Climate change is a massive threat to humanity, and therefore, many countries are trying to combat its detrimental effects. South Asia, notably India, will be one of the critical places influenced by climate change in its extremes in the coming years, owing to its diversified geography. But what is alarming about the current climate change in India, and what can be done to tackle the effects of climate change?
The geographical surface of India is split into six physiographic regions, with each of them having a unique climatic profile and vulnerability profile. The six regions are the Himalayan mountains in the north, Peninsular Deccan Plateau, the Indo-Gangetic Plains, the Thar Desert in the west, Coastal Plain, and the Islands.
According to the World Bank, the temperature in India is warmer than that of other countries at comparable latitudes due to the presence of the Himalayan Mountains operating as a barrier to winds coming from Central Asia and China. The climate in the north is continental, with hot summers and cold winters, while the coastal regions, on the other hand, have milder temperatures with minimal change throughout the year.
Statistics for the years 1901 to 2020 show that the mean annual temperature is 24.83 °C, having increased by 0.62°C/100 years. A considerable increase in maximum temperature (0.99°C/100 years) and a relatively lesser increase in lowest temperature (0.24°C/100 years) was also found. Additionally, by 2080-2099, temperatures in India are expected to rise by nearly 4°C.
However, this temperature rise might lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of a variety of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, prolonged dry spells, and heavy rainfall. According to the 2019 Inform Risk Index, India has some of the most significant disaster risk levels globally, ranking 29th out of 191 countries.
Floods, including riverine, flash, coastal flooding, and tropical cyclones and their accompanying risks and drought, are widespread in India. Some examples are the 2013 Uttarakhand floods and landslides, the 2015 Chennai flood, and the 2016 drought. The negative consequences of such calamities include starvation, illness susceptibility, and loss of income and livelihoods.
Moreover, rising temperatures will make India’s monsoon more unpredictable in the following decades. Floods in several areas and droughts in others may also be expected due to a shift in rain patterns across India. Floods are the most common cause of yearly disaster losses in India, costing an estimated $7 billion per year. Also, the general trend toward increasingly severe extreme precipitation events has significant consequences for future flood extent.
Changes in precipitation patterns caused by climate change may also affect agriculture in India. Therefore, an increase in temperature is also projected to impede the rate of poverty alleviation as the poor may be the most affected since they are more reliant on rain-fed agriculture and have fewer means to preserve their livelihood. Also, with an increased risk of a shortage of drinking water and a decrease in food availability, significant health concerns may arise.
Hence, climate change will have several detrimental impacts on the population of India and its economy. The government is currently taking steps to address this issue, but more has to be done. Below are some solutions on how India can tackle the effects of climate change.
What can be done to counter the situation?
1. Subsidies for fossil fuels should be shifted to renewable energy
Fossil fuels are the primary driver of climate change, and India must stop subsidising the fossil fuel industry. Instead, it should direct these subsidies towards renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, since 2017, the Government of India’s support for fossil fuels has surged by 65%, with subsidies to oil, gas, and coal being seven times more than those to renewables and electric vehicles. Also, government support for renewable energy has decreased by 35%.
2. Increase the use of public transportation and invest in electric vehicles
The Indian transportation industry accounts for around 13.5% of India’s energy-related CO2 emissions. Therefore, by investing more in public transport, such as electric buses, high-speed trains, or electric ferries and encouraging more people to use them, India might reduce its CO2 emissions.
3. Educate girls
Finally, educating girls can be one of the most impactful solutions to tackle the issue of climate change in India. This is because women with higher educations are more likely to have fewer children and, as a result, reduce their carbon footprint. Furthermore, since women in India are usually the ones making decisions on water, cooking, food waste, fuel choices, and how homes are heated, built, and utilised, educating them can allow them to make better choices to prevent climate change. For instance, they can learn to save energy at home.