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India and the Sixth Assessment Report

  • 02 Mar 2022
  • 9 min read

This editorial is based on “The Heat Is On” which was published in Indian Express on 02/03/2022. It talks about the India-specific analysis of the second part of IPCC’s sixth assessment report.

For Prelims: Sixth Assessment Report of IPCC, Climate Change, Himalayan Ecosystem, Urbanisation, Black Carbon, Net Zero Emissions, Climate Financing.

For Mains: IPCC Sixth Assessment Report - India-specific analysis, urbanisation and climate change interlinkage, impact of climate change on India’s coastal areas.

The Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) released the second of its three-part report in the 6th assessment report, which focuses on the impacts of climate change and its implications on vulnerability and adaptation.

With global warming of 1.1°C, some impacts of climate change are already locked in, causing disruptions in the lives of billions of people. India, which has almost all the world’s agro-ecological zones, is not spared. The study’s India-related findings are sobering.

Dealing with the climate problem will require correcting past mistakes such as ignoring hydrology while planning towns and cities, neglecting flood alert systems, and encouraging water-guzzling crops.

What does the Second Part of the Report reveal for India?

  • The Indian population is one of the most vulnerable and exposed to severe climate-induced risks and disasters.
  • The three major climate change hotspots are the semi-arid and arid regions, the Himalayan ecosystem and coastal zones.
  • About half of India’s landmass is arid and semi-arid, prone to impacts of rising temperatures.
  • It has found that climate change is increasing vector-borne and water-borne diseases such as malaria or dengue, particularly in sub-tropical regions of Asia.
  • The sea-level extremes that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen more frequently.

How Urbanisation is linked to Climate Vulnerability?

  • Urbanisation-Climate Interlinkage: Urbanisation processes have generated vulnerability and exposure combined with climate change hazards, this has driven the urban risk and impacts.
    • Life-threatening climatic conditions will arise from extreme heat and humidity.
    • Cities in India will experience more heat stress, urban floods and other climate-induced hazards such as cyclones.
      • Roughly a quarter of Indians now live in urban areas, in the next 15 years, this figure is expected to reach 40%.
    • The combination of global warming and population growth in already-warm cities in India is the primary driver of increased heat exposure.
  • Consequences: Older adults, people with comorbidities and dwellers living without much access to hygienic environments will be at a much higher risk in urban areas.
    • A higher urban population accompanied with high climate vulnerability in urban areas implies heat-induced labour productivity loss, resulting in economic impacts.
    • The current adaptation measures largely focus on knee-jerk solutions and disaster management which has to move towards long-term planning for resilient cities.
    • Sea level rise, increase in tropical cyclone storm surge and higher intensities of rainfall will lead to larger probabilities of cities getting flooded.
      • Coastal megacities (Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Visakhapatnam), smaller coastal towns and villages and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are at a greater risk of being flooded.

What about the Impact on the Himalayas?

  • Urbanisation in the Himalayas is sprawling small towns with populations under a lakh. The unplanned urbanisation is causing significant changes in land use and land cover.
  • Increased rainfall variability is one of the climate-induced impacts on the physical environment. Heavy rains are becoming a norm and are leading to more landslides.
  • Global warming has increased the average temperature in the Himalayas causing glacier melt and subsequent change in hydrological regimes of the region.
  • Glacial decline has also been exacerbated by black carbon which is a consequence of stubble burning, brick kilns, polluting industries.
  • Most towns in the Himalayan region meet their water needs using supplies from springs, ponds, and lakes.
    • Urbanisation in the Himalayas is reducing the cover of these water bodies thus making water insecurity in hill towns the order of the day.

What Steps Can Be Taken?

  • Managing Flood Impacts: The current adaptation measures to manage flooding impacts such as stormwater management, green infrastructure, and sustainable urban drainage systems must be overhauled to prepare for flooding in the future.
    • The report identifies that flooding will intensify in the Ganga and the Brahmaputra basins and crop production systems will be disrupted by droughts and water scarcity.
      • Policymakers will have to find ways to ensure that the country’s food security is not adversely affected.
    • They will have to cushion the most vulnerable from the impacts of inflation and create avenues to offset climate-induced livelihood losses.
  • Adaptation Policies at Local Level: Better adaptation policies could lead to a safer and more sustainable future. The economic benefits of adaptation are a strategy for local institutions to support adaptation action.
    • Surat stands out as a case where city-level political leadership has supported adaptation action beyond national policy.
  • Passive Cooling to Reduce Urban Heat Islands: Passive cooling technology, a widely-used strategy to create naturally ventilated buildings, can be a vital alternative to address the urban heat island for residential and commercial buildings.
    • The IPCC report cites ancient Indian building designs that have used this technology, which could be adapted to modern facilities in the context of global warming.
  • Making Urban India Water-Secure: The report cites the example of Bengaluru, where Indian communities have traditionally managed a network of water tanks of immense ecological importance.
    • However, urban development has increasingly threatened this blue network in the last half-century.
    • The restoration of the blue network offers a more sustainable and socially just alternative for managing water resources.
  • Climate Adaptation Fund: India and other developing countries have for long and correctly argued that developed countries must accept their historical culpability for climate change. The IPCC has again made a call for “equitable adaptation” efforts across the world.
    • Mere commitments to the net zero emissions or increasing the share of renewable energy might not be just enough vis-a-vis the developed countries.
    • They will also have to do more or commit more in terms of climate financing, ensuring better flow of finance to adaptation to taking into consideration the issues like loss and damage of resources.

Drishti Mains Question

‘The India-related findings of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report are sobering. The Himalayan ecosystem and coastal zones are the major climate change hotspots in India’. Discuss.

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