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Climate Change and State Preparedness
Feb 24, 2015


  • Climate is the sum of weather trends over a long period of time (say, a century or so), whereas, weather is a short term phenomenon. 

  • Since Rio Earth Summit in 1992 as well as UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), it has been widely recognised and accepted that there are various forms of climate change in different parts of the world: 

1. increase in summer temperature, 

2. shorter but severe winter, 

3. more erratic rainfall distribution, 

4. severe and more frequent fog, 

5. more frequent occurrence of extreme events like floods and droughts, though total rainfall in a year may be the same, 

6. acid rain and so on. 

  • Global warming is more pronounced and hence, recognized by all the stakeholders in the entire world. Obviously, climate is a global issue with local consequences. 

  • The climate system is defined by the dynamics and interactions of five components- atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, land surface and biosphere.

Climate system dynamics:

  • Climate system dynamics is driven by both internal and external forces like volcanic eruptions, solar variations or human induced activities like green house gases or land use changes. 

  • It is estimated by various researchers that the world will experience three to four degree Celsius warming by 2100 A.D. 

  • According to Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), since 1850 the warmest years were 1998, 2005, 2002, 2003 and 2004 (in descending order). As per UK Meteorological office, global average temperature has been rising by 0.150 C every decade. The period of 2001-2010 was 0.200C warmer than 1991-2000 decade (that was 0.240C above 1961-90 while the period of 2001-2010 was 0.440 C above 1961-90 mean temperature).

  • Undoubtedly, climate is affected by the multiple factors which are as follows:

1. Incident solar radiation- variation with latitude – e.g. high latitude is energy deficit while the low latitude has excess energy.

2. Closeness to large water bodies distribution of land and water.

3. Mountain barriers- e.g. in Maharashtra, Mumbai and Pune have different mountain scenarios; hence, Pune is colder than Mumbai.

4. Ocean temperature and currents.

5. Altitude- higher altitude is colder.

6. Land cover with vegetation and forests.

7. Atmospheric pressure (atmosphere consists of 78.09 per cent nitrogen, 20.95 per cent oxygen, 0.93 per cent argon and 0.04 per cent CO2).

Three main features of climate change:

Three main features of climate change are noticeable:

a) Deviation from mean magnitudes.

b) Phase difference from periodicity.

c) Altered frequency of occurrences.

Various uncertainties:

There are various uncertainties regarding climate change. Three of these are as follows:

1. How climate change will vary regionally, is a grey area.

2. Uncertain impact of climate change on different sectors.

3. Possible surprising consequences from unanticipated effects (e.g. volcanoes)

Anthropogenic Activities and Climate Change:

  • It remains a fact that, as per IPCCAR4, various greenhouse gases (namely carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) since 1750 AD had greater cumulative effect than the aggregate emissions of the last ten thousand years. 

  • Further, during 1995-2005, the level of carbon dioxide increased by 20 per cent. Nevertheless, it is also noteworthy that naturally occurring greenhouse gases (e.g. water vapour) too, contribute about 50 per cent of total warming creating necessary stable climate for all life forms on the earth. 

  • But, during the last 200 years or so, GHG emission due to anthropogenic activities have badly affected this stable climate and the overconsumption habits in industrialized nations are largely responsible for this sordid state of affairs. To be more specific, annual global anthropogenic emission of carbon dioxide increased to approximately 38 Giga tonnes (GT) and by 2010, emissions from fossil fuel burning alone reached 30.6 GT. 

  • Further, it is estimated that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increased from 280 PPM in pre-industrial era to 390 PPM in 2010- equivalent to 780 GT of carbon dioxide, compared to 560 GT in pre-industrial era. 

  • As per Keeling and Shertz, the main driver for about 55 per cent of global warming is this additional carbon dioxide, the balance coming from other GHGs. 

  • Needless to emphasise that, nitrous oxide’s effect is more dangerous, as impact of one kg of nitrous oxide on global warming is over 300 times that of one kg of carbon dioxide. And, agriculture is the largest source of nitrous oxide emissions. 

