Aug 9, 2008

India - If UK is worried,we have a bigger reason to worry

Bangalore: The world could see a potentially catastrophic four-degree Celsius rise in temperature by the end of the century, a Guardian report on Thursday has said, and quoted top scientists urging the United Kingdom to “prepare” for such an eventuality.

“If the U.K. is worried, we have far greater reason to be worried,” N.H. Ravindranath, Chairman, Centre for Sustainable Technology, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) told The Hindu. “The implications for India could be catastrophic even if the temperature were to rise by as much as two degrees Celsius because our adaptive capacity is so low,” he said.

Prof. Ravindranath is also member of an expert committee on climate change formed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest in 2007, and one of the lead authors of the reports of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which shared the Nobel Peace Prize along with the former United States Vice-President, Al Gore, in 2007.

“Unlike a developed country such as the U.K. which can mobilise adaptation strategies like building barriers against sea level rise, India does not have the financial, technological or institutional capacity to cope even with existing natural disasters, let alone climate change which would trigger an increase in extreme weather events like droughts and floods,” he said.

Citing the example of the tsunami, Prof. Ravindranath said, “Even though vast resources were made available for tsunami relief and rehabilitation, not even one-third of those who lost their homes have been rehabilitated. And only a fraction of houses built for the victims have been occupied because they were either found to be architecturally inappropriate or sociologically incompatible.”

The most vulnerable will be those who depend directly on natural resources for their livelihood, he said. “Communities who depend on climate sensitive sectors such as dryland farming, fisheries and forest resources will be worst affected,” he said.

The rise in temperature may not be as severe in India as warming in the tropics will be less than it is in the mid-latitude — but even a three-degree rise in temperature would be of severe consequences for India, said J. Srinivasan, Chairman of the Mechanical Science Division and Professor at the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at IISc. He was also one of the lead authors of IPCC’s reports.

“For instance, parts of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh could begin to see temperatures going up to 50 degrees, and cities like Bangalore will begin to experience temperatures of 40 degrees by the end of the century.”

Can India play a role in countering climate change? “India contributes less than five per cent of the total global carbon emissions, so we have little influence over global climate change. But as our energy requirements increase, it would more sensible to look at renewable energy such as solar energy – rather than coal or oil,” Prof. Srinivasan said.

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