Climate Change Behind Intense Heat In India; UN Unveils Mitigation Plan

Top IMD official says the North West and Central belt of India would also face a hotter than normal April this year as well.

A man riding a bicycle holds an umbrella in one hand amid heatwave in Delhi. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: India witnessed the hottest March in 122 years, Delhi is experiencing heatwave, which is going t o further intensify, and grain yields may be affected due to the intense heat this year. All these conditions that the country is witnessing are because of global warming, says Dr Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director General of Meteorology, India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Speaking to India Ahead, Mohapatra says the North West and Central belt of India would also face a hotter than normal April this year as well.

“Heat wave is the direct outcome of climate change. For April, we are going to forecast higher temperature than normal. And hence there will be more heatwave conditions, but it doesn’t mean every day in April we would witness heatwave-like conditions. For April, the normal highs are for 5-7 days, whereas this time it would be longer,” says Mohapatra.

UN Plan On Climate Change Mitigation

As the country faces extreme heat early in the year, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has unveiled a plan on mitigation of climate change. This plan includes the deployment of carbon dioxide (CO2) removal that would result in net negative global green house gas emissions and efficient resource use, as well as, shifts in consumption patterns globally.

Modelled mitigation strategies to achieve the reductions in warming, it says, include transitioning from fossil fuels without Carbon capture and storage (CCS) to very low- or zero-carbon energy sources, such as renewables or fossil fuels with CCS, demand side measures and improving efficiency, reducing non-CO2 emissions, and deploying carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods to counterbalance residual Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.

The report also focuses on giving people the quality of life which makes them less dependent on energy consumption. It says new and emerging cities will have significant infrastructure development needs to achieve high quality of life, which can be met through energy efficient infrastructures and services, and people-centred urban design.

This would mean, for cities, to reduce or change energy and material use towards more sustainable production and consumption; electrification in combination with switching to low-emission energy sources; and also enhancing carbon uptake and storage in the urban environment, for example through bio-based building materials, permeable surfaces, green roofs, trees, green spaces, rivers, ponds and lakes.

India’s Goals

While India has made promises to achieve net zero emissions by 2070, the Climate Action Tracker also says that India, to recover from the severe impact of COVID-19 unveiled one of the largest stimulus packages in the world. This it says supports activities related to industries likely to have a large negative impact on the environment by, for example, increasing the use of fossil fuels, and unsustainable land use.

But as the same time, government’s promises, made during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow last year, remain. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised that the country would make the Railways emission free by 2030. “This will result in an annual 60 million tonnes reduction in emissions,” he had said.

He had also said that the country would achieve energy capacity of 500 GW with a 50 per cent share in non-fossil fuel-based energy, reduced carbon intensity by 45 per cent, projected carbon emissions to be brought down by 1 billion tonnes by 2030.

Climate Change To Impact Intensity Of Cyclones

The rise in temperatures does not just mean heat, but also a great impact on agriculture, the degradation of the environment, rise in sea-levels, even drought. What it has also done is affect and increase the intensity of cyclones.

Mohapatra, who is also dubbed the cyclone man of India for accurately predicting the path of disastrous cyclone Phailin that hit the coast of Orissa in 1999, says that intensity of cyclones is predicted to increase.

Last year had seen an intense Cyclone Yaas make landfall in Orissa, which caused widespread destruction. Mohapatra says for now the cyclone intensity which is being witnessed is increasing over the Arabian Sea and not over Bay of Bengal. “The projections say that the intensity would further increase and the frequency of cyclones over Arabian Sea could be attributed to global warming. The good thing is that most of the Arabian Sea systems move westward towards countries like Oman, Arabia and Africa.”

But some of these originating in Arabian Sea come towards west coast of India, especially Gujarat and west parts of Maharashtra. “In that way there could be some impact over the Indian coast, but the major impact would be over the Sea, Arabia and Africa.”

Climate Change Across Regions, Seasons

He also points out that the rise in temperature has been witnessed more so in the north of the country than the southern parts of the country.

“Similarly if you consider the rise in temperature in different seasons the temperature rise is more post monsoon season and in winter season followed by pre monsoon and monsoon season. Its impact is on severe weather, for example heat wave conditions its intensity and frequency is increasing.”