  • Further, when nitrogenous fertilizer (urea, ammonium etc) is used in soil, a chemical reaction (hydrolysis) takes place and while the plant takes up nitrogen as No3, another by product (N2O) - nitrous oxide - escapes into the atmosphere - leading to global warming. Unfortunately, N2O molecules remain in the atmosphere for 120 years! 

  • The situation in India’s ‘green revolution’ belt (Punjab, Haryana and western U.P) has aggravated because the so-called ‘miracle’ seeds of dwarf wheat requires high doses of nitrogenous fertilizer and consequently, there is soil degradation, falling down of water table, salination of water and soil and decline of biodiversity (rice-wheat monoculture). 

  • IPCC is of the view that every delay in the peak emissions could add about 0.50C of warming and GHGs emitted today will result into full warming in the decades to come. Needless to say that CO2 fossil fuel contributes 56 per cent of emission of GHGs in India. 

  • In 2005, global per capita CO2 emission was 4.5 tonnes and India’s per capita CO2 emission in 2030 would be 5 tonnes.

  • In addition, as per UN Convention on Biological Diversity, following natural changes are notable:

a) Global mean sea level rose by 10-20 cm (present rate of rise is 3 mm per year);

b) The overall volume of glaciers in Switzerland decreased by 2/3;

c) Arctic ice thickness in late summer and early autumn decreased by about 40 per cent;

d) Mount Kenya lost 92 per cent of its ice mass while Mount Kilimanjaro lost 82 per cent;

e) A 40-60 per cent decrease in total available water in the large catchment basins of Niger, Lake Chad and Senegal;

f) The retreat of 70 per cent of sandy shorelines; and

g) A northward movement, by some 100 kms, of Alaska’s boreal forest line for every one degree rise in temperature.

  • If we look at the total GHG emission in the world, we find that in absolute terms, China, US, Russia, EU and India are the highest emitting nations.

Global GHG Emission in Different Countries in 2006: 

Sr No


Total GHG emission (million tons per yr)

per cent of Global GHG emission




 21.8 %




 20.3 %




 05.7 %


 European Union


 24.5 %




 04.7 %

  • It is estimated that GHG emission in India will increase from 1293 million tonnes per year to 2750-3600 million tonnes per year in 2020 and to 4900-5700 million tonnes per year in 2031.

  • India's emission profile depicts that the electricity consumption sector emits the highest (37.8 per cent), followed by agriculture (17.6 per cent), transport (7.5 per cent), residential sector (7.2 per cent), cement (6.8 per cent), iron and steel (6.2 per cent) etc. 

GHG Emission Profile in India (2007):

 Sr no.


 % emission



 37.8 %



 17.6 %



 7.5 %


 Residential Sector

 7.2 %



 6.8 %


 Iron & Steel

 6.2 %


 Other Energy

 5.3 %


 Other Industry

 8.7 %



 3.0 %




Source: MOEF (2010)

  • This is the national profile of emission but in different States, emission profile is different; for instance, in Delhi, which has the notorious distinction of having the largest number of vehicles among all the metros, the transport sector contributes the maximum emission amounting to 46 per cent of total emission (15.41 million tonnes in a year). 

  • For several years, a thick blanket of smog has been enveloping Delhi due to smoke particles coming from burning of paddy straw in Haryana, Punjab and Western U.P. This situation is worsened when haze mixes with the massive vehicular emission. 

  • During October 26- November 8, 2012, smog spell led to an increase in respiratory and asthmatic diseases. In India, air pollution causes 6.20 lakh deaths annually and it causes 32 lakh deaths in the world as a whole (fourfold increase from 8 lakh in 2000). 

GHG Emission Profile in Delhi (2007):

 Sr. No.


 % emission
















  • At present, global urban population is more than 50 per cent and as such urbanites rely on institutional, environmental and physical systems for food, water, shelter, transport, energy and communication beyond immediate local areas which are exposed to effects of climate change in different ways. Undoubtedly, human productivity, health and energy are directly affected by the rise of temperature. India’s urban population grows annually by 70 lakhs and that of Delhi alone by 5 lakhs. 

