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New IPCC Report: PREPARE FOR WARMER CONDITIONS, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 21 Oct, 2013 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 21 October 2013

New IPCC Report


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


Environmental concerns are a subject of much discussion and debate not just among experts and policy makers but even large sections of the population. It is in this context that the just released report of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) titled ‘Climate Change 2013: Physical Science Basis’, as part of the fifth assessment report, has evoked great interest as it particularly comes out with some interesting revelations about India and South Asia.


The findings show that the northern part of the sub-continent is likely to witness winter temperature rise up to 0.4 to 0.8 degrees Celsius during the period 2016 to 2035 (compared to the 1986-2005 average) and 2-3 degrees Celsius during 2046-65. Thus, it is quite evident that North India would heat up more than the southern parts of the country in the coming years.


There is also a strong hint that the duration of the rainy season would increase due to early onset of the monsoon. Indications are already there that the monsoon has been unusual --continuing till October and, as such, there is every possibility that the quantity of rainfall would increase steadily during the later part of this century.


In fact, for entire South Asia, the technical summary of the report clearly points at “enhanced summer monsoon precipitation and increased rainfall on the coasts of the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea”. This is already being felt in many places of India and the growing humidity almost across the country in the past few years have made life and the working conditions quite difficult. The impact of rising temperature, increase in rainfall and other attendant factors on the region’s agriculture is thus likely to be considered in the report on impact, adaptation and vulnerability to be out sometime in March next year. 


Further, the IPCC had raised the likelihood of human influence on global warming from “very likely” in its 2007 report to “extremely likely” in the present one – moving from 90 per cent sure to 95 per cent. However, compared to the fourth assessment report the present one tones down its temperature rise projections for the end of the century from the earlier range of 1.1 to 6.4 deg C to 3 to 4.8 deg C. But the change has been because of two ranges, which were not comparable based on different set of scenarios.


However, global warming had resulted in an average sea level rise of 19 cm since 1901 and an increase in surface temperature by 0.85 degrees C between 1980 and 2012. Scientists have predicted that the sea level would continue to rise at a rate faster than has been observed over the past 40 years. 


According to the report, “the carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 40 per cent since pre-industrialized times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emission (such as deforestation)”. The concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide have also increased considerably.


Worse, the report has pointed out that the last three decades have been “successively warmer” at the earth’s surface than any preceding period since 1850 in the northern hemisphere i.e. 1983-2010 was likely the warmest period. While the oceans are absorbing 90 per cent of the energy accumulated by the planet’s climate system between 1971 and 2010, land absorbed only about 5 per cent of the heat.


Interestingly, the report shows a relative slowdown in surface warming between 1998 and 2012 compared to 1951 and 1998, but scientists attribute this to a slight dip in solar activity over the past decade. The report clarified that “due to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends”.


Thus, it can easily be stated that 15 years is too short a period for arriving at any definite conclusions. While it is believed that a section of Western policy makers and scientists may take the opportunity to highlight this part of the present report, saying the concerns being raised over climate change are not that serious, it would be a grave mistake as it would impact the ongoing seriousness and attention on environment.


There is already much concern about the impact of climate change and its impact on countries of the Third World, specially those belonging to Asia and Africa. The developed world has been pressing emerging nations to cut emissions of short-lived gases while the latter has been demanding the West undertake more cuts in its Co2 levels. The issue is likely to come up again at the policy makers meet in Warsaw later this November to prepare the agenda for a new global climate deal in Paris in 2015. 


Insofar as India is concerned, the rising pollution levels have remained almost unchecked with rampant increase in air, water and sound pollution, rising sea levels and extreme weather events in spite of certain measures taken by the Government and particularly the Ministry of Environment. The cities are getting warmer all across the globe and in India, which has also been confirmed in another study of the University of Hawaii. Making predictions on the climate of 10 Indian cities, it noted that Mumbai and Chennai would be the first to reach the “point of no return” as early as 2034.    


In the second scenario, where concerted efforts are made to cut emissions, Mumbai is predicted to reach its tipping point by 2051 followed by Chennai a year later and then Delhi in 2081. The years mentioned against these cities indicate an entirely new and hotter climate regime.    


Meanwhile, the high pollution levels in Indian cities have been authenticated by a forecast of a panel of experts of World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which in its recent survey, classified air pollution, including tiny inhalable particles called particulate matter, in the same category of proven carcinogens as tobacco. As is well known, the main sources of outdoor air pollution are vehicle emissions, thermal power plants, industrial and agricultural emissions.  


Additionally, a Yale University study released early this year claimed that India had the worst air quality among 132 countries assessed. Other studies, based on mathematical models, found that India’s megacities, specially Delhi and Kolkata, are among the world’s most polluted cities and hence have the highest levels of premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases, respiratory illness or lung cancer linked to air pollution. 


Undeniably, it is therefore imperative that special efforts be made to identify and check climate change impacts on human health, water resources, coastal areas and agriculture as this is vital not only for the large segment of the country’s population but also for many other countries of the Third World. Climate change abatement policies have to be followed vigorously to offset the consequences of global warming. In fact, there is need to formulate programmes and strategies for effective promotion and implementation in specific areas where it is needed and could be of use. Let’s remember the idiom--A stitch in time will save nine. ---INFA    


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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