What is “climate change”? Should a country like India be concerned about “climate change”? What can countries do about this problem? Illustrate your answer with examples of government policy in the Asian context.

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“Climate Change” has become such a pervasive phenomena that it has now entered the dictionary as a noun and is defined as follows:

“a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels”.

Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around the Earth. They trap warmth from the sun and make life on Earth possible. Without them, too much heat would escape and the surface of the planet would freeze. However, increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes the Earth to heat more and the climate to change. Multiple evidence show climate change is happening such as:

  • direct temperature measurements on land
  • extended growing seasons of plants
  • changes in rainfall patterns resulting in more floods, droughts and intense rain

It is extremely likely that humans are the cause of recent warming. It is true that climate change has been driven by natural causes in the past. However, over the past 150 years there has been a marked and growing increase in greenhouse gas producing activities such as industry, agriculture and transportation. These human-induced activities are increasing the level of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and causing the earth not only to heat up, but to heat up at an unprecedented rate. This recent warming can only be explained by the influence of humans.

In the Asia or Pacific region there is evidence of prominent increases in the intensity and/or frequency of many extreme events such as heat waves, tropical cyclones, prolonged dry spells, intense rainfall, tornadoes, snow avalanches, thunderstorms, and severe dust storms in the region. Furthermore, the region is highly subject to natural hazards, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan Earthquake, and the 2006 landslides in the Philippines. Such impacts pose additional risks for already vulnerable communities striving to combat poverty and achieve sustainable development. The Asia/Pacific region accounted for 91% of the world’s total death and 49% of the world’s total damage due to natural disasters in the last century. Therefore, climate change poses a serious and additional threat to poor farmers and rural communities in the region who live in remote, marginal areas such as mountains, drylands and deserts; areas with limited natural resources, communication and transportation networks and weak institutions. In particular, climate models indicate temperature increases in the Asia/Pacific region on the order of 0.5-2°C by 2030 and 1-7°C by 2070. Temperatures are expected to increase more rapidly in the arid areas of northern Pakistan and India and western China. Additionally, models indicate rising rainfall concentration throughout much of the region, including greater rainfall during the summer monsoon. Furthermore, winter rainfall is likely to decline in South and Southeast Asia, suggesting increased aridity from the winter monsoon. Freshwater availability in Central, South, East and South-East Asia, particularly in large river basin, is projected to decrease due to climate change which, along with population growth and increasing demand arising from higher standards of living, could adversely affect more that a billion of people by the 2050s. Expansion of areas under severe water stress will be one of the most pressing and urgent environmental problems in the region, especially in South and South East Asia, as the number of poor rural people living under serious water stress is expected to increase substantially in absolute terms.

The strategies adopted by the Asian countries primarily focuses on:

  • enhancing the region’s adaptive capacity
  • utilising market mechanisms more effectively
  • building a low carbon society and exploiting developmental co-benefits

In the case of India a National action plan on climate change (NAPCC) has been adopted  which  is guided by the following principles: (i) protecting the poor and vulnerable sections of society through an inclusive and sustainable development strategy, sensitive to climate change; (ii) achieving national growth through ecological sustainability; (iii) devising efficient and cost-effective strategies for end use Demand Side Management; (iv) deploying appropriate technologies for both adaptation and mitigation of greenhouse gases emissions; (v) engineering new and innovative forms of market, regulatory and voluntary mechanisms to promote sustainable development; (vi) effecting implementation of programmes by including civil society and local government institutions and through public- private partnership; and (vii) welcoming international cooperation for research, development, sharing and transfer of technologies Eight National Missions form the core of the NAPCC, which represents a multi-pronged, long-term and integrated approach for achieving key goals in the context of climate change. These include: National Solar Mission, National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency, National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, National Water Mission, National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, National Mission for a Green India, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.

 

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