A reality check
Climate change has been the discourse of the century so far. In fact, it was back in 1992 during the historic Earth Summit in Rio that a consensus was reached by the global community over efforts to be taken in this direction. Over the course of nearly three decades, the world has routinely conducted COPs and arrived at a number of agreements and accords such as the Kyoto Protocol (adopted in 1997 but effective from 2005), Paris Agreement (2016), Powering Past Coal Alliance (COP 23, Bonn), etc., to name a few. A variety of funds such as Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund, Climate Investment Funds, etc., have been introduced to finance the global effort to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change besides inducting technology that limits the very emission of Green House Gases (GHGs). The list of meetings, propositions, agreements is obviously inexhaustive here but the underlying emphasis is that in this 21st Century, humankind has consciously pursued the discourse on an impending disaster in climate change. The recently released report by the Ministry of Earth Sciences titled, "Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region", redirects discussion to the gradual yet catastrophic process. It has been hailed as India's first climate change assessment report. It cites that temperatures for the hottest day and coldest night have increased by 0.63 degrees C and 0.4 degrees C respectively in the period of1986-2015. It further projects a rise of 4.7 degrees C and 5.5 degrees C respectively by the end of 21st Century if no efforts are made to mitigate climate change. It also reports that monsoon rainfall has declined by 6 per cent between 1951-2015 and frequency of localised heavy rainfalls has increased owing to more dry spells. Frequency of very severe post-monsoon cyclone storms has significantly increased during the past two decades and the report only projects an increase in such frequency in the coming years. These projections, exclusive for the Indian region, will be part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report which will give a picture of climate change on a global scale.
Such a report is quite useful for scientists, researchers and policymakers as it outlines the worst-case scenario that we have to understand and thereby avoid. India has been traversing the path to clean energy with its commitments such as the production of 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022 and transition to electric vehicles under FAME policy. Previously, Delhi has shown the commitment to switch its bus fleet to natural gas in a bid to curb emissions in the national capital. India is committed to the Bonn Challenge pledge to bring into restoration around 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020 and an additional 8 million hectares by 2030. These instances are to deviate ourselves from projections but even these require a dynamic surge. The short-term impacts of extreme weather events have already caused damage to human life in a variety of ways. With coasts getting inundated, cyclones wreaking havoc, rainfall flooding cities and heatwaves soaring temperatures, our policies need to be realigned to deal with short-term impacts now against the long-term goals that we have been eyeing since three decades. It is important that India deliberates on this report, prepares more such reports and ultimately craft policies that can steer the society to stability against extremities of the climate. Clean energy, resilient infrastructure and technological solutions are needed today more than ever in order to mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change. The vigour with which the global community is developing a vaccine for the Covid-19 is required in mitigating climate change as well. The report released by MoES is simply a reality check of disasters that lie ahead for us which, in a larger time period, would be many times more devastating than Covid-19, to say the least.