Climate Change

What IPCC says about India

It projects a fall in crop yields and rise in the impact of extreme weather events in India

 
By Jemima Rohekar
Published: Monday 17 April 2017

Photo: Sayantan Bera

The IPCC synthesis report, released on November 1, outlines the effects of climate change on all regions of the world. Given below are the implications of climate change specifically for India and Asia, with observations from the synthesis report and the draft IPCC Assessment Report (AR5)

Effects of climate change on weather
 
The largest chunk of the IPCC synthesis report focuses on the changes in weather patterns and projections related to extreme weather events. These changes are expected to have a cascading effect on the health of the economy as well as that of the people.

  • Net annual temperatures in India in 2030s, with respect to 1970s, will increase from 1.7-2.2°C. Extreme temperatures are expected to increase by 1-4°C, with maximum increase in coastal regions.
  • The number of monsoon break days has increased while the number of monsoon depressions has declined.
  • Mean and extreme precipitation during the Indian summer monsoon is expected to increase.
  • The Himalayan region will see maximum increase in precipitation, while the north-eastern region will experience the minimum increase.
  • An increase in extreme rainfall events occurred at the expense of weaker rainfall events over the central Indian region and in many other areas.
Extreme weather events: cyclones, floods and droughts
  • Projections indicate that the frequency of cyclones is likely to decrease in 2030s, with increase in cyclonic intensity.
  • People living in districts along the eastern coast of India are expected to be especially vulnerable to the impact of extreme weather events because of poor infrastructure and demographic development.
  • Floods and droughts are likely to increase in India since there will be a decline in seasonal rainfall, coupled with increase in extreme precipitation during monsoon.
  • For example, the Mahanadi river basin in India will see an increased possibility of floods in September while an increased possibility of water scarcity in April.
  • Delhi is one of the world’s five most populated cities that are located in areas with high risk of floods.

 

Agriculture, forests and trade
 
Climate change will especially affect the livelihoods of people. Agriculture, the mainstay of the Indian economy, will see dramatic changes in yields, affecting people’s right to food security.

  • In India, the estimated countrywide agricultural loss in 2030 is over $7 billion. It will severely affect the income of 10 per cent of the population.
  • Monsoon sorghum grain yield is projected to decline by 2-14 per cent by 2020, with worsening yields by 2050 and 2080.
  • Wheat yields in the Indo-Gangetic plains are expected to experience a 51 per cent reduction in the most high-yielding areas due to heat stress. This region currently produces 14 to 15 per cent of the world’s wheat and feeds around 200 million people of the region.
  • With current temperatures approaching critical levels in North India in October, South India in April and August and in East India from March to June, rice development will accelerate and reduce the time required for growth.
  • A third of forest areas in India are projected to change by 2100, with deciduous forests changing into evergreen ones due to increased precipitation. Human pressures are, however, expected to slow these changes.
  • With India’s GDP growth, transport emissions are growing much faster than the value of trade, leading to a further increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Health
 
Pollution-induced changes in air and water quality, as well as changing weather patterns, are expected to have wide-reaching effects on the health of Indians, according to the report.

  • In addition to flood deaths, contamination of urban flood waters will increase the risk of water-borne diseases.
  • Mental disorders and post traumatic stress syndrome have also been seen in extreme weather events and disaster-prone areas.
  • High temperatures are associated with mortality rates in India and heat waves will especially affect outdoor workers. Air pollution in combination with increased temperatures will also affect the health of people.
  • Studies have found correlation between the prevalence of vector-borne diseases like malaria and rainfall in India.

 

Adaptation
 
Based on extensive research, the report recommends mitigation measures to conserve agriculture, water supply and air quality.

  • Agricultural losses could be reduced by 80 per cent if cost-effective climate resilience measures are implemented.
  • Reservoirs will partly address the problem of water scarcity. Water management in the Indus, Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna river basins would benefit from integrated coordination among Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.
  • Efforts to decarbonise electricity production in India is projected to decrease mortality due to reduced PM5 and PM2.5 particulates.
  • Policies to increase public transportation, promote walking and cycling, and reduce private cars will increase air quality and decrease the health burden, particularly in urban environments.
  • The report notes that abandoning the use of biomass fuel or coal for indoor cooking will lead to an improvement in respiratory and cardiac health among women and children in India.

 

The Asia perspective
 
The continent of Asia is expected to bear one of the largest burdens of climate change. The IPCC report states that people settled across different topographies and regions will become vulnerable to its effects.

  • People living in low-lying coastal zones and flood plains are most at risk from climate change impacts. Half of Asia's urban population lives in these areas.
  • More than 90 per cent of the world’s population that is exposed to tropical cyclones lives in Asia. Rising sea levels will compound the effect of such storms for people living in low-lying coastal areas.
  • Rainfall-induced landslides will threaten settlements on unstable slopes and in landslide prone-areas in some parts of Asia.
  • Changing precipitation patterns are likely to affect crop production and consequently, affect 81 per cent of Asia’s rural population that depends on agriculture for livelihood.
  • Vulnerable groups in urban areas will be more susceptible to the ill-effects of frequent and intense heat waves. Warmer weather may lead to cholera epidemics in coastal Bangladesh, schistosomiasis in inland lakes in China, and diarrheal outbreaks in rural children. Vector-borne diseases are likely to spread to newer environments.



According to the synthesis report, adaptation is being facilitated in some areas of Asia through mainstreaming climate adaptation action into development planning, early warning systems, integrated water resources management, agroforestry, and coastal reforestation of mangroves.

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