Crippling Consequences of Climate Changes
The rising temperatures this summer have literally been the hot news across the country. India recorded its highest average temperatures in March since 1901 and parts of northwestern and central India recorded their maximum average temperatures in April since 1900. Some parts of western and central India touched 40 degrees celsius while other states in the south witnessed heat waves. The underlying cause behind this seasonal catastrophe is the drastic climatic change fuelled by extortionist human activities and failed environmental policies by nations across the world.
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report written by many leading scientists and accepted by 195 countries has provided shocking insights into the gap between environmental policies and their impact on increasing climatic changes. According to the report, there has been a net 154% increase in greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 compared to 1990. Apart from this, a detailed study of empirical data has also revealed that there has been a gradual increase in the per capita emission of greenhouse gases across all major groups.
Global net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions include CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes, net CO2 from land use, land-use changes and forestry methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. In 2019, approximately 34% of total net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions came from the energy supply sector, 24% from industry, 22% from agriculture, forestry and other land use, 15% from transport and 6% from buildings. To understand this phenomenon with a micro-level example, a detailed study conducted by IIT Kanpur on the horrid climate situation in Delhi revealed similar reasons for the high levels of pollution.
Primary contributors were biomass burning, transport and vehicles, road dust caused by the construction industry and coal ash from industries. According to the IPCC report, land overall constituted a net sink of 6.6% for the period 2010- 2019, resulting from responses of all land to both anthropogenic environmental change and natural climate variability.
One of the major engines of climate change is the rapid urbanisation that has happened across the globe. In 2015, urban emissions were estimated to be about 62% of the global share and in 2020, 67-72% of the global share. However, it's not all gloomy on this front. Amongst these upsetting developments, there has been some good news. Theper unit cost of producing low emission technologies has gone down drastically since 2010.
Innovation policy packages have enabled these cost reductions and supported global adoption. Both tailored policies and comprehensive policies addressing innovation systems have helped overcome the distributional, environmental and social impacts potentially associated with the global diffusion of low-emission technologies. Innovation has lagged in developing countries due to weaker enabling conditions. Digitalisation can enable emission reductions but can have adverse side effects unless appropriately governed.
In a bid to contribute to this global yajna to mitigate climate change, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out the ‘One Sun, One World, One Grid’, a transnational electricity grid providing solar power to nations across the globe during the first assembly of the International Solar Alliance. The National Action Plan on Climate Change adopted on 30 June 2008 recognised the need to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels for energy consumption and to shift to more renewable sources of energy such as solar energy. India had also set a target of producing 175 GW of renewable energy by 2030. It is estimated that India may achieve this target ten years in advance.
Despite such herculean efforts taken by developing countries like India, it is estimated that the global temperatures will rise more than 1.5 degrees celsius by 2030. This defies the much-coveted COP '26 resolution adopted by over 150 countries. It is interesting to note that according to the IPCC report, consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions per person in evenly populated North America are exceedingly high compared to densely populated regions like Southern Asia based on the 2018 data. So it is also fair to conclude that the onus falls on developed nations like the USA to implement more effective and stringent environmental policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in their regions.
While humongous efforts are being taken by many countries across the globe, there is still a lot of scope for development. The onus falls on us, Indians, to ensure that we take every step possible to ensure that it is India first, leading the global climate change mitigation drive.