Selected Essays/Climate Change

Climate Change refers to a statistically significant variation in either the general state of the climate or in its variability, persisting for an extended period, typically decades or longer.

Change in climate may be due to natural internal processes or external factors, due to persistent changes in the composition of the atmosphere, or in land use brought by humans. short-term fluctuations like El-Nino, represent variation in climate for short temporary periods. On a longer time scale, changes in ocean heat circulation pattern may result in a stronger impact on climate. Variations in Earth's orbit lead to differences in the distribution of sunlight reaching the Earth in different seasons and at different places on Earth. The solar intensity is also known to affect global climate.

Volcanic eruptions are also considered to be significant in affecting Earth's climate, especially those which emit large quantities of So2 into the stratosphere. This is due to the optical properties of So2 and sulphate aerosols. They absorb or scatter solar radiation, creating a haze of sulphuric acid. Other than volcanoes, the movement of tectonic plates affects the global and local pattern of climate. Anthropogenic factors relate to human activities which include burning of fossil fuels, ozone depleting causes, and deforestation. Due to industrialization and urbanisation, presently, the global atmospheric concentration of carbon-dioxide has increased to 393,69 parts per million (ppm). These could lead to impact on freshwater availability, oceanic acidification, food production, flooding of coastal areas and increased number of water borne diseases associated with extreme weather events.

Glaciers are one of the most sensitive indicators of climate change. Their size is determined by the input of snow and their melting output. Due to rising global temperatures, their size shrinks, leading to escalation of sea levels. The ice on Arctic Ocean is also melting rapidly, which is another proof of climate change. Due to climate change, the distribution and density of vegetation may also be affected. The increase in temperature will lead to early onset of flowering and fruiting, which will affect the life cycles of animals dependent on them. One example is the destruction of rainforests of Europe and America, 300 million years ago. These forests fragmented into isolated ‘islands’ leading to the extinction of many plant and animal species.

India is facing the challenge of sustaining its rapid economic growth while dealing with the global threat of climate change. This threat emanates from accumulated greenhouse gas emissions, generated through long-term industrial growth and high consumption lifestyles. Presently, India is among the top 10 emitters of Greenhouse Gases in the world. However, it is in India’s interest to ensure that the world moves towards a low carbon future. With changes in key climate variables, namely temperature, precipitation and humidity, crucial sectors like agriculture and rural development are likely to be affected in a major way. As a developing country, India is closely tied to natural resources and agriculture, and water and forestry are climate-sensitive.

To combat climate change, India’s National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) aims to achieve national growth objectives, along with enhancing ecological sustainability that leads to further mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. NAPCC endeavours to deploy appropriate technologies, for both adaptation and mitigation of greenhouse gases and to promote sustainable development.

NAPCC also plans to extend international cooperation for research, development, sharing and transfer of technologies enabled by additional funding. India is a member of the United Nations Framework convention and intends to cooperate with the same on Climate Change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty produced at the United Nations conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), and is greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

The 2011 Annual Conference of the Parties was hosted by Durban, South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December, 2011. In 2012, Earth Summit took place in Rio de Janeiro to secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development; to assess progress towards internationally agreed goals on sustainable development and to address new and emerging challenges. The Summit focused on two specific themes – a green economy in the context of poverty eradication and an institutional framework for sustainable development.

We, as individuals also can contribute towards lessening our impact on the climate by modifying our transportation modes, energy consumption, eating habits and waste utilization. Short distances can be covered by walking or cycling or even car-pooling. In place of the conventional light bulbs, LEDs can be used. Electrical appliances should be switched off when not in use.

Our tiny carbon footprint also affects the big picture of climate change. Even though, we might feel that our lifestyle is a small factor, but the choices that we make in our day-to-day life can play a major role in slowing down climate change. Let us all strive for a ‘Cleaner and Greener’ Earth.