India & Climate Change: Background
India faces many challenges due to climate change because the country is large in both size and population. They are vulnerable to these changes since many are living in poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and a lack of government organizations managing weather systems. Even though they are facing problems due to climate change, India is one of the world’s leading CO2 emitters.
India has had shorter monsoon rainfalls over the past year since the 1950’s and there has also been and increase of heavy rainfalls. An increase of 2 degrees Celsius can make India’s summer monsoon very unpredictable. This climate change has affected the people negatively through agriculture. The people are not able to produce their seasonal products they grow and sell. With the heavy rainfalls and the droughts the country faces problems because they wont have food to grow and eat. Also, the Indians would have to find new products to grow during the new temperature conditions but if it continues to be unpredictable Indian’s wont have any products therefore creating a need to import food that they might not be able to afford. A climate justice question might be is it the Indian’s fault that they cannot produce foods they once were able to? This is an important question because it relates the problem of climate change and how it affects the people and their agriculture. Not only are the heavy rainfalls affecting the agriculture but it also is causing humanitarian disasters. The heavy rainfalls are destroying the peoples home leaving them without a home. Where should the people go? Who would take them in? These are frequent questions that are asked about for the Indians whenever the Indian people face disastrous destruction.
Climate change is also affecting migration and the livelihoods of the people. If climate change continues increasing the people will not be able to produce their crops or buy the imported food that might cost a lot. Therefore, Indian’s migrate to other countries for a better chance to grow crops and live a better life with a constant temperature. This could cause problems because the people from the other country might not want these refugees in their country because of differences in color, religion, politics, and culture. These differences could create tensions between the two countries. Climate change also affects the health of the Indian’s by creating malnutrition and health disorders like child stunting. Global warming for example can create water shortages and trigger outbreaks of diseases such as water and mosquito- borne diseases and malaria. The heat waves would also raise the mortality rate. Climate change is not only affecting the surroundings of the Indian’s, such as homes and crops but also the individual’s lives. The people who are getting affected more are the poor who could not afford the costly food or medications for diseases. One of the questions that people might ask is, “Should the government be able to provide for the poor who cannot afford crops anymore or medications”? This is a difficult question to a possible solution for the poor but it has problems because the government would not be able to provide for all the people. So then the next question is,” Should other countries provide financial or agricultural aid to a country like India who is being affected negatively by climate change? “ My question is who is responsible for circumstances like India’s case. These questions are half unanswered which is why climate change is such a controversial topic with no real solution.
Politics & Climate Change
Acknowledging the problems India face, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has argued that issues on climate change should be a national priority. Under his leadership, both industry and policy groups are promoting environmental security. U.S. government and business sectors are cooperating with Indian government and business to resolve climate change issues.
Economics & Climate Change
Drought and flood due to changes in rainfall pattern have been affecting India. Temperature change leads to abrupt change in the monsoon, which triggers frequent droughts and flooding in large parts of India. The drought can be critical since 50% of workforce in India is concentrated on agriculture. In 1987, 2002, and 2003, according to World Bank, “droughts affected more than half of India’s crop area and led to a huge fall in crop production.” Moreover, extreme heat and decrease in rainfall also are some factors that can decrease crop production in the next few years. Without climate change, average rice yield is expected to be 6% higher.
Another economical problem India faces from climate change is sea level rise. India, located close to the equator, faces higher rises in sea levels. Mumbai, the city holding world’s largest population, is also exposed to coastal flooding. Migrating coastal cities or building seawalls will be necessary. [4. http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/06/19/india-climate-change-impacts] [5. http://www.nbr.org/research/activity.aspx?id=369]
This detailed map shows the levels of vulnerability to climate change in the various parts of India. The center parts of India, surprisingly, are most at-risk due to damaged agricultural lands, flooding from rivers and more problems rising. Oddly enough, most of the shorelines are least at risk, although the rising sea level is also an excruciating problem in the country. Much of India is at risk in some form. [6. http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/district-level-vulnerability-climate-change-ipcc-assessment]
The significant number of waterways surrounding India and the Himalayas set up a type of danger zone when it comes to the melting ice caps and rising sea level. Specifically showcased in the cases of cities like Bihar and Uttarakhand, flash flooding in India is a very big issue – it can be said that such an issue is correlated with climate change. As the temperature of the world increases, the Himalayan glaciers continue to melt and run into Indian cities. The video below discusses the impact of the flooding on the people of India, and the problems that persist in the era – and what must be done to bring aid to the problem. Flooding comes as no surprise to today’s people of India: the damage the floods do surprise or shock the Indian people, and it is something they have grown used to. It is something they must continue getting used to as it intensifies. The video also concludes that this will continue for 15 to 20 years, or until most of the glaciers are melted, and then there will be very minimal flow of water. Locals have tried to make dams in the mountainside and even run-of-the-river requiring tunneling through the mountainside to help solve the issue, as well. [7. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/28/indians-flash-flooding-disaster-manmade]
In a developing country like India, agriculture is very crucial to economic well-being as well as basic health among Indians. Nearly three-fourths of Indian families rely on rural income and agriculture for a decent quality of life. That being said, even the littlest effect of climate change can have quite a staggering effect on such populations. Parts of India experience overwhelming heat waves and dry spells where not a drop of water can be found, as seen in the photo below. Other parts of India experience extreme flooding that drown all of their crops and make it impossible to not only farm, but to navigate the land, as seen in the photo above. India has been experiencing lengthened dry seasons as well as skewed rainfall patterns. Both of these situations are devastating for these farmers and workers. Not only does a lack of agriculture mean no income for many of these families, it also means no food for themselves. Droughts and flooding are just part of this bigger issue of climate change in India.
