Extreme Droughts, Storms and Floods – IPCC Climate Change Report warns of imminent danger to India and the World

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The UN IPCC’s latest Climate Change report raises a red alert for both India and the world as extreme weather patterns such as prolonged drought, severe storms, flooding of urban areas and melting of glacial ice caps are likely to continue wreaking havoc impacting India and communities across the globe.

Have you noticed too many flash floods in Calcutta and other cities of late? Or Agro sectors are unable to meet the forecasted yields of crops due to prolonged droughts. Or perhaps severe cyclonic storms such as Amphan or Tuktae increasing in frequency. Well, those are the effects of Climate change for you. United Nations body IPCC or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that monitors global climate change has released their latest report on 9th August 2021. The report has raised a red alert for global climate change for both India and the world.

Global temperatures will likely increase by 1.5 – 2 degrees Celsius in less than 20 years the report has warned. This rise in global temperature will cause drastic changes in the climate which will create situations like extreme drought, heatwaves, floods, and storms. Most of the earlier predictions of IPCC have matched so far and we are already looking at droughts, water shortages in cities like Chennai, or cyclonic storms like Amphan, Tuktae, and Yaas.

While the increase in temperature will impact all areas across the globe, things will be worse for India since it will experience “Extreme Heat Waves”. Such extreme heatwaves will not only damage crops and agriculture but will also prove to be detrimental to human health in general. India records several deaths due to heat waves especially in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi each year. Since 1971 there have been 17000 deaths due to heatwaves. It has also contributed to the encephalitis outbreak in Bihar and indirectly caused acute water shortage in Chennai.

Other than the droughts, the report predicts severe rainfall, storms, and erratic monsoon patterns which are particularly unpredictable due to the limitations of the current climate models. Sometimes these extreme calamities might cascade and lead to another one. Meaning that an event of a severe tropical storm might lead to extreme rainfall. To make matters worse such two events can become compounded and even occur together in almost the same area which will worsen the impact. India’s 7516 km of coastline is particularly vulnerable to these cascading or non-cascading compound events of cyclonic storms and rains.

According to Subimal Ghosh, Institute Chair Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Mumbai and also one of the key contributors and authors of the IPCC report “It’s very simple, the Indian Ocean is warming at a higher rate compared to the global average. This is often leading to tropical cyclones intensifying very rapidly. Along with that, we have a sea-level rise in coastal areas. We are also seeing higher storm surge and strong winds. All of this is coming together with extreme rainfall. Extreme rainfall events are rising at the rate of 7% with every 1 degree C of warming. These are compound events and not singular events. We saw a similar pattern for Amphan, Tauktae, and Yaas and this will only become more frequent in the future,”

One of the many patterns that the world is seeing now is due to the increasing numbers of tropical storms and rainfalls which is causing floods, especially in urban areas. Not just cities in India such as Mumbai or Calcutta even cities of the developed nations such as Munich in Germany are witnessing such flash floods. These floods are often called pluvial floods which are mostly due to human activity of developing urban centers where the ground cannot absorb the rainwater resulting in floods.

Mumbai is particularly prone to this issue as major parts of the city have been covered by impervious concrete and other materials to build roads and infrastructure due to rampant unplanned urbanization. This has made the ground unable to absorb the rainwater which is, in turn, causing the rainwater to become stranded leading to floods. This should be a massive concern for India which is urbanizing at an unprecedented pace. India’s need for the hour is a concrete Resilience plan for cities like Mumbai and Calcutta, which details whatever activities need to be done to recover from such compound events.

In the long term, India also needs to focus on places where it can reduce its carbon footprints. Such as subsidizing Electric vehicles or EVs to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, Electric and Hybrid vehicles are still lagging behind in sales due to government policies and expensive price tags while petroleum and diesel vehicles sales are surging in India. It comes as no surprise that in terms of absolute carbon emissions India is currently at No. 3 positions after the US and China. This is a clear testimony to the fact that India and the World’s reluctance to cut carbon emissions might spell doom for us in the near future, especially in a time when procrastination regarding climate change is no longer a viable option.

Arunava Bhattacharya: DNI;

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