It has long been known that India stands vulnerable to future extreme climate events. But a recent report by International Panel on Climate change (IPCC) has unraveled a new list of warnings, creating an urgency for India to cut its emissions.
This report is nothing other than the much-welcomed second part of IPCC’s sixth assessment report that consists of regional assessments, especially around the mega-cities and has showcased Indian population to be greatly affected by sea-level rise.
What shall happen if the emissions remain high:
If the emissions in India are cut, the direct damages can compound at $24 billion based on the current promises made but in case the emissions are made beyond the current destined limits, nearly $36 billion will be lost in damages.
Not only will the economy suffer, even 35 million people in India will witness devastating floods by 2050 and 45-50 million people will be at risk by the end of this century.
Undoubtedly, the Science has tainted it all in red for India.
The report has claimed: “Globally, heat and humidity will create conditions beyond human tolerance if emissions are not rapidly eliminated; India is among the places that will experience these intolerable conditions”.
What makes it even worse?
“Urban India is at greater risk than other areas with a projected population of 877 million by 2050, nearly double of 480 million in 2020”, explains the report.
To escape poverty as well as dwindling economic opportunities in rural India because of unattended and unheeded climatic changes, people migrate in hope to areas projected as the centres of growth, in turn making them crowded.
World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022 has highlighted the densely populated countries which are highly dependent on agriculture, including India, to be especially vulnerable to insecurities of climate change.
Urbanization in India already stands at 35 per cent and will likely increase multi-fold.
With a desperate population to settle in these cities, the planning can barely sustain the goals of equitable growth and shelter, creating unhealthy and unsanitary conditions.
“Observed impacts are concentrated amongst the economically and socially marginalized urban residents… Infrastructure, including transportation, water, sanitation and energy systems have been compromised by extreme and slow-onset events, with resulting economic losses, disruptions of services and impacts to well- being.”
“Simply the concentration of population in these cities make these settlements extremely vulnerable to climate change.” Increasing temperatures in India can therefore, make it uninhabitable with many of these impacts of global warming becoming irreversible.
Unsurmountable unsurvivable pressures:
As per the IPCC report, India hosts a maximum wet-bulb temperature ranging 25-30 degrees C and barely crosses 31 degrees C (wet bulb temperature) which is close to lethal, but can possibly achieve this towards the end of this century, with its emissions unaddressed.
It says: “Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements. Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions”.
The report has clarified that minimal or ‘incremental’ responses would be insufficient to tame the impending crisis.
The first assessment report had already highlighted how climate change will worsen its impacts with time and weaken the ability of modern and natural systems to adapt to these rapid changes. What is more troubling has been the fact that the magnitude and intensity of these impacts has been found to be far greater than assessed so far.
“The impacts we see today are appearing much faster, they are more disruptive and more widespread than we expected 20 years ago”.
About an estimated 861 gigatons of carbon stored in the world’s forests has been lost by 10% of its tree cover; a study published by Nature Sustainability shows that carbon loss from tropical deforestation in the last two decades has even doubled.
Co-author of the study explains: “Deforestation and forest carbon loss are accelerating. There is a massive gulf between where we want to get to and where we are going, which is really worrying”.
This terrible loss of forests, when coupled with an increase in wildfires due to natural or anthropogenic reasons, leads to complete effacement of forest landscape.
UNEP states: “We have to minimise the risk of extreme wildfires by being better prepared: invest more in fire-risk reduction, work with local communities and strengthen global commitment to fight climate change.”
Wildfires have always added significantly to the climate crisis simply through destruction of carbon-rich biomes like peats, bogs, permafrost and wetlands, making it more vulnerable to flames and any restoration can help prevent fires by creating buffers in the landscape.
What complements the available information is an International Energy Agency (IEA) analysis that has revealed how methane emissions coming in from Energy generation remain unaccounted and is nearly 70 per cent higher than current calculation.
This analysis is based on information from all government and financial organizations, private oil and gas firms as well as certain satellite observations and statistical modelling.
All this prescribes the world to pay much closer attention to all the changes, as they continue to aid each other in sculpting a bigger crisis.
IPCC’s co-chair asserts: “Our report clearly indicates that places where people live and work may cease to exist, that ecosystems and species that we have all grown up with and that are central to our cultures and inform our languages may disappear”.
“By bringing together scientific and technological know-how as well as Indigenous and local knowledge, solutions will be more effective” said #IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts on the #IPCC’s #ClimateReport, released today.
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— IPCC (@IPCC_CH) February 28, 2022
“While action on adaptation (and mitigation) is being taken across the world, there are growing gaps with regard to avoiding and reducing risks, as well as dealing with impacts and risks that are not avoided (or reduced) due to financial, institutional, technical constraints”, explains an Author of the study.
If a few things have gone beyond repair, shall we prepare our cities for the change?
World Economic Forum (WEF) and the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), India has recently signed a memorable Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly help create and nurture ‘Sustainable Cities India programme‘.
The main aim of available and innovative technology shall be lesser number of human sufferings, morbidities and mortalities and hence, as per the Indian Government, there is a pressing need to decarbonize but in a systematic and sustainable way, reducing emissions and delivering ‘resilient and also equitable urban ecosystems’.
“This collaboration will help cities in India and cities globally to learn from one another and drive action towards sustainable development and climate resilience.”