Environment

Heatwaves linked to man-made climate change: TNQ-Janelia webinar

A way side vendor naps at his vending trolley on a hot afternoon in Bhubaneswar | Photo Credit: BISWARANJAN ROUT

India is gripped in the throes of a long spell of heatwaves and there is compelling evidence that a significant portion of it is due to human-induced climate change, said scientists who were part of an online webinar on climate change organised as part of the TNQ-Janelia Climate Change Summit on Friday.

Three eminent scientists with expertise in how atmospheric, land and ocean systems were influenced by greenhouse gas emissions, drew upon their decades of research to explain how the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere exacerbated temperatures in the oceans and the land and caused increased glacier melt, heightened sea level rise and led to changes in the biosphere.

Fiamma Straneo of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego drew upon her research in Greenland to demonstrate evidence of warming waters around glaciers and how it was heating even ice sheets, thereby accelerating warming.

““India could cut its pollution by half just by providing clean cooking fuel to rural households in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Societal transformation, mitigating carbon dioxide emissions and adaption were all necessary to buffer against climate change.”Veerbhadran RamanathanScripps Institute of Oceanography

Though global sea-levels were rising only three millimetre a year, it would be a mistake, said Dr Straneo, to dismiss it as a minor rise because even those increases were responsible for driving greater numbers of extreme climate events such as floods that could devastate coastal regions, particularly in India.

Her colleague at Scripps, Veerbhadran Ramanathan, referenced a simulation study jointly undertaken at the Princeton University, Columbia University and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that said if carbon emissions were unchecked, half the planet would be in severe drought by the century end. There was already a three-fold rise in extreme precipitation events in India, a decrease in rainfall in North India and increase in precipitation in south India, he said citing research out of India. Along with carbon dioxide emissions, pollution from biomass burning combined with this and caused 1.5 million deaths annually in India.

“India could cut its pollution by half just by providing clean cooking fuel to rural households in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Societal transformation, mitigating carbon dioxide emissions and adaption were all necessary to buffer against climate change,” he added.

The world would be “fooling itself” if it thought it could contain global temperature rise to 1.5C, as the Paris Agreement aspires, and India should prepare a 10-year plan to ensure that India’s poor, who stood to be most affected by climate change, were protected from heatwaves and wildfires, he opined.

Yadvinder Malhi of the University of Oxford, and an ecologist, drew connections between the biosphere and its role in absorbing carbon dioxide emissions. Nearly a third of emitted carbon dioxide didn’t make it to the atmosphere as they were absorbed back into the soil by forests and other vegetation, thus slowing knock-on temperature rise. Therefore, nature-based solutions, such as increasing forest area, would be valuable to India’s climate adaptation programmes. India, because of its population density, would be hard-put to find regions where forests could be expanded, he said, citing research work conducted on land use change in India since the 1700s but there were regions in Central and Eastern India that could be employed for the purpose. “Nature-based solutions are not just for tackling climate change but also doing it in a way that is ethical, just and also increasing biodiversity,” said Malhi.


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Printable version | Apr 30, 2022 8:59:19 am | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/heatwaves-linked-to-man-made-climate-change-tnq-janelia-webinar/article65367764.ece