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Sansad TV: The Global Debate- Climate Change Risks

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Introduction:

More than half of Europe is reeling under severe heatwave, leading to worst-ever droughts, water shortages and energy crisis. China declared national drought following weeks of extreme temperatures and drying rivers. As the risks of climate change become more severe, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a historic climate law aimed at reducing emissions significantly by the end of the decade. Experts share their views on the growing risks & effects of climate change and why now is the time for the world to act.

Heatwaves:

  • A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season.
  • Heat Waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July.
  • The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has given the following criteria for Heat Waves:
  • Heat Wave need not be considered till the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C for Plains and at least 30°C for Hilly regions.
  • When the normal maximum temperature of a station is less than or equal to 40°C, Heat Wave Departure from normal is 5°C to 6°C and Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 7°C or more.
  • When the normal maximum temperature of a station is more than 40°C, Heat Wave Departure from normal is 4°C to 5°C and Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 6°C or more.
  • When the actual maximum temperature remains 45°C or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature, heat waves should be declared.
  • Health Impacts of Heat Waves:
  • The health impacts of Heat Waves typically involve dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke.
  • Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing morbidities are particularly vulnerable.
  • Vegetable vendors, cab drivers, construction workers, police personnel, road side kiosk operators and mostly weaker sections of the society have to work in the extreme heat to make their ends meet and are extremely vulnerable to the adverse impacts of heat waves such as dehydration, heat and sun strokes.

Reasons why India is experiencing more heat waves are:

  • Magnified effect of paved and concrete surfaces in urban areasand a lack of tree cover.
  • Urban heat island effectscan make ambient temperatures feel 3 to 4 degrees more than what they are.
  • More heat waves were expected as globally temperatureshad risen by an average 0.8 degrees in the past 100 years. Night-time temperatures are rising too.
  • Higher daily peak temperaturesand longer, more intense heat waves are becomingly increasingly frequent globally due to climate change.
  • High intensity of UV raysin medium-high heat wave zone.
  • Combination of exceptional heat stressand a predominantly rural population makes India vulnerable to heat waves.

Major initiatives of the Government towards combating climate change:

  • National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC): The Action plan covers eight major missions on Solar, Enhanced Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Habitat, Water, Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, Green India, Sustainable Agriculture and Strategic Knowledge on Climate Change.
  • International Solar Alliance (ISA)
  • State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC): State governments have drafted climate strategies aligned with the eight National Missions under the NAPCC. The strategies focus on issues ranging from climate mitigation, energy efficiency, and resource conservation to climate adaptation.
  • FAME Scheme for E-mobility: Union Government in April 2015 launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) – India Scheme with an aim to boost sales of eco-friendly vehicles in the country. It is a part of the National Mission for Electric Mobility.
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for Smart Cities.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: The scheme provides LPG connections to five crore below-poverty-line beneficiaries. The connections are given in the name of women beneficiaries to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and conventional fuel like cow dung for cooking food, thus reducing air pollution.
  • UJALA scheme: The scheme was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2015 with a target of replacing 77 crore incandescent lamps with LED bulbs. The usage of LED bulbs will not only result in reducing electricity bills but also help in environment protection.
  • Swachh Bharat Mission

Solutions for it and Way Forward:

  • Localized Climate risk atlas at national scale level.
  • We have technology but need to work on R and D to reach our targets.
  • Identifying heat hot-spots through appropriate tracking of meteorological data and promoting timely development and implementation of local Heat Action Plans with strategic inter-agency co-ordination, and a response which targets the most vulnerable groups.
  • Review of existing occupational health standards, labour laws and sectoral regulations for worker safety in relation to climatic conditions.
  • Policy intervention and coordination across three sectors health, water and power is necessary.
  • Promotion of traditional adaptation practices, such as staying indoors and wearing comfortable clothes.
  • Popularisation of simple design features such as shaded windows, underground water storage tanks and insulating housing materials.
  • Advance implementation of local Heat Action Plans, plus effective inter-agency coordination is a vital response which the government can deploy in order to protect vulnerable groups.
  • Democratization of climate data.
  • The real challenge is to get other developed countries on board.
  • Wealthy nations like the U.S., and those of the EU argued that emissions from developing countries are consistently rising and they need to commit to more serious emission cuts. A consensus needs to be developed at the earliest.
  • Ban on single use plastic will be one of the game changer
  • The ‘developing versus developed country’ schism needs to be diluted at the earliest and Developed Countries should avoid watering down the CBDR principle envisaged in earlier agreements.
  • We should not treat climate change as an environmental problem but need to address it as developmental challenge.
  • Investment in R&D is needed to spur innovations in sustainable climate-friendly and climate-proof productivity, and the private sector can help on this.
  • India’s ambitious targets to cut carbon emissions require strong political will, meaningful engagements and sustainable plans.
  • Climate finance can prove to be a compelling financial tool to align India’s growth with various climate change measures.
  • Climate change is described by many as a far greater threat to humanity than Covid-19, because of its irreversible impacts. Many of the impacts such as sea level rise and melting of glaciers will continue for many years. There is a need for a drastic and immediate cut in carbon emissions, given that the changes to the climate already made are not reversible.
  • All nations, especially the G20 and other major emitters, need to join the net-zero emissions coalition and reinforce their commitments with credible, concrete and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and policies before COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.