South India could get 40 percent more rain due to global warming: IPCC report

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Monsoon extremes are likely to increase over India and South Asia, while the frequency of short intense rainy days is expected to rise, noted an IPCC report on climate change. The report also states that extreme weather and poor air quality is likely to gut India’s poor farmers and low-income workers, unless remedial actions are taken urgently.

The report mentions multiple extremes happening at the same time, saying “more heat can trigger more drought, or can lead to more wildfires. Many regions around the world are projected to experience more of these events and these are only likely to increase with higher global warming,” said the report.

The increase in rainfall will be especially severe over the southern parts of India, the report observed. If the global temperatures go up by 4°C, India could see a jaw-dropping 40 percent increase in rainfall annually. Not just India, all of South Asia will see an increase in mid-to-long term monsoon rains.

Models indicate a “lengthening of the monsoon” over India by the end of the 21st century, with the South Asian Monsoon precipitation is projected to increase said the report.

Droughts will occur more because soil will lose moisture. Due to an increase in temperature, there will be more water evaporation, which will in turn decrease soil moisture and leads to droughts.

Impact on the Indian coastline

People on India’s coasts will become major victims of rising sea levels. India, with its 7,517 km coastline will face significant threats from rising seas. “Across six Indian port cities – Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Surat, and Visakhapatnam – 28.6 million people will be exposed to coastal flooding if sea levels rise 50cm, according to one study. The assets exposed to flooding will be worth about US$4 trillion”, says the IPCC report approved by 195 member countries.

India with its diverse climatic zones will be impacted everywhere.

On Himalayan glaciers

The report says that 240 million people in the region, of which nearly 86 million are Indians, get their water from the Himalayas. “Glaciers such as in the Lahaul-Spiti region of western Himalaya have been losing mass since the start of the 21st century, and if emissions do not fall, glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya would decline by two-thirds”, says the report.

The larger outcome for India

Ulka Kelkar, Director, Climate Programme, World Resources Institute India (WRI), said: “For India, the predictions in this report mean people labouring in longer and more frequent heat waves, warmer nights for our winter crops, erratic monsoon rains for our summer crops, destructive floods, and storms that disrupt power supply for drinking water or medical oxygen production”.

Talking about air pollution, the report says that in 2019 it claimed 1.67 million lives in India. The impact is more on people from the low economic groups, “as 74 percent of the city workers are exposed to dangerously high levels of air pollution and the nation is home to 6 out of 10 of the world’s most polluted cities”.

Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General, International Solar Alliance, says: ‘The global energy sector (power, heat and transport) accounts for around 73 percent of our total emissions; it is also the engine behind every country’s economic and developmental plans – and ever more so in the emerging and developing economies where the quality of life, and the accompanying energy consumption is less than the global average”.

It, therefore, becomes ever more important for India to be able to meet our growing energy needs without adding more CO2 to the atmosphere.

“Solar energy offers an ideal solution to all countries. The technology is ready and it is cost-effective; we need global collaboration to scale it up exponentially and expeditiously” adds Mathur.

Global Impact

Sounding the climate alarm, the report said that humankind is driving the planet into a permanently altered state. The fires and floods of the past weeks and months are an indicator of the ways we are changing the climate system, and now some climate impacts are irreversible. It added that if the governments have to deliver on the Paris Agreement targets, they will have to halve emissions before 2030 and also put net-zero roadmaps for “rapid emissions reduction at the heart of their plans”.

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