India to face brunt of climate change, warns IPCC report

South Asia staring at multiple risks - melting glaciers, floods, droughts, rising seas

Environment

March 1, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

India to face brunt of climate change, warns IPCC report

IPCC report says that human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature (Photo: PTI)

Though climate change is a worrying phenomenon for the entire world, the implications for South Asia, especially India, are particularly severe as the region faces a multitude of risks of climate-induced disasters in the next few decades, says the latest report by IPCC, the UN body of scientists tracking climate change since five decades.

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Yet another report on climate change and global warming has warned that world is firmly on its way to a catastrophic situation within the next three decades in absence of any serious action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to mitigate the impact of climate crisis on the most vulnerable parts of the world.

The report, released yesterday by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, a body of scientists mandated by the United Nations to track climate change and its impacts around the world as well as forecast the implications for the planet in future, says that human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks.

South Asia faces high risk

The report says that people and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit. One of the regions that faces the worst scenarios is South Asia, not only because of the intensity of the impact of climate change on this part of the world, but also due to the high density of population, as the region is home to close to 2 billion people, nearly 30 pc of the global population.

The region is set to face practically the entire range of all the possible negative impacts of climate change that the entire globe is set to face. This covers extreme heat, droughts, floods, rising sea levels, disappearing biodiversity, glacier melting as well as food and energy insecurity.

“Rising temperature increases likelihood of the threat of heat waves across Asia, droughts in arid and semi-arid areas of West, Central and South Asia, floods in monsoon regions in South, Southeast and East Asia, and glacier melting in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region,’’ says the IPCC report.

“By mid-21st century, the international transboundary river basins of Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges could face severe water scarcity challenges due to climatic variability and changes acting as stress multipliers. Due to global warming, Asian countries could experience increase of drought conditions by the end of this century,’’ it said.

The report also warns of large-scale biodiversity and habitat loss for animals and plants linked to climate change leading to irreversible loss of coral reefs, tidal marshes, seagrass meadows, plankton community and other marine and coastal ecosystems increases with global warming, especially at 2°C temperature rise or more. It also says that glacier lake outburst flood due to melting of glaciers will threaten the securities of the local and downstream communities in high mountain Asia. It goes on to warn that by the year 2050, as much as 69 pc of fundamental human infrastructure in the Pan Arctic will be at risk.

Health & hunger in focus

The report goes on to warn that one of the worst and most-widely felt impacts of climate crisis would be felt in increased food insecurity across Asia, notably South and South-East Asia. “Increased floods and droughts, together with heat stress, will have adverse impact on food availability and prices of food resulting in increased undernourishment in South and Southeast Asia,” warn the scientists.

Another long-term impact of climate change is the rise in vector-borne and water-borne diseases, undernutrition, mental disorders and allergic diseases in Asia. IPCC says that the health disorders would be caused by increasing hazards such as heatwaves, flooding and drought, air pollutants, in combination with more exposure and vulnerability. ‘‘In addition to all-cause mortality, deaths related to circulatory, respiratory, diabetic and infectious disease, as well as infant mortality are increased with high temperature. Increases in heavy rain and temperature will increase the risk of diarrheal diseases, dengue fever and malaria in tropical and subtropical Asia. More frequent hot days and intense heat-waves will increase heat-related deaths in Asia.’’

To worsen the impact of climate change on health, hunger and other human development indices, extreme weather events are highly likely to significantly enhance losses due to the damage in infrastructure, disruption in services and affected supply chains in Asia. Another scarcity created by climate change would be energy. IPCC says that Asian countries are experiencing a hotter summer climate, resulting in increase of energy demand for cooling at a rapid rate, together with the population growth. ‘‘Moreover, decrease in precipitation influences energy demand as well, as desalination, underground water pumping and other energy-intensive methods are increasingly used for water supply. Among 13 developing countries with large energy consumption in Asia, 11 are exposed to high energy insecurity and industrial systems risk,’’ it says.

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” says Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

“This report recognises the interdependence of climate, biodiversity and people and integrates natural, social and economic sciences more strongly than earlier IPCC assessments. It emphasises the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option,” adds Lee.  “Our assessment clearly shows that tackling all these different challenges involves everyone – governments, the private sector, civil society – working together to prioritize risk reduction, as well as equity and justice, in decision-making and investment,” says IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts. “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, another co-chair of the group.

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