Working towards India’s climate policy

Climate scientist N.H. Ravindranath’s assessment will be the basis for India’s first climate-related policy, says Nidhi Adlakha

Last week, a video of a swan pecking at plastic scraps in a pond and carefully placing them on shore to make way for a bevy of little swans did the rounds on Instagram and YouTube. With over 66,593 views, the 25-second clip from an unnamed city resonates with many of us, as it reflects how human actions are taking a toll on the environment.

Closer home, uncontrolled urbanisation and the reckless loss of green cover has led to climate extremities across India: drought, floods, poor monsoons and depleting air quality.

Contrasting weather is the new normal and the present scenario is proof: Assam and Bihar are reeling under one of the worst floods in their history while, in stark contrast, the southwest monsoon is moving at snail’s pace to the South. The impact of climate change on humans is increasing and as per the Environment Ministry’s recent announcement, over 2,000 people died in India in the last year due to extreme weather events.

Working towards India’s climate policy
A screenshot of the swan clearing plastic from the pond

It’s important to note that climate change also poses the biggest economic threat to the world today. It also features prominently in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030. Yet, India lacks a comprehensive policy or even a national study for that matter on the impact of climate change.

We’ve had study after study telling us how we’re lagging behind as a country, but hardly anything is done to improve the on-ground situation. Instead, we’re making things worse. The latest example is from Maharashtra: over 54,000 mangroves and several thousand trees are to be razed for a proposed bullet train project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

The latest State of India’s Environment Report 2019 (SIE) — by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) — reveals how, with just 10 years to go for the SDG deadline, India is yet to identify indicators to track its preparedness. Even the 2009 SIE report tracked the subtle changes in monsoon rain patterns by IIT scientists and warned that by the 2050s, ‘India will experience a decline in its summer rainfall, which accounts for almost 70% of the total annual rainfall and is crucial to agriculture’: something we are already seeing today.

India’s monsoon rains were 35% below average in the week ending July 24, 2019. And if we look at the 2009 report’s summary of summer in North India, extreme temperatures and heat spells had started becoming common. And this year, India and Pakistan suffered one of the worst heat waves in history.

The silver lining, however, comes from N.H. Ravindranath, climate scientist at the Centre for Sustainable Technologies in Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science. He is currently heading a study that analyses how climate change is impacting all regions and sectors in India, and this assessment will soon be the basis for a climate-related policy to be submitted to the Indian government and the United Nations. Here’s hoping the policy to combat climate change takes flight.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 10:49:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/how-climate-scientist-nh-ravindranaths-assessment-will-be-the-basis-for-indias-first-climate-related-policy/article28720739.ece

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