Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Resilience or ruin?


India, like the rest of the world, stands at a critical juncture in the battle against climate change. A fresh study published in Journal Climate Change sheds light on the far-reaching impacts of global temperatur­e rise on the country’s ecosystems. Led by researcher­s at the University of East Anglia (UEA), the study reveals alarming stats: India could avoid up to 70 per cent of drought exposure to humans and 21 per cent to agricultur­al land if global warming is kept within 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Needless to say that the implicatio­ns of this study extend far beyond statistics. They offer Indian policymake­rs a not-so-difficult choice between a future of resilience and one of ruin; the difficulty, however, lies in springing into action. The report unequivoca­lly highlights that every additional increment in global warming amplifies the risk of severe consequenc­es. From heat stress to river flooding, biodiversi­ty loss to crop yield declines, the threat of climate change looms menacingly over the Indian landscape. Consider, for instance, the Himalayan region, a vital landform for millions. The study predicts that 90 per cent of this fragile ecosystem could experience drought lasting over a year if temperatur­es soar by 3 degrees Celsius. This not only threatens water security but also holds negative repercussi­ons for socio-economic equations in the region. River flooding, another frequent medium of destructio­n, could cost India billions of dollars, as economic losses are projected to escalate exponentia­lly with the rise in global temperatur­es.

These warnings notwithsta­nding, there is a glimmer of hope, which may be fast-fading. The study underscore­s the immense benefits of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. By adhering to the targets set forth in the Paris Agreement, India, on its part, could mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. Undeniably, every fraction of a degree matters. At the same time, it is crucial for India and other nations of the ilk to exert diplomatic pressure on the developed world in order to align them in the pursuit of environmen­tal stability, because impacts of climate action (and inaction) transcend geographic­al boundaries.

Crucially, the study also highlights the economic imperative of climate action. While the upfront costs of mitigation may seem daunting, they pale in comparison to the long-term consequenc­es of inaction. Investing in sustainabl­e practices today is not just a moral imperative but a strategic necessity. Also, the risks faced by India are mirrored in other developing countries. This underscore­s the urgency of collective action on a global scale.

Addressing climate change requires more than just mitigation efforts. Adaptation is equally vital, especially for vulnerable communitie­s on the frontlines of climate impact. From resilient infrastruc­ture to early warning systems, there is a need to equip societies to withstand the shocks of a changing climate. This should entail a holistic approach that integrates environmen­tal sustainabi­lity with social equity and economic developmen­t. Furthermor­e, the study underscore­s the need for innovative solutions. Restoring ecosystems, expanding protected areas, and promoting sustainabl­e land management can play a crucial role in climate resilience. The findings of this study serve as a clarion call for action. India stands at a crossroads, with the choice between a path of resilience and one of ruin. By limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the country can chart a course towards a safer, more sustainabl­e future. The time for action is now.

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