Global warming is a reality that the entire world is facing. Due to the greenhouse effect, there have been drastic climate changes across the globe.
A layer of greenhouse gases consisting primarily of water vapour, and smaller amounts of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide act as a thermal blanket for the Earth. It helps in absorbing heat and keeps the surface of the Earth warm enough to support life.
However, human activities on Earth, over the last century, have increased the amounts of gases such as Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane, Nitrous oxide, Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs that also contribute towards destroying the ozone layer) which are changing the natural greenhouse, thus adversely affecting the environment of Earth. The climate pattern is changing, earth is becoming warmer, glaciers are melting and the sea levels are rising, to name a few of the adverse outcomes.
For all the Indians who are thinking that all this is happening somewhere else, it is much closer home.
- India, with a coastline of more than 7500 Km, is susceptible to climate change because of the changes in rainfall patterns, increased intensity and frequency of cyclones and other hazards and the rising temperatures.
- A study in progress by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reveals port cities are the most susceptible to this drastic climate change, with the probability of increased rainfall, and this includes Mumbai and Kolkata.
- The effects could be disastrous as it is expected that by 2070 an estimated 11.4 million people and assets worth $1.3 trillion would be at peril in Mumbai due to climatic extremes and in Kolkata 14 million citizens and assets worth $2 trillion will be at peril.
- Mumbai has a further problem of poor urban planning which has left little space for water to get absorbed into the ground. The impact may be severe.
- Chennai too is vulnerable to these climate change paterns, thanks to poor social and space indices.
- Saltwater intrusion due to rising water levels will affect availability of fresh groundwater including the most fertile Ganges-Delta region.
- There will be loss of livelihood with loss of fisheries and seaweed farming. Andapam district of Tamil Nadu is an example of the same.
- Sea level increase will result in the inundation of land displacing families who will in return crowd the inner land increasing urban jungle and slum area.
- Deterioration of coastal ecosystems like coral reefs and wetlands due to increasing sea temperatures could play havoc to the biodiversity and thus affecting the food web. For e.g. Chilika lake of Orissa (a wetland)
- Coastal land-dwelling animals like sea turtles and crocodiles may go extinct due to inundation of land and their inability to adapt to rising temperatures.
- There will be a spate of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea due to excess water damaging the sanitation system.
- The capital city of India, Delhi, fared the worst in a study conducted for climate vulnerability.
- Surat too anticipates worst effect of climate change.
India needs to take proactive steps in dealing with climate change with active collaboration at international levels. It is a crisis too close for comfort and India needs to work towards safeguarding the environment as well as finding ways and means to deal with climate change.