980s, while the region with temperatures more than 41 degree in south-central India enlarged.
After a small reduction in temperature in the 1990s, the region with temperatures greater than 40 degrees expanded dramatically in the 2000s and 2010s. Region with temperatures exceeding 41 degrees expanded; and a region with temperatures greater than 42 degrees appeared in south-central India in the 2010s, the study has found.
These decadal mean temperature patterns and associated changes are suggestive of the fact that global warming is knocking at India’s door. This phenomenon has accelerated over the past two decades. India is only a part of the larger global warming problem that is being triggered by climate change. Other characteristic features of the rapid worsening of the environment are sudden alterations of seasons and the onset of extreme weather-related events across the country. As India finds itself surrounded by adverse impacts of climate change, the need to urgently take up evasive and corrective measures is rapidly mounting.
India, with a population of 1.35 billion, is already bursting at seams. This, coupled with exponential increase in emissions, has led to a rapid rise in risk factors for a climate change disaster. The challenge now is: How can we cater to the prosperity of all-population without relying on fossil fuels, especially given the fact that natural resources are dwindling and solar or alternative sources of energy are not scaled up enough to cover the energy deficit. The Government has to recognise the compelling difficult conditions and set up an environmental renewal plan that can not only factor in the current state of affairs but more importantly prevent things from worsening.
The Government also needs to prepare a plan and a platform for environmental renewal that not only seeks to reclaim favourable climatic conditions but also creates avenues for ecologically sustainable development.
India has a huge development potential. As the Observer Research Foundation put it, two-third of the country is yet to be built, this opportunity for growth, prosperity and development can neither be sacrificed due to environment and neither should the environment be sacrificed for this development. This clearly puts the Government and the environment planners walking on a tight rope, wherein a balance between the two will have to be created.
The programme for environmental renewal must begin from our cities and other urban areas wherein the Government must first make solar power generation compulsory for all buildings, both private and residential.
Similarly, the Government must direct its town and country planning offices to issue directives and construction guidelines that specifically bar the usage of glass on high rises as they trap heat, increase air-condition requirements and in the process, contribute to green house gas emissions. There must also be a clear-cut policy for usage of solar power for public transport so that the usage of compressed natural gas is optimised.
There also needs to be a revamped public awareness campaign that popularises renewable energy driven appliances and electronics. The campaign must ensure that people in general are able to feel responsible for the ‘per individual carbon foot-print’ that they are creating. These measures will bring people closer to nature and, therefore, help the Government jointly rescue our environment and keep the full impact of global warming at bay.
(The writer is an environmental journalist)
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