  • Not merely heat increase is leading to more demand for refrigerators, ACs, coolers etc., but frequent and intense rainfall on poorly drained roads are causing flooding and disrupting traffic very badly in many cities. 

  • Urban flooding is a new and serious phenomenon, especially in Mumbai and Delhi. Delhi's urbanisation is 55 per cent and it is expected to reach 85 per cent in 2021. By then, Delhi's emission position may be the worst, if the current trend goes on uninterruptedly. 

  • However, it is also noteworthy that, due to public pressure from civil society organizations like Centre for Science and Environment, CNG fuel (relatively clean energy) was introduced in public transport vehicles like buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws. 

  • During 2007-12, many State capitals like Patna had multifold increase in private vehicles thus increasing vehicular emission resulting in environmental pollution. It is estimated that 1375 cars are added daily in India. Thus, emission from transport is a major concern as per one estimate, 75 per cent of global/ national emission is from energy related sources and in India, 86 per cent of energy comes from fossil fuel. 

  • Further, increase in variability of precipitation will stress the already stressed and constrained capacity of urban areas to meet the water, sanitation, food, education, health and other needs of their permanent population, migrant population and floating population. 

  • Obviously, it is a matter of serious concern as to how and to what extent urban people suffer from the climate change or adapt to it and do well. Hence, getting the structural components and the process of urbanisation right is very critical in view of the rising unplanned growth of towns, cities and metros. 

  • Marcus Moench rightly sees urban vulnerability to climate change as the consequence of fragile systems, marginalized populations and exposure to the impacts of climate change. For instance, the rich people residing in coastal cities may be more valuable to the direct effects of sudden storms, cyclones and rise in sea level than poor people living inland in less exposed urban areas. On the other hand, when the storms, cyclones and rise in sea level affect the agricultural production, the urban poor residing in ‘protected’ inland locations may have more severe indirect impact from food price hike while rich people living in exposed coastal locations hardly notice it. For instance, Howrah’s coastal environment and mangroves are exposed to cyclones and storms, therefore, the poor living in low-lying areas and along river channels are most affected by non-maintenance of coastal environment systems. Further, in Gorakhpur city in UP, a low-lying region of middle Ganga basin, is facing serious problem of water-logging and flooding due to change in rainfall (average intensity of rainfall has increased in summer) as well as by the degradation of water bodies, unplanned growth and land encroachment. 

  • Further, due to lack of incinerators or water treatment plants, the problem of solid waste, siltation of drains and pollution of water bodies has become severe. In another city of Indore (MP), due to lack of sufficient water supply, the private water sector has come up there since 1990’s, sharing 10 per cent of total drinking water supply there. Unregulated (non-packaged) water supply is causing health problems and there is no effective complaint redressal system. 

  • In addition, climate change in the form of precipitation variability intensifies the existing problems of contamination due to old and poor quality water supply pipes getting mixed up with the sewerage and solid waste. Thus, the policy of ‘water supply and sewerage disposal system’ gets converted into ‘sewerage supply and water disposal system’! 

  • The climate change will further worsen this chaotic situation. On the other hand, 60 per cent of India’s population depends on agriculture which is very much damaged due to various climatic events:

a) 60 per cent of agriculture area is prone to earthquakes;

 40 per cent agriculture is subject to flood damage;

 68 per cent agriculture is prone to drought;

 76 per cent of coastal regions are prone to hurricane damage (800 kms of total coastal area).

Aspects of Vulnerability:

  • Vulnerability has different perceptions among different stakeholders on the one hand and variability in terms of issues, intensity, degree and extent in different regions/States of India. 

