According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole, and present state of many aspects of the climate system, are unprecedented over many centuries.
The frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events have increased. At the same time, climate change has contributed to an increase in drought in many regions. IPCC further concluded that more regions will be affected by drought due to global warming, and a larger fraction of land will also be affected by an increase in floods. In India, a large per cent of rural population depends on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, animal husbandry and forest biodiversity.
Mitigation and adaptation are two actions to address climate change. Mitigation involving reducing carbon dioxide emissions and achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050 were debated at COP in Glasgow, to keep global warming within 1.5 deg C by the end of the century, which is agreed under the Paris Agreement. Even if this is achieved, which is highly unlikely, the benefits of stabilising warming below 1.5 deg C will be seen several decades later. But farmers, fishermen, forest dwellers, coastal communities, communities living in flood and drought-prone areas are already facing the adverse impacts.
The impacts will only intensify in the next 5 to 10 to 20 years, leading to increased loss and damage to food production, water resources and infrastructure, so farmers, fishermen and forest dwellers cannot wait for the world to reach Net Zero by 2050.
Measures and actions have to be taken now, urgently. We need to develop a good understanding of risks and impacts of projected climate change in the next 10 to 30 years on food production, water availability, forest fire, health, infrastructure, etc. Develop climate resilient agricultural and water management practices, provide early warning systems and weather forecasts on droughts, floods and cyclones at panchayat level, develop disease monitoring and surveillance systems, build climate-resilient and climate-proof infrastructure. The critical aspect of addressing climate change is the speed and urgency of action, and any delay will make it more expensive to address the adverse impacts.
Prof N H RAVINDRANATH
Professor (Retd), Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST), Indian Institute of Science