‘India has opportunity to decarbonise economy and protect its forest covers’

ST Correspondent
Sunday, 22 September 2019

“There is a clear trend in the increase in global mean temperature from 1850-2018, extreme weather is the new normal and the Arctic is burning. This year in June alone, the Arctic wildfires have released as much CO2 into the atmosphere as a mid-sized industrialised country would do in a whole year,” said Schellnhuber.

PUNE: After Germany recorded 42.6 degrees Celsius this summer, the parliaments of many European countries have declared a climate emergency, while some countries are still debating, said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. 

He emphasised that a small delay in taking action may result in a complete loss of control. 

He was speaking during a workshop of project East Africa Peru India Climate Capacities (EPICC) recently.

Schellnhuber is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading climatologists.

“There is a clear trend in the increase in global mean temperature from 1850-2018, extreme weather is the new normal and the Arctic is burning. This year in June alone, the Arctic wildfires have released as much CO2 into the atmosphere as a mid-sized industrialised country would do in a whole year,” said Schellnhuber.

He further added that according to a few models, climate change could make several parts of the world, including India, uninhabitable by the end of the century.

“It would not be possible to air-condition the whole continent. India has a big opportunity to leapfrog to a decarbonised economy and to protect its forest cover which is natural carbon sinks. It will be an important contribution to the world,” said Schellnhuber.

Referring to India’s upward trend in temperature and volatility in rainfall, Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), said that climate models have projected these trends.

“The projections of today are becoming the reality of tomorrow. They need to be taken into account in the planning and coordination of the Food-Water-Energy nexus. The government’s KUSUM programme can empower farmers to use efficient solar pumps and sell excess electricity to the grid, or even excess water to fellow farmers. It can completely change the Food-Water-Energy nexus in India,” said Mathur.

R Ramaswamy of Indian Academy of Science, another speaker at the workshop, said that climate change is a complex problem and it requires expertise that does not exist in the curriculum today. 

He urged, “We need more trained people in interdisciplinary areas. They will not be created by chance.”

During a panel discussion on Climate and Monsoon forecasting, Dr Akhilesh Gupta, Advisor and Head of Climate Change Programme at Department of Science and Technology highlighted that low and moderate rain events have reduced in the last five decades and heavy rainfall days in India have gone up, especially in urban areas.

“On the impact of temperature on glacier retreat in the Western Himalayas, there is a warming trend at all places but warming rates differ. The warming rate in the Himalayan region seems to increase with increasing altitude. All states in the Himalayan region are vulnerable but Assam and Mizoram are at high risk,” said Gupta. 

Speaking about India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) efforts to improve its forecasting services, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director General at IMD, said that IMD is providing meteorological services to all districts and at the block level, to nearly 400 blocks.

“In the next five years, we will take it to all 7,000 blocks. We have a well-defined vision for providing climate services for all sectors, including agriculture,” said Dr Mohapatra.

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