  • Locations (streams) and different levels (community, district and state) have different perceptions. For instance, a Highnoon study of adaptation to climate change in the Ganga basin, north India, found the following different perceptions:

a) Flood protection management scored high in the upstream case while water conservation and storage, and livelihood diversification were most important issues in drought prone mid-stream and downstream cases. Their options were mostly ‘green measures’ (small scale water management at field level and better use of rainfall) and ‘blue measures’ (large scale storage dams) were seen less viable for the Ganga basin.

b) Stakeholders at district and state levels saw cost as the main criterion for prioritisation of adaptation options. High cost options like strengthening of embankments were low on priority for district level stakeholders in the upstream case. Similarly, relocation of people from flood plains was least preferred and least feasible due to high costs and low social acceptability.

c) At higher stakeholder levels (State and district), alignment with existing programmes / schemes (e.g. widening scope and crop insurance) was preferred.

d) Community preferred immediate benefits like water storage structures rather than long term measures like afforestation.

e) Social acceptability matters district level authorities emphasized shifting from summer rice-cultivation to less water intensive crops (pulses, vegetables), it ranked low on acceptance by communities.

f) Farmers did not prefer new techniques and practices due to existing gaps in capacity and their lack of confidence in supporting institutions.

  • Further, different States have different intensity, degree and extent of vulnerability. For instance, in Bihar, 73 per cent area is flood-prone, 17 per cent is drought- prone and 10 per cent is water logging area. In 2013, (June-October), many districts suffered from drought, while five to six districts suffered from flood. 

  • About 85 per cent of catchment area of North Bihar rivers lies inside Bihar (especially Nepal). Kosi River is the Sorrow of Bihar. Bihar suffers from floods due to three categories of rivers::

1. Perennial rivers originating in the Himalayas carrying snow fed flows with significant discharge in the dry season- Kosi, Gandak, Karnali (Ghaghra) and Mahakali (Sharda). 

2. Rivers originating in the midlands of Mahabharata range of mountains, are fed by precipitation and ground water regeneration- Mechi, Kankai, Kamala, Bagmati, West Rapti, and Babai. Though these are also perennial rivers, these have wide seasonal fluctuations in discharge.

3. Small rivers originating from southern Siwalik range of hills seasonal and characterised by flash floods during the monsoon.

  • Actually, all 21 districts in North Bihar are badly affected by floods originating in Nepal. Hence, the local people constantly wait for relief as the ‘third crop’. 

  • Further, the rise in sea level and potential changes in storm/cyclone patterns threaten several coastal cities in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal, Odisha, Andaman and Nicobar islands and Goa.

Mitigation Efforts:

  • Different States have different issues of priority regarding climate change. Hence, they have to prepare State Action Plan (SAP) for mitigation at different stages and by different stakeholders. 

  • By September 2013, only 20 States in India had prepared SAP and Odisha was the first State to do so. Gujarat is the only State to have a separate department for climate change. 

  • There are two major types of adaptation- planned and unplanned (autonomous). Planned adaptation means deliberate policy decision for a desired goal e.g. wetland restoration, cyclone mitigation, etc. 

  • Actually, there are four major dimensions of adaptation:

i) Intent- autonomous or planned.

ii) Action- reactive (post), concurrent (during) or anticipatory (ante).

iii) Temporal - short term (instantaneous) or long term (cumulative).

iv) Spatial - Localised or widespread.

  • Obviously, informed and conscious people prefer the planned, anticipatory and localised adaptation for immediate and visible outcomes. 

  • Following steps need to be taken by different States in India:

1. We should adopt bottom-up approach, planning from below, (not the top-bottom approach) in order to have realistic and specific measures suitable to local and regional requirements. Swaminathan Foundation as well as IFFCO are providing helpl ine to farmers; likewise solar biomass-based cold storage technology (designed by TERI, New Delhi) is successful and Fiji has adapted it. 

