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Implications of Climate Panel Report

The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change bodes ill for global warming and its disastrous implications for the planet. However, governments pay only lip service to these concerns and the policies adopted in India do not reflect a genuine commitment to sustainable and environmentally conscious clean technology measures.

Implications ofClimate Panel Report

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Economic and Political WeeklyMarch 24, 20071002warming irreversible. That point is widelyaccepted as a two-degree rise or just 1.25degrees from the present. According to therecent UK government report authored byNicholas Stern, that level or even oneexceeding that could well be reached by2035, though some put that date as nearas 2030.Class EffectsAnother element missing in much of thepress coverage is class, of how the effectsof climate change will be felt differentiallyand will exacerbate existing inequalitiesand food and water scarcity particularlyin India. Agriculture in India will be hitfor a multiplicity of reasons. Rising sealevels due to warming will mean floodingin coastal areas – which are often the mostfertile – and over time salty sea waterentering groundwater sources, upon whichagriculture partially depends. Monsoonswill become more intense and heavy rainswill form a greater proportion of rainfallin a given season, hence affecting agricul-ture patterns. Dryland farmers will bebadlyhit. A rise of two degrees will resultin falling rice yields, says a study byscientistsat the Indian AgriculturalResearchInstitute. Also, according to theglaciologist Anil Kulkarni, a study of 466Himalayan glaciers revealed that theirsurface area had receded from 2,077 sq kmin 1962 to 1,628 sq km at present, a 21per cent decline. If the recent news reporton submissions made by Indian scientiststo the IPCC is to be believed, Himalayanglaciers will shrink further to one-fifth oftheir present area, from 5,00,000 sq km to1,00,000 sq km. This will mean increasedwater (or even floods) for a while, fol-lowed by even greater water scarcity thanat present. This report suggests that agri-culture yields could decline by over aquarter.3These levels are projections butthe fact of significant decline in yield isnot doubtful.This in a country where as a result ofother policies, agriculture is already indeep crisis. Due to the agrarian crisis,operational holdings have declined by fourmillion between 1993 and 2003. Thenumber of operational holdings below oneacre has lessened by nearly five million,because for these poor householdsagricultureis simply not worth their while.4In a country that already has the highestnumber of malnutritioned children in theworld and in which per capita consumptionof foodgrains has declined in recent years,the impact on the rural poor of agricultureand water supply being hit by climatechange can barely be imagined.Flawed ResponsesThe Indian government’s response hasbeen akin to Nero’s. It has merely beensaying that the developed world is prima-rily responsible for global warming andthat India will not forsake growth for theenvironment. As a recent article argued,“Besides activity in the market for ‘cleandevelopment mechanism’ projects, whichwill have little impact on emission trends,India is practically silent on the internationalstage.”5 There is no doubt that the firstworld and capitalism are primarily respon-sible for the plight we are in – Americaalone emits almost a quarter of the world’scarbon emissions – but given the little timeto act and given that all scientific studiesindicate that south Asian and Indian watersources, forests, biodiversity, shorelinesand agriculture are already getting hit andgoing to get worse hit, the Indian govern-ment needs to move fast. Unfortunately –and this is ironically tragic – since issuesof survival, employment, food security areso much at stake and on people’s minds,one major cause that will make these moreprecarious seems a faraway fancy of the11.5 x 3
EPW

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