Often called the “roof of the world,” the Tibetan Plateau is a vast area of 2.5 million square kilometers with an average elevation of more than 4,500 meters. Scientists have long theorized that the massive release of heat from the surface of the plateau — with air being heated to higher temperatures over the plateau than air at the same height over lower-level surfaces nearby — has been a major contributor to the strength of the monsoon[1. Zhiming Kuang http://environment.harvard.edu/news/faculty-news/heat-himalayas-could-be-key-cause-south-asian-monsoon]. This plateau, obviously, is covered with snow and ice therefore the increase in temperature causes them to melt sliding down the mountainside into cities creating stronger monsoons. This heat is insulated by the Himalayas and other nearby mountain ranges that keep the warm air in India and prevent the cold air from coming in.
Scientists and agriculturists are currently scanning the benefits of a fruit, the jackfruit, and the benefits it could have for the people of India. Reaping the benefits of such a fruit could be enormously beneficial for the country in the elements of the changing climate. “It’s a miracle. It can provide so many nutrients and calories – everything,” said Shyamala Reddy, a biotechnology researcher at the University of Agriculture Sciences in Bangalore, India. “If you just eat 10 or 12 bulbs of this fruit, you don’t need food for another half a day.” [3. Jackfruit Article http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/23/jackfruit-miracle-crop-climate-change-food-security] It is currently being heralded as a potential stepping stone in the fight to end hunger, especially in India where the fruit is under-exploited and could be used for major benefits. The Indian government is currently looking at new ways to use the food, which will also be beneficial for the economy as the extremities of climate change make it extremely difficult to reap the benefits of corn, wheat and other crops that are fizzling out in India.
One of the biggest parts of India’s economy is tourism (a more specialized category is the popular beach tourism, shown in the photo above in the Indian state of Goa). Climate change is affecting India’s tourism industry in a number of ways. First of all, the hotter temperatures are making India less of a desirable vacation spot. Surender Kumar, a lead author of the latest report by the IPCC, states: “If the warming continues, tourists are going to shift to the higher, colder latitudes. Hotter countries including India are the most vulnerable.” He continues on to say, “The IPCC study analyzed and ranked 51 countries based on how the tourist flow will decline due to climate change and poor infrastructure. Based on that India turns out to be the worst hit country.” [2. Climate Change Means Less Food, Less Tourism for India http://www.thethirdpole.net/climate-change-means-less-food-fewer-tourists-for-india/] This paints a picture of the detrimental effects India will experience with increased climate change. Alongside hotter temperatures is the inevitable rise in sea level, which specifically threatens beach tourism (whereas the hotter temperatures threaten India as a tourist spot in general).
This video analyzes the life of the Sundarbans, a group that lives in far Eastern India into Bangladesh. This group was harmed significantly by Cyclone Aila in May of 2009, and has not been able to make a full recovery since, as outlined in the video. The area is now extremely flooded, is composed of tarnished farmland and even the fishermen are out of business due to the waters being contaminated. This also spreads diseases among the people. Basically, it has become close to unlivable there; the people interviewed in the video describe their struggles and talk about moving away, or being forced to cope with the conditions. The issue with the Sundarbans is just one of many not only in India, but the world, due to human-induced climate change.
Oddly enough, maybe climate change isn’t all bad. This video goes in depth with a certain region of India where the change of climate has benefited the people considerably. Where apples once grew, the environment became too hot and then apples could no longer grow there. Fortunately, new, cash-inducing crops (tomato, cabbage, cauliflower) have replaced apples as the main crops and has been a blessing to the agricultural world in India and their economy. Local farmers now have the money to, as the narrator mentions, send their children to higher education in supplement to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Climate change: it can be a good thing!