Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment releases first report
Even as the Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment — dubbed “the Indian Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)” — released its first report on the impact of climate change in four regions of the country, it admitted that significant research gaps and lack of extensive databases were hampering Indian climate science.
Long-term localised data was not available on vegetation and forest cover, socio-economic trends, farm inputs, pests and crop diseases, terrain, soil profile and land use, according to the 45 scientists who worked on the INCCA study. Even when data collected by various national and regional government institutions was available, it was not made available to the researchers, they complained.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh slammed the red tape and bureaucratic mindset that hindered legitimate research. “Those very maps and classified data that we are denying to our researchers are freely accessible on Google,” he said, urging Ministry officials to help breach the data barrier.
He stressed the need to develop Indian research, rather than relying on global scientific data and analysis. “This dependence on borrowed data, borrowed models, borrowed research has cost us politically,” he said, noting that all impact assessments published in India have used a single climate model developed by the United Kingdom's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research. Developing Indian capabilities would mean building human resources, especially the number of doctoral and post-doctoral researchers in this area.
Blindly accepting Western science's prognosis could have social and economic costs for India, said Mr. Ramesh, pointing to flawed Western research on the Himalayan glaciers as well as on methane emissions from agriculture. “Climate science today is not just a scientific enterprise, but also a political enterprise,” he reminded the scientists. Among his aims, he said, is hosting an international conference on climate science in India and publishing a globally recognised academic journal on climate science.
The INCCA report, released by Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, dealt with the impact of climate change by 2030 in the Himalayan region, the North-East, the Western Ghats and the coastal areas in the sectors of agriculture, water, health and forests. It projected a 1.7 to 2.2 degrees centigrade increase in annual temperatures, with the biggest increase coming in coastal regions. Sea level and rainfall will also rise, with cyclones becoming more intense, though less frequent. Flooding could increase up to 30 per cent, while drought becomes more severe in the Himalayas.
With warmer weather encouraging mosquitoes, malaria could spread to new areas in the Himalayas, and see higher rates in the North East as well.
While irrigated rice may see marginal yield increases, maize, sorghum and apple could see reduced yields. The increase in thermal humidity will lead to stress in livestock and a reduction in milk productivity.
Eminent scientist and Rajya Sabha member M.S. Swaminathan urged more focus on agricultural impacts of climate change, especially in the Indo-Gangetic plains and asked scientists to work on solutions as well.