This article is part of the #YourWorld series. Sign up to the newsletter to know about climate change, protests, beach cleanups, and all the ways you can contribute to protecting our planet. Please sign up here.
According to the Global Climate Risk Index released by Germany-based think tank, Germanwatch, India is the 14th most climate change-affected country in the world. Over the last year, climate change has affected India a great deal. From rising temperatures and erratic monsoons to natural calamities and overflowing rivers, the planet shows serious signs of change. This has led to both loss of life and destruction of property in the country.
The recent floods in UP and Bihar are a testament of the threat climate change poses for a country like India. It has the ability to cause widespread damage, curtail economic growth and change the face of the country as we know it. In 2018-19, as many as 2,400 Indians lost their lives to extreme weather events such as floods and cyclones, according to the environment ministry.
Sadly, the effects of climate change are already visible around us. The average temperature has increased by 0.6 degrees Celsius (° C) between 1901-10 and 2009-18. While this may seem like an insignificant increase, when compounded over hundreds of years, its effect is devastating. Not only this, some parts of the country seem more affected than others. In parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the North-East, average temperature over the last decade has risen by nearly 1° C compared to the historical average in the 1950-80 period.
In terms of the threat as well, the central regions of the country are under the greatest duress due to climate change. This is because these regions are primarily agrarian and also lack basic infrastructure facilities. The World Bank, in a statement, said that GDP per capita could shrink by nearly 10% by 2050 because of climate change in districts such as Maharashtra's Vidarbha region.
However, in some way or the other climate change is changing the seasonal patterns of India’s topography as we know it. While the coastal regions run the risk of being flooded by rising sea levels, other reasons are susceptible to increasing temperatures touching unbearable levels. For instance, in Delhi, the number of days where temperatures have crossed 35° C has increased to 1,613 in this decade (2009-18) from 1,009 in 1959-68. Other major cities, such as Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, have also seen similar increases. Kolkata and Mumbai, both densely populated cities, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise, tropical cyclones, and riverine flooding.
Another alarming change in global warming is bringing to the country is the acute shortage of water. A report by NITI Aayog stated said 40 percent of India's population will have no access to drinking water by 2030. The weakening South Asian monsoon, which is a byproduct of climate change will force At least 21 cities in India, including capital New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, to run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting more than 100 million people.
However, the most startling change caused by climate change is to India’s topography in itself. The fact that way we’re treating the planet can actually change the face of the country as we know it is both alarming and worrisome. An article on the changing geography of the world due to climate change had this to say about the country. “Due to extreme land buckling and lowering the elevation of the country, the population of India will be told not to seek higher ground within the interior country, but to head to the Himalayas, to Tibet and Nepal and China or the higher mountains that are officially with Indian territory.”
In addition to this, the country is bound to be affected by natural calamities as a result of climate change. Such incidents are bound to increase in frequency with time as we continue to ignore the needs of the planet. Droughts are expected to be more frequent in some areas, especially in north-western India, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. This, in turn, stands to affect agriculture, with crop yields expected to fall significantly because of extreme heat by the 2040s.
Rising temperatures are also expected to increase the rate at which the glaciers are melting. Melting glaciers and the loss of snow cover over the Himalayas are expected to threaten the stability and reliability of northern India’s primarily glacier-fed rivers, particularly the Indus and the Brahmaputra. Such alterations could significantly impact irrigation, affecting the amount of food that can be produced in their basins as well as the livelihoods of millions of people
India as a country stands to be one of the countries that are worst hit by climae change. Therefore it is necessary to take steps to prevent global warming, otherwise, the predictions stated above could sadly turn out to be true sooner rather than later.