While the entire planet will be susceptible to the adverse impact of climate change, the poorer regions will be affected more severely than the affluent ones, cautions one of the essays in ‘Security Implications of Climate Change for India’ from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (www.academicfoundation.com).
For example, the Maldives, Kiribati and Tuvalu are mentioned as places that are vulnerable to the serious risk of submergence due to the rise in sea levels. Faced with this existential threat, ‘Kiribati and Tuvalu have already requested Australia and New Zealand to accept the relocation of the islands’ entire population in case of emergency.’
Closer home, it is estimated that a one-metre rise in sea level can displace about 7 million people in India; and about 6,000 square kilometres of land area will be lost, along with 4,200 kilometres of roads. “Under most conservative scenarios, sea level could be expected to be about 40 cm higher than today by the end of the 21st century.”
In this context, suitable economic policy can help limit the impacts and also strengthen our adaptive capacity, the report argues. It avers that economic instruments can be used for promoting technology adoption, for instance, through carbon taxes, and subsidies, and for giving a push to coping mechanisms through appropriate infrastructure investment.
The authors warn that the market may fail to provide the right signals for the adoption of adaptive measures and that the effects may be compounded if institutional mechanisms are not in place to promote them.
A bigger worry for a federal administration will be the accentuated competition for resources among states keen on achieving their objectives of economic development. “Climate change impacts will add an additional source of stress leading to heightened interstate conflicts on sharing of resources – both fiscal and physical – such as water. As policy responsibilities will need to be shared between national, state, and local actors, resource allocation will become critical.”
Similarly, the location of industries and health facilities, and the planning for infrastructure should allow for risks emanating from future climate change impacts, insists the Institute’s publication. “The economic valuation of damages and costs of policies to address climate concerns is an important input for designing strategies for preparedness for disasters, insurance schemes…”
Since innovative technologies hold the potential to help achieve energy efficiency, the authors call for due encouragement of R&D and investments in such technology, and removal of distortions in domestic energy pricing. They call for a decisive shift to renewable energy sources through fiscal and monetary measures, including incentives such as tax holidays for those industries that follow environment-friendly norms.
Rather than think merely in terms of emission quotas, our strategy should be guided by the goal of sustainable development, the book urges. “This cannot be done unless we take a voluntary, mission-focused, target-oriented approach to energy efficiency, renewable energy, resource conservation and a host of other issues.”
That way, we will be able to use climate change as an opportunity to make socio-economic development more sustainable, the authors conclude.