North-west India may face frequent droughts: World Bank

Organisation’s climate change report predicts decrease in crop yield by 10-30 per cent as world warms by 2°C

By Jitendra
Published: Thursday 04 July 2013


A recent World Bank report on climate change has warned India of serious consequences on agriculture and crop patterns if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise in a business-as-usual scenario. The report analyses the impact of climate change on agriculture production, water resources, coastal ecosystems and cities across three regions – South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia.

Global temperature will rise to 2°C above that of the pre-industrial era within 20-30 years and by 4°C by the end of the century unless countries make joint efforts to curb emissions, says the report, Turn down the heat: Climate extremes, regional impacts and the case for resilience. The impact of this global warming will be severe for India. The north-west of the country will face frequent droughts. Aggravating heat stress would affect dry season crops, such as wheat, barley, mustard and other Rabi crops, in states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

Weather extremes will lead to food crisis

According to the report, global temperature has already risen by 0.8°C and there has been a tenfold increase in the surface area of the planet experiencing extreme heat events since the 1950s. A further rise will mean unprecedented heat waves, more intense rainfall and floods, a significant threat to energy production and a global food crisis.

 Crops like wheat, rice and maize will have a hard time adapting to a warmer climate. This will potentially leave 25 to 90 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa undernourished by the 2050s. Events of heat extremes will increase by several times across South Asia. North-western India, Pakistan and Afghanistan will face recurrent droughts and shortage of drinking water. The region would have to increase its food import by more than double by 2050 to meet per capital calorie demand.

According to the report, negative effects of higher temperatures have been observed on agricultural production. Recent studies indicate that since the 1980s global maize and wheat production may have reduced significantly compared to a case without climate change. The report estimates that crop production would have increased by 60 per cent in the South Asia region in a scenario without climate change.

Long-term consequences

“Above the 2°C level, crop yields are projected to decrease around 10-30 per cent,” says Erick C M Fernandes, who led the study. “Decreasing food availability is related to significant health problems for affected populations, including childhood stunting, which is projected to increase by 35 per cent compared to a scenario without climate change by 2050. Climate change will have long-term consequences for the populations,” says Fernandes.

Effects of higher temperatures on the economic growth of poor countries have also been observed over recent decades, suggesting a significant risk of further reductions in economic growth in poor countries in the future due to global warming.

The impact of global warming might be offset in part, says Fernandes, by low-cost adaptation measures such as CO2 fertilisation effect (in which plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it into biomass).

The report was commissioned by the World Bank’s Global Expert Team for Climate Change Adaptation.


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