Impact of climate change on India
June 18, 2010 Leave a comment
Here are the main potential effects of climate change on a country, which is the world’s seventh largest in area and is home to 1.1 billion people, a sixth of humanity.
Various studies show that surface air temperatures in India are going up at the rate of 0.4 degrees Celsius every 100 years, particularly during the post-monsoon and winter seasons. While mean winter temperatures could increase by as much as 3.2 degrees Celsius in the 2050s, summer temperatures could go up by 2.2 degrees Celsius in the 2050s, spurring climate variability.
Extreme temperatures and heat spells could alter patterns of monsoon rains, vital for India’s agriculture and water needs. Scientists warn that India will experience a decline in summer rainfall by 2050. The monsoon accounts for almost 70 percent of the country’s total annual rainfall. Winter rains are also predicted to fall by 10-20 percent. Higher temperatures also mean faster melting of Himalayan glaciers and as the melting season coincides with the monsoon season, any intensification of the monsoon is likely to contribute to flood disasters in the Himalayan catchment.
Agriculture will be adversely affected not only by an increase or decrease in the overall amounts of rainfall, but also by shifts in the timing of the rainfall. Higher temperatures reduce the total duration of a crop cycle, leading to a lower yield per unit area, especially for India’s wheat and paddy crops.
Soil erosion, increased numbers of pests and weeds brought by climate change will also affect agriculture in India. For instance, the amount of moisture in the soil will be affected by changes in factors such as rainfall, runoff and evaporation.
A 10-year study in and around the Bay of Bengal points to the sea rising 3.14 mm a year in the mangrove swamps of the Sunderbans delta against a global average of 2 mm, threatening the low-lying area which is home to about 4 million people.
A trend of sea level rise of 1 cm per decade has been recorded along the Indian coast. The major delta area of the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Indus rivers, which have large populations reliant on riverine resources, will be affected by changes in water regimes, salt water intrusions and land loss.
Rise in temperature and change in humidity will adversely affect human health in India. Heat stress could result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and weaken immune systems. Increased temperatures can increase the range of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, particularly in regions where minimum temperatures currently limited the spread of such diseases.
(Sources: Greenpeace, UNDP, Centre for Science and Environment, ibnlive)