2. Capacity-building (developing the technical skills and institutional capabilities in developing countries) is to be accorded high priority for all stakeholders for premonsoon, monsoon, post-monsoon and winter seasons for agriculture sector. Flood forecasting, flood proofing, flood plain zoning and so on, are the need of the hour. Weather forecast in India is not mature and accurate so far, hence technological innovation is very much required. Further, weather forecasting with site specific modelling of soil, nutrient status and crop water stress are to be combined. Drainage system should also be improved to accommodate sudden rains; big water storage systems for water supply during drought period; earth quake, cyclone and storm-resistant structures and embankments in low lying areas should be built. 

3. Designing of clean development mechanism (CDM) in India should take into account four essential aspects: social well-being (through alleviation of poverty, by generating additional employment, removal of social dispensaries and basic amenities for improvement in quality of life), economic well-being (additional investment consistent with the needs of the people), environmental well-being (resource sustainability, biodiversity friendliness, reduction in pollution level, better sanitation) and technological well-being (transfer of ecologically safe technology, energy efficient projects, etc). Further, CDM scenario needs to be made broad-based and participatory for community at local level as, at present, it is overpowered and dominated by big Indian Corporate houses. Therefore, the need of the hour is a strong, transparent and proactive regulatory authority for regulating CDM projects in India in order to have intense examining of such projects, so that these are not unfriendly to environment and the local people. 

4. Though India is committed to the promotion of REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) through Green India Mission, Joint Forest Management Committee, Forest dwellers’ Right Act, Community Forest Management, but, in practice, local communities are exploited by forest officials in the name of REDD+ or forest/ wild life conservation. On the other hand, forest officials- contractors-traders nexus is flourishing in allotting forests, lands, water and mines to private players despite protests from local communities. Hence, there is a need for full transparency in adaptation measures by making the local people fully aware of the ground realities about vulnerability and they should be fully involved in mitigation efforts by giving due weightage to their indigenous knowledge systems, collective experiences and well informed choices. 

5. The very development paradigm of neo-liberalism (that protects the interests of the corporate more than that of the people), should be substituted by an alternative paradigm of people-oriented development that should focus on people’s participation, political decentralisation, social equity, economic visibility, technological affordability, ecological sustainability and cultural acceptability to the local people in general and the poor people in particular. Such alternative development paradigm demands proactive policy formulation by involving the local people, civil society orgnisations (CSOs) at grassroots level, and mutual trust and partnership of government, CSOs and the common people rather than the so-called PPP (Public-private partnership) which, in reality, means public fund for private sector’s gains mode. Hence, shared learning dialogue is a key participatory tool for adaptation to climate change. The communication silos between the stakeholders should be bridged at the earliest. Though, it is true that National Mission on Sustainable Habitats is committed to promoting sustainability in urban habitats by enhancing the energy efficiency of buildings, solid waste management and shift towards public transport, yet there are huge gaps in implementation. Since prevention is better than cure, early warning system regarding disasters should be developed fully. Finally, the Indian government, private sector, NGOs and CSOs should collectively mobilize the citizens, international NGOs, multilateral agencies at different levels in different ways so that the developed countries must bear the costs of adaptation of climate change in developing countries for historical wrongs committed by the former. 

  • At international fora like UNFCCC, India should strongly and specifically assert her right for more carbon space, as its per capita emission is much lower than that of developed countries like US, Russia, European Union, Japan and emerging regional power like China. 

  • India should stick to the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ in letter and spirit so that developing countries may get clean technology transfer as well as necessary fund, for adaptation to climate change from the developed countries who have been evilting the most in the past and are emitting the most per head even today. 

  • However, it should take all steps voluntarily to reduce carbon footprint through clean technology like LED, CNG, integrated approach to implement green building, sustainable building and energy codes, encouraging public transport and non-motorised transport (cycle, rickshaw, camel, horse, bullock carts) and strong political will in this direction for popularising of renewable energy (wind, solar etc) and adapting ‘reduce, recycle and reuse’ motto at a larger scale. Thus, we may conclude that climate is a major long term problem that requires a long term solution. Hence, all the stakeholders should try to take not only short term (immediate) measures but also, medium term and long term measures by mainstreaming it in all kinds of development initiatives at all levels in a transparent way.


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