Environmental Challenges In Twenty First Century And The Indian Response

1783 words - 8 pages

Environmental Challenges in Twenty-first Century and the Indian Response
If there was any remaining doubt about the urgent need to combat climate change, two reports issued in recent years should make the world sit up and take notice. The first report issued in Feb 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the Physical Science Basis On Climate Change. The report states that globally averaged increase in temperature since the mid-20th century “very likely” resulted from an observed rise in concentration of green house gases (GHG). Another report on the economics of climate change prepared by the former chief economist of the World Bank, Sir Nicolas Stern, for the ...view middle of the document...

A striking fact about climate change and environmental degradation is that there is little overlap between the countries that are most vulnerable to its effects and the countries, like US, that are the largest polluters. What is at stake is in part a moral issue, a matter of global social justice. The Kyoto Protocol represents the international community’s attempt to begin to deal with global warming in a fair and efficient way. But it left out a majority of the sources of emissions and unless something is done to include US and the developed and developing countries in a meaningful way, it will be little more than a symbolic gesture.
Moreover, the Kyoto Protocol, which came into effect in Feb 2005, only set targets for reduction in emission of GHGs. It did not envisage a phasing out or substitution of fossil fuels. There has also been considerable debate about whether one of the mechanism devised as part of the efforts to reduce global warming, namely the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), is effective. Despite several billion dollars being spent by industrialized countries to provide clean technologies to developing countries to compensate for their contribution to global warming, the result is disappointing. The switch to cleaner technologies is not on a scale to make a difference. Meanwhile, industrialized countries continue on their old path with only minor adjustments. In the long run, such small steps will not stave off what could be a big disaster in the decades to come. This is one of the many reasons that there has been a demand to review the Kyoto Protocol.
With the publication of the latest IPCC report and the Stern review of the economics of climate change, it is relevant to ask: how is India likely to be impacted and what should we do about it? The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has included India among the 27 countries that are most vulnerable to a sea level rise. A sharp rise in sea level could have a considerable impact on India. About a quarter of India’s population lives within 50 km of the coastline. The mega cities of Mumbai and Chennai with large and growing population and huge investment in infrastructure located on the coast will be severely affected. Besides, much of the coastal region has fertile agricultural land which could be vulnerable to inundation. For example, the low level areas, such as those in Orissa and West Bengal are particularly vulnerable. An increase in the sea level could also lead to salt water entering the ground water aquifers on which people depend for drinking water and irrigation.
Simulations with a regional climate modal have indicated that by 2050s, powerful cyclones could arise more frequently in the Bay of Bengal during the post-Monsoon period as a result of climate change. The Monsoon has hitherto been a largely stable phenomenon, but there is growing evidence that global warming has put the climate in a different mode and therefore the future could be different from the...

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