Climate change to cast a spell on Agriculture

Climate change to cast a spell on agriculture, says WSSD chief
Fri Aug 24, 2007

Climate change is set to take a toll on Indian agriculture unless adaptive measures are put in place. There may be severe droughts at places and enhanced intensity of floods in other parts of the country, according to the secretary general of 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), Nitin Desai.

In the context of emerging scenario in the near future Kutch and Saurashtra which occupies about one fourth of the area of Gujarat and 60% of Rajasthan may face acute water scarce conditions. River basins of Mahi, Pennar, Sabarmati and Tapti shall also face water shortage conditions. River basins belonging to Cauvery, Ganga, Narmada and Krishna shall experience seasonal or regular water-stressed conditions. River basins belonging to Godavari, Brahmani and Mahanadi shall not have water shortages but are predicted to face severe flood conditions. The periniel sources of surface water would dry as the Himalayan glaciers that feed seven great Asian rivers—Ganga, Indus, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Huang Ho—were fast retreating, he cautioned.

It has been marked that 67% of glaciers are retreating at a startling rate in the Himalayas and the major casual factor has been identified as climate change, he said. The Khumbu Glacier, a popular climbing route to the summit of Mt Everest, has retreated over 5 km from where Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay set out to conquer the world’s highest mountain in 1953. The rate of retreat of the Gangotri glacier in the past three decades is three times higher than the rate for the previous 200 years “Accelerated melting of glaciers will cause an increase in river levels over the next few decades, initially leading to higher incidence of flooding and land-slides. But, in the longer-term, as the volume of ice available for melting diminishes, rivers will have lesser and lesser water. In the Ganga, the loss of glacier meltwater would reduce July-September flows by two thirds, causing water shortages for 500 million people and 37% of India’s irrigated land,” said Desai.

He said that India’s per capita emissions of carbon dioxide has grown at 3.8% a year in the period 1980-2004 and energy forecasts says that it would quadruple by 2050 from 2004 level of 1.1 tonne per capita. The European Union has committed itself to cut its emissions by half by 2050. If this happens then Europe’s carbon emissions would fall to around 4 tonne per capita, the same as China in 2004 and what India would be before 2050, he said. Desai was in India at the inivitation of The Oceanic Group. Desai said that global emissions should start declining from 2015-2020, even if the goals are set for 2050. The US has indicated that it will not accept any commitment unless India and China are brought in. The growing consumer sensitivity about climate change could lead to market pressures akin to those that prevail on labour issues, he said. “Even if all emissions stopped tomorrow, the Earth will warmer by a further 0.5 to one degree celsius over coming decades due to the considerable intertia in the climate system,” he said and added the World Bank has suggested an annual investment of $ 1,500 billion in developing countries to tackle the problems of climate change.

CNN Special Edition on Climate Change: