RESEARCHERS at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, have reiterated the climate threats looming over India in their latest study which confirms gradual rise in extreme weather events including floods and heatwaves due to climate change. The study used a robust methodology where the team studied sequential extremes -- heatwaves in the summer and extreme rainfall in the monsoon -- over the same regions in the period from 1951 to 2020. The change recorded in the severity of these events is a warning to all the stakeholders on the planet to get their act together or face life-threatening events for a better part of each year.
The last few years have shown Indians that life is not the same cycle of seasons anymore. Entire country is witnessing the harrowing effects of an extended summer and now extended monsoon. This monsoon itself proved that the climate change is a clear and present danger as the withdrawal of the rains took much longer than the predictions made by the Indian Meteorological Department. In some States, monsoon made a re-entry after the declared withdrawal and lashed a few particular regions with a renewed vengeance. This frequency of sequential extremes is projected to rise manifold in the near future due to climate change, the latest study has warned.
These are early signs (taking into consideration the seriousness being expressed in the recent times over climate change) of a constant danger which can be controlled only through dispassionate assessment of the causes and non-partisan implementation of mitigation measures. The COP27 in Egypt, that concluded with historic decision to establish a fund to address loss and damage financing, too deliberated on the same issues that India has to confront in the immediate future. While the overall tone of the mitigation measures was influenced by current geopolitics, there was an acknowledgement of the dangers of climate change surpassing the expected levels. India will continue to play its responsible role on the world forum to fight climate change but the IIT study tells that it will have to channel all its resources to first fight the extreme weather events.
Given the agrarian nature of Indian economy, the threat of extreme weather events comes with multiple angles. Not only will it cause economic distress in the country but it can also lead to a drastic change in the ecology of particular regions. The country cannot afford the threat of a new form of migration i.e ‘climate migration’. While it is a regular feature in some pockets where heat and floods force the denizens to take refuge in different lands, the practice must not be allowed to spread to traditionally safe regions. For, it will radically change the demographic, economic and cultural identity of such regions. In the longer run, as India assumes a higher position in the changing global order, it will cause a drag on the country’s progress as the fallout of such migration can easily cause issues of internal security.
The answer to the threat of extreme weather events can be found only through a changed mindset on community level. Protective farming has become a necessity to combat extreme weather events. The Centre and the affected States must find a common ground to devise an awareness programme on protective farming. The term is still out of the conscience of the small and marginal farmers. The authorities must chalk out literature and other modes of awareness to take the thought of protective farming to the hinterland. Use of material like plastic films, shade nets, fruit covers, pond liners, agri wires with a target to grow crops by controlling the impact of various adverse conditions need to be promoted in regions where traditional farming is practised as a matter of habit or compulsion.
Other mitigation measures include the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in the process right from planning to procurement. It is the moral responsibility of the scientific community to develop technologies with the help of Artificial Intelligence that would serve as a shield against extreme weather events. Further, the global climate summits must also shun the practice of lip-service and find a mechanism to control the global mean temperature.