Global warming – no more a science fantasy, but a reality

Dr Ravi Jategaonkar

Dr Ravi Jategaonkar

By Dr Ravi Jategaonkar
Rising global temperature and variations in climate change in the past few years are obviously interlinked.
The Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) forecast of a second successive drought in the country this year and the extreme heatwave of the past few months in India are certainly a sign of significant change in the pattern and severity of weather in the Indian peninsula.
As per the records, 2010 was possibly the hottest year in India since weather records began in 1901, with annual temperature gradually rising. And according to IMD officials, the current record heat wave in India was a continuation of the trend in the past decade that can only be attributed to global warming, a phenomenon caused by the unsustainable growth in emission of gases due to rapid industrialization and increased energy consumption all over the world.
The global warming phenomenon is not limited only to this year or to any one particular continent.  This year, 2015, India is experiencing the fifth deadliest heat wave in the world and the second in the country with over 2,000 people having been killed in states like Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, UP and Odisha.
The deadliest heat wave recorded in India was in 1998, in which over 2,500 people died. Earlier, the deadliest heat wave was in Europe in 2003 when according to Earth Policy Institute, Washington, DC, over 35,000 people were estimated to have died, followed by Russia in 2010,  where over 30,000 deaths were attributed to excessive heat.
In North America similar trends have been observed in its weather pattern. The drought in California for the past three years is causing very acute water shortage.  For the past few years, we in Canada have been witnessing warmer summers than in the past.
The effect of this change in weather pattern on developing countries will be more damaging because they are less well prepared to tackle extreme weather conditions in their infrastructure and have less economic resilience than developed nations.
The effect on tropical countries, such as India, will manifest itself in various ways. The warming syndrome translates into limitations on greenhouse gas emissions, which leads to extreme weather conditions making dry areas drier and wet areas wetter. These changes in weather pattern and severity have a very important domino effect on agricultural production, which is so dependent on weather and, in particular, at the mercy of rain.
The mere prediction by IMD for India of a shortage of rain by about 15 per cent (technically it amounts to drought like condition) for the second year in succession has sent shock waves on Dalal Street in Mumbai, causing India’s Sensex to tumble by over 2,000 points within a day. The forecast for India’s growth rate during this year had to be revised in the downward direction.

India’s monsoons may currently be lashing New Delhi, as the picture shows — but climate change is hitting all countries, some worse than others.

India’s monsoons may currently be lashing New Delhi, as the picture shows — but climate change is hitting all countries, some worse than others.

The developed world, on the other hand, will not remain unscathed — heavier bursts of rainfall, heat waves and droughts are likely to take their toll during the 21 century. However, because of the robust economy, the effects on their economies are more sustainable and will probably be seen in terms of price rise in agricultural produce.
The recent spate of heat waves in India can partially be linked to seasonal excessive emissions (during the April-June pre-monsoon period) resulting in increase in the mean temperature, especially the arid regions of India like Andhra Pradesh and Telengana that have witnessed a substantially higher rise in temperature compared to 0.85 degrees C globally.
Growth in emissions due to rapid industrialization without adequate environmental safeguards has led to air pollution in many cities in countries such as India and China.
For example, the air pollution in Delhi has gone well beyond (three times) what is considered as the safe limit.
A New York Times correspondent, within a few months of his arrival in Delhi, has decided to leave India in the interests of his family (wife and two sons, one of who developed asthma) and has sought posting elsewhere.
Other cities in countries like India and China including some cities in developed countries, are not far behind and what is true today for Delhi is going to be their fate in the near future unless appropriate mitigating steps are implemented now.
To control the effects of global warming an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, termed as Kyoto Protocol, was proposed in 1997. The protocol commits its parties to set targets and timetable for emission reduction in their countries.
However, many countries who have signed the protocol are still too slow to implement the emission control limitations.
Economic forces and lack of political will on the part of national leaders are acting against the enactment of legal framework. However, time is running out and unless appropriate measures are taken by all countries, it is not only Delhi which will suffer air pollution and India may not be the only country where climate changes will cause extreme weather patterns.
It is global warming, it is a global problem —  no more a science fantasy but a reality!
— Dr Ravi Jategaonkar works as a consultant and can be contacted at ravijate@gmail.com

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