Monday, July 15, 2024

Real concerns

We are still only into the fourth month of the year but the rise in daily temperatures is already quite disconcerting considering the fact we are still a few months away from peak summer. It looks like we are in for some torturous months ahead. Already a warning has been issued last month that India will likely experience heat waves between March and May after the country recorded its highest ever maximum temperature in February. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the average maximum temperature in February was 29.54 degrees Celsius, the highest since 1901, when the IMD started keeping weather records. As is the case everywhere else, climate change is having a major impact on India and the Indian sub-continent, with the region experiencing some of the most severe consequences of global warming and with significant social, economic and environmental implications. History shows that India is particularly vulnerable to heat waves and droughts, which are becoming more frequent and severe due to rising temperatures. This has led to a decline in crop yields, particularly in regions that rely heavily on rain-fed agriculture, and an increase in water scarcity. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as cyclones, floods and landslides are on the rise in India, causing significant damage to infrastructure, homes and livelihoods. The Himalayan glaciers are said to be melting at an alarming rate, which is causing an increase in the flow of rivers, followed by a decrease in their volume during the dry season. This is leading to water shortages. The rising sea level is also threatening India’s coastal areas, with many cities and towns at risk of flooding. This is particularly concerning in the low-lying areas of the Sundarbans delta, where sea level rise is already causing saltwater intrusion, which is damaging agriculture and affecting freshwater availability. Most significantly, climate change is causing significant damage to India’s biodiversity, with many species facing extinction due to habitat loss, changing weather patterns and other environmental stressors. Now, a new research paper says that India has contributed 4.8% to the global mean surface temperature (GMST) change resulting from historical emissions of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide (N2O). In comparison, US contributed to 17.3% of the change – highest globally and China contributed to 12.3%, the paper published in Nature journal has said. The largest contributors to warming up to 2021 through emissions of all three gases since 1850 were: US (0.28 degrees Celsius); China (0.20 degrees Celsius); Russia (0.10 degrees Celsius); Brazil (0.08 degrees Celsius); India (0.08 degrees Celsius); and Indonesia, Germany, UK, Japan, Canada (each contributing 0.03-0.05 degrees Celsius). The paper titled National contributions to climate change due to historical emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide since 1850, authored by researchers from Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia (UEA); CICERO Centre for International Climate Research, Oslo, Norway, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, Austria, among others, said emissions from developed nations have contributed significantly to warming since the industrial revolution. Anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have contributed significantly to global warming since the pre-industrial period. There is a lot of interest in tracking national contributions to climate change and informing equitable commitments to decarbonisation, the researchers said. The study introduces a new dataset of national contributions to global warming caused by historical emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide during 1851-2021, which are consistent with the latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the researchers said. Addressing this challenge then will require a concerted global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a more sustainable future. Tracking national contributions to climate change is thus critical to understanding the burden of responsibility that a country carries for global warming and can further inform the design of international policies that pursue equitable decarbonisation pathways.