Climate Change (CC) is the most burning issue these days. The potential effect of CC is a key concern for the environmental science community and the government of any nation. The degrees at which human conditions and the natural environment are vulnerable to the impacts of CC, have become primary issues worldwide. Over the past several years, scientists, policy makers and officials, are trying to assess the impacts of CC.
Climate, which is the average state of weather, is predictable for any place. Change in the climate is the long term alteration in the day-to-day weather. In the era gone by, the natural forces were the main causes for any change in climatic conditions. Human induced changes are of recent origin. The human activities such as exploitation of natural resources, extraction and burning of the fossil fuels, and by and large, changes in land use and land cover, are on the top in the list of altering climate. The Third Assessment Report published by the IPCC in 2001 states that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.
The vulnerability of CC differs from region to region. Vulnerability could be defined as the extent to which a natural set up or system is susceptible to the damage. There are several indicators which could present the impacts of CC for any particular region. Artcle 2 of the UNFCCC explicitly acknowledges the importance of natural ecosystems, food production, and sustainable economic development. Therefore, assessment of regional vulnerability to CC could focus on the major ecosystems, hydrology and water resources, food and fibre production, coastal systems, human settlements, human health, etc.
Ecosystem complex is dynamic in nature and is constantly influenced by climate variability. The rate and magnitude of extremities of the change, due to increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations have had a direct impact on the ecosystem. According to the scientific reports, there will be large shifts of vegetation boundaries into higher latitudes, and elevations can be expected. There could be changes in the species composition of forests; in some regions, the entire forest types may disappear; there may be new species assemblages resulting into new ecosystems. Further, there would be major alterations in productivity, due to altered rainfall intensity and seasonality. Aquatic ecosystems will be altered negatively, which will result in the alteration into the flow regime.
Water availability is yet another component which will have major impact due to CC. The CC could exacerbate periodic and chronic shortfalls of water, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas of world. This will affect, by and large, the developing countries.
Human health is of the prime importance while considering the impacts of the CC. The variation in climate will alter the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. As per scientific reports, there appears to be a widespread increase in new and resurgent vector-borne and infectious diseases such as dengue, malaria, hantavirus, and cholera. Heat-stress mortality, tropical vector-borne diseases, urban air pollution problems, and decreases in cold-related illnesses could increase.
India is physiographically diverse and ecologically rich, one of the twelve mega-diversity countries of the world. This culturally rich land has four typical seasons, locally know as Ritus. The CC will have a major impact on the seasonal cycle, along with the water regime of the land.. There is projection of altitudinal shifts of ecosystems in the mountainous and upland regions of India. There could be displacement of the tree species with the weedy species at the higher elevations.
The Himalayas are the first to be affected by the CC in this region. The rainforests seem to be greatly affected. The increased temperatures and the seasonal variability in precipitation would result in increased recession of glaciers. The melting of the Himalayan Glaciers will alter the water pattern of many important rivers. As per the WWF report on the state of top rivers based on greatest threats, the Himalayan originated Ganges and Indus Rivers are among the world’s top ten rivers at risk.
The agricultural and cropping pattern would likely be changed due to changed seasonality. Many such examples could be seen in rural areas in many parts of the country. The pest related problems will be enhanced. Any change in the agricultural pattern will have direct impact on the socio-economic conditions of the people, especially whose livelihood depends on the agriculture.
There is strong need to raise awareness on the Global Climate Change, especially on the local and regional causes of the CC. We have to bring scientific outcomes on ground level, so that the common man can clearly understand the concept. It is through mass awareness that the mission of checking environmental degradation will be achieved.
“Science for Community” has to be taken out effectively, if scientists are serious in this direction, to uproot adverse impacts of Climate Changes.
Satya Prakash Mehra