Environment Reviews

‘India in a Warming World – Integrating Climate Change and Development’ review: Global warming and India

Scientists weigh in on the impact of weather changes on the subcontinent

Climate change is no longer just an environmental issue but an expanding intellectual engagement in its own right. This is more than climate science, or the mechanics of greenhouse gas emissions and understanding the physical process that govern sea level rise and glacier melt. It’s also beyond mapping the effects of climate change on the daily lives of people: urbanites, villagers, rich, poor. It’s now possible to tell a slice of history of a country in terms of its engagement with climate change.

India in a Warming World: Integrating Climate Change and Development edited by Navroz Dubash is an update of an earlier work: Handbook on Climate Change and India from 2012 and the result of a workshop that had a range of participants.

These include diplomats who had represented India in key international climate negotiations, analysts at the Centre for Policy Research, climate scientists, environmental activists.

The resulting essays have resulted in an important compilation that’s an invaluable resource for journalists, academics, civil servants, researchers and anyone who’s more than instrumentally curious about all matters climate change of relevance to India.

Vulnerable situations

Climate scientist J. Srinivasan’s opening essay lays out what is reliably known about how climate change has changed and will likely alter India’s monsoon, vulnerability to cyclones and heat waves. Achuta Rao and Friederike Otto’s essay engage with the intriguing question of whether every extreme event can be reliably attributed to climate change. Thus, are the heatwaves of Andhra Pradesh, the Chennai floods of 2015, and an extreme heat episode in Phalodi, Rajasthan all due to climate change? Two of these three weren’t, the authors cogently argue.

A significant chunk of essays is dedicated to India’s engagement with climate change at international fora, in particular the Conference of Parties’ negotiation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

We have a variety of compelling arguments — some welcoming India’s evolution, from being an obdurate roadblock at climate talks to one of being more accommodative and willing to consider curbs. Others, D. Raghunandan for instance, also make incisive arguments as to why India’s accession of the Paris Agreement is neither a diplomatic win nor a commitment to sustainable growth that accounts for the impact of climate change on India.

Engaging anecdotes

Ashok Lavasa, a former environment ministry secretary and a pivotal negotiator during COP in 2015, and Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary and India’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, provide engaging anecdotes on how specific deals were struck. There’s some rich reportage on the result of these negotiations. Rohan Dua, for instance, examines whether plans drawn up by coastal States to address climate change are adequate.

There are also warnings on what India’s international commitments — for instance, increasing green cover — can mean for ensuring forest rights of tribals. In 2020, signatory countries to the UN climate agreements are expected to review their commitments and targets and expect more velvet-gloved friction between countries. This book serves as a valuable guide to a complicated future.

India in a Warming World: Integrating Climate Change and Development; Edited by Navroz K. Dubash, Oxford University Press, ₹1,995.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 3:36:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/india-in-a-warming-world-integrating-climate-change-and-development-review-global-warming-and-india/article30114696.ece

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