Drought in India's farmlands to reduce by 21% if 1.5 degree global warming threshold is met: Study

However, if the rise in temperature goes beyond the Paris Agreement target, it may expose half of India’s agricultural land to drought.
Image used for representational purposes (File | EPS)
Image used for representational purposes (File | EPS)

A new study shows India’s agricultural land exposure to drought would reduce by 21% if the global warming threshold of 1.5 ºC above pre-industrial temperatures is met. Moreover, it will reduce economic damage due to riverine flooding and population exposure to drought.

However, if the rise in temperature goes beyond the Paris Agreement target, it may expose half of India’s agricultural land to drought.

The study done by a team of researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) has quantified how climate change risks to human and natural systems increase at a national scale as the level of global warming increases.

The team found very large increases in the exposure of agricultural land to drought with 3 ºC warming – more than 50 per cent of the agricultural land in each country is projected to be exposed to severe droughts of longer than one year in a 30-year period.

The researchers warn that more efforts are needed to reduce global warming, as currently the policies in place globally are likely to result in a rise in temperature of 3 ºC .

The study collects eight different studies -- focusing on Brazil, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana and India -- showing that the risks of drought, flooding, declines in crop yields, and loss of biodiversity and natural capital greatly increase for each additional degree of global warming.

The overarching picture for the accrual of climate risk across these countries as global warming increases from 1.5 ºC to 4 ºC above pre-industrial levels is presented in a final paper synthesizing the findings and published in the journal Climatic Change.

However, limiting global warming to 1.5 ºC would reduce the exposure of agricultural land to drought by between 21 per cent in India and 61 per cent in Ethiopia as well as reduce economic damages due to fluvial flooding.

If the limit of global warming temperature is below 1.5 ºC, it will help reduce the chances of exposure of the population to drought by up to 80%.

The risks assessed are the additional risks due to anthropogenic climate change corresponding to the elevated global warming in comparison with a baseline of levels of risk in 1961-1990, when global warming was approximately 0.3 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Prof Rachel Warren of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA and Programme lead and lead author of the synthesis paper says the risk of severe consequences increases with every additional increment of global warming.

“The results presented in this collection confirm the need for the implementation of climate policies aligned to the Paris Agreement limits if widespread and escalating climate change risk is to be avoided,” said Prof Warren.

Co-author Dr Jeff Price, also of the Tyndall Centre at UEA, added, "Although these studies focus on the risks to six countries only, other nations are projected to experience similar issues. Therefore, greater emphasis needs to be placed on both climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation to avoid large increases in risk to both human and natural systems."

Altogether the eight papers provide a harmonised assessment for the six countries of projected changes in exposure of humans and land to climate-related hazards, such as drought, water stress, fluvial and coastal flooding, and the projected effects of climate change on biodiversity, as well as the economic and societal implications of climate risks.

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