Climate crisis in India: a call for global solidarity and action plan

By Imran Khalid | Gwadar Pro Aug 4, 2023

Editor's Note: The writer is a freelance columnist on international affairs based in Karachi, Pakistan. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.

“I have never seen climate carnage on the scale of the floods here in Pakistan. As our planet continues to warm, all countries will increasingly suffer losses and damage from climate beyond their capacity to adapt. This is a global crisis, it demands a global response,” wrote UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in his tweet at the end of his two-day solidarity trip to Pakistan in September last year.

His warning stands vindicated. Now, this year, destructive flooding wreaks havoc in India, Japan, China, Turkey, and the US. 2023 emerges as an ominous departure from preceding years, presenting a stark exacerbation of climate-related woes. Forecasts indicate impending worsening as further climate warming is expected in the coming days, amplifying the grim possibility of relentless deluges. In the grim tapestry of 2023's monsoon inundation, India finds itself on the frontlines of devastation. With torrential rains triggering flash floods and landslides, the country grapples with an environmental crisis of epic proportions.

Preceded by an oppressive heat wave, these intense monsoon showers have unleashed their wrath upon northern India, leaving death, destruction, and inaccessible regions in their wake. Television screens bear witness to haunting scenes of landslides, flash floods, and the merciless obliteration of vehicles, buildings, and bridges. Devastating floods ravaging northern India have also encroached upon the iconic Taj Mahal, marking an unprecedented event that experts caution might morph into a distressing regularity amid the intensifying climate crisis.

The fingerprints of human-induced climate change leave an indelible mark on India- particularly in the northern states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh. Recent floods in the northern states stand as stark testament to the heightened devastation such events inflict upon hilly terrains compared to their plain’s counterparts - a poignant reminder of nature's fury in an altered world.

South Asia, an expansive region with over a billion and a half souls, grapples with the dire consequences of climate change. As downpours, droughts, and scorching temperatures become recurrent nightmares, this area nestled between the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas faces vulnerability on an unprecedented scale. Unforgiving natural disasters may afflict nearly 750 million people.

A ticking time bomb of global warming impacts, this region is at the mercy of an altered climate, pleading for urgent attention and action. India's lifeblood, the summer monsoon, nourishes the land with around 70% of its yearly rainfall. Vital for agriculture, which drives 11% of the economy but engages 40% of the labor force. Yet, this works as a double-edged sword, frequently triggering havoc through floods and landslides. On-going climate change has lent volatility to the monsoon, rendering predictions difficult. Its amplified strength and unpredictability exacerbate the ferocity and recurrence of floods, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the nation's future.

In 2022, New Delhi's Center for Science and Environment undertook a grim assessment of India's extreme weather encounters. Astonishingly, 314 out of 365 days bore witness to such events, with each day witnessing at least one region affected. These harrowing figures served as an alarming reminder of the escalating impact of climate change, inflicting a multi-faceted crisis upon the country's inhabitants and environment. The 2022 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report delivered a grim forecast for India. It forewarned of a multitude of climate change-induced calamities over the next two decades. The report suggested that unless urgent action is taken to drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 it might result in unprecedented climate catastrophe.

As the atmosphere warms by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), it embraces 7% more moisture, according to NASA data. Since 1880, the global temperature has surged by at least 1.1 degrees Celsius (1.9 degrees Fahrenheit), sounding an alarming climate alarm. Climate change poses a pressing water conundrum for the Himalayan region, having highest number of glaciers in the world. Alarming findings from a 2021 University of Leeds study reveal glacier ice melt occurring in the Himalayas is at least 10 times higher than the average rate over past centuries.

The Himalayas, which cover countries such as Pakistan, Nepal and India, has lost 40 percent of their ice over several hundred years. Melting glaciers and shifting rainfall patterns could disrupt irrigation systems, heightening water scarcity and jeopardizing crop growth in this vulnerable region. Climate change shatters the delicate crop growth balance, portending grave implications for food security in South Asia. A 2021 study on wheat production's future unveils a 16% yield decline in the region. Escalating temperatures, altered precipitation, and extreme weather events compound challenges for agriculture, livestock, and fisheries.

The unfolding situation in India, akin to the devastating floods that struck Pakistan last year, demands unwavering attention from the global community. A grave reminder of the escalating climate crisis, it serves as an urgent call to action for concerted efforts to tackle this pressing issue on a global scale. Addressing the climate change issue demands a collective effort from the global community. First and foremost, countries must strengthen their commitments under the Paris Agreement, working seriously to achieve ambitious targets for emissions reduction and renewable energy adoption.

International cooperation is vital in supporting developing nations with climate finance, technology transfer, and capacity building to foster sustainable development. Investing in research and innovation to develop clean technologies and promote sustainable practices is essential. Governments should incentivize businesses and industries to transition to low-carbon models. The crux lies in reducing the carbon footprint through energy conservation and making sustainable transportation choices. Protecting and restoring ecosystems like forests and wetlands is crucial for carbon sequestration and climate resilience. Sustainable land-use practices can help balance the competing demands for food, resources, and climate protection. With each fleeting day, our planet hurtles closer to menacing climatic catastrophes; time is running short, urging us to act urgently.

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