How will India deal with global warming?
The doomsday scenario is this: The Himalayan glaciers will all melt and there will be great floods. Then the rivers will dry up causing a shortage of water and a desert like situation. And temperatures will rise so high (over 50-57 degrees centrigrade) that heat waves will kill thousands of people. And ofcourse food production will be affected.
Sounds like fiction or the stuff of horror? Well, its whats scientists have predicted will happen if the emission of greenhouse gases is not checked.
This was a scenario we never envisaged when we were kids…although when I was growing up in Pune, we did frequently talk about the increasingly hot summers. At one time houses in Pune didn’t have ceiling fans built in during construction as it wasn’t necessary…in fact our ancestral house or wada had no ceiling fans, except in one room, and this one had been installed later. As temperatures soared every summer, the older generation was bewildered, and blamed it all on the concrete buildings and reducing tree cover. We realised that temperatures were rising in all the cities of India, and the logical explanation was that concrete buildings and tar roads trap heat and let it off during the nights. It was a temporary thing, everyone said. Just plant more trees.
We know the real reason now. Global warming. A term no one had even heard of then. But now everyone knows that the major cause of rising temperatures is the emission of greenhouse gases. They trap heat…and do god alone knows what else. This article explains what global warming will do to India. The floods, the shortage of water, the heat…all created as the rivers dry up and temperatures rise.
The writing is on the wall:
West Bengal: Rising sea levels have flooded about 18,500 acres (7,500 hectares) of mangrove forest during the past three decades.
The Himalayan Region. The glaciers are retreating at average rate of 50 feet (15 m) per year. At this rate scientists predict the loss of all central and eastern Himalayan glaciers by 2035!!
Since the mid-1970s the average air temperature measured at 49 places in northern India has risen by 1 degree centigrade, with hill stations showing the greatest warming. Remember this is just the average and the situation is worse in some places. And this average is twice as fast as the average 0.6 degree centigrade average warming for the northern hemisphere, which shows that mountainous regions are more susceptible to climate change.
Ten years ago no one was quite sure as to why this was happening. There were theories, and a lot of conjecture…but now there is nothing but certainity.
India is vulnerable. Some foretell that in some places, temperatures could rise by up to 8 degrees by the end of this century!! Some cities will be in deep trouble. If cities like Delhi, Gwalior and Nagpur and Pune are seeing temperatures in the range of 40-49 degrees centigrade during the summers, just imagine how bad it can get thirty years from now!
This summer has been one of Delhi’s hottest April. In April 2005 for example, the temperature in Delhi was not as high as it was this year…in fact Delhi was usually never as hot as it was this April.
What bothers me is how will a developing country like India cope with rising temperatures that will invariably affect food production? We may not have caused these greenhouse emissions, but its us who will have to cope with it. Is the government prepared at all? At this point of time we find it difficult to even dispose off our garbage… how in the world are we going to manage global warming? The only thing I can think of as a layman is to start a strong people’s movement to create a greater awareness. And as to the real solutions, I am not sure I know. But its not something that India can do alone.
(Photo credits: bbc)