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Effects of global warming on South Asia

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Title: Effects of global warming on South Asia  
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Subject: Natural disasters in India, Social issues in India, Regional effects of global warming, Climate change in India, Climate of India
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Effects of global warming on South Asia

Lakshadweep, comprising tiny low-lying islands, are at risk of being inundated by sea level rises associated with global warming.

The effects of global warming on the Indian subcontinent vary from the submergence of low-lying islands and coastal lands to the melting of glaciers in the Indian Himalayas, threatening the volumetric flow rate of many of the most important rivers of India and South Asia. In India, such effects are projected to impact millions of lives. As a result of ongoing climate change, the climate of India has become increasingly volatile over the past several decades; this trend is expected to continue.

Elevated carbon dioxide emissions from industries, factories, vehicles etc. have contributed to the greenhouse effect, causing warmer weather that lasted long after the atmospheric shroud of dust and aerosols had cleared. Further climatic changes 20 million years ago, long after India had crashed into the Laurasian landmass, were severe enough to cause the extinction of many endemic Indian forms.[1] The formation of the Himalayas resulted in blockage of frigid Central Asian air, preventing it from reaching India; this made its climate significantly warmer and more tropical in character than it would otherwise have been.[2]

Past climate change

However, such shifts are not new: for example, earlier in the current Holocene epoch (4,800–6,300 years ago), parts of what is now the Thar Desert were wet enough to support perennial lakes; researchers have proposed that this was due to much higher winter precipitation, which coincided with stronger monsoons.[3] Similarly, Kashmir, which once had a warm subtropical climate, shifted to a substantially colder temperate climate 2.6–3.7 mya; it was then repeatedly subjected to extended cold spells starting 1 million years ago.[4]

Projected effects of global warming in South Asia

Several effects of global warming, including steady sea level rise, increased cyclonic activity, and changes in ambient temperature and precipitation patterns, have affected or are projected to affect the subcontinent.

As per the IPCC, depending upon the scenario visualised, the projected global average surface warming will result in temperature increases world-wide at the end of the 21st Century relative to the end of the 20th Century ranges from 0.6 to 4 °C.[5]

As regards local temperature rises, the IPCC figures projected for the mean annual increase in temperature by the end of the century in South Asia is 3.3 °C with the min-max range as 2.7 and 4.7°C. The mean value for Tibet would be higher with mean increase of 3.8°C and min-max figures of 2.6 and 6.1 °C respectively which implies harsher warming conditions for the Himalayan watersheds.[6]

Rise in sea level

The corresponding sea level rise at the end of the 21st Century relative to the end of the 20th Century ranges from 0.18 to 0.59 m (excluding any rapid dynamical changes in ice flows in the future).[5] Ongoing sea level rises have already submerged several low-lying islands in the Sundarbans, displacing thousands of people.[7] Temperature rises on the Tibetan Plateau, which are causing Himalayan glaciers to retreat. It has been predicted that the historical city of Thatta and Badin, in Sindh, Pakistan would have been swallowed by the sea by 2025, as the sea is already encroaching 80 acres of land here, every day.[8]

Observed changes in the natural and human environment


Increased landslides and flooding are projected to have an impact upon states such as Assam.[9] Ecological disasters, such as a 1998 coral bleaching event that killed off more than 70% of corals in the reef ecosystems off Lakshadweep and the Andamans, and was brought on by elevated ocean temperatures tied to global warming, are also projected to become increasingly common.[10][11][12]

The first among the countries to be affected by severe climate change is Bangladesh. Its sea level, temperature and evaporation are increasing, and the changes in precipitation and cross boundary river flows are already beginning to cause drainage congestion. There is a reduction in fresh water availability, disturbance of morphologic processes and a higher intensity of flooding and other such disasters. Bangladesh only contributes 0.1% of the world’s emissions yet it has 2.4% of the world’s population. In contrast, the United States makes up about 5 percent of the world's population, yet they produce approximately 25 percent of the pollution that causes global warming.[13]


The Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research has reported that, if the predictions relating to global warming made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change come to fruition, climate-related factors could cause India's GDP to decline by up to 9%; contributing to this would be shifting growing seasons for major crops such as rice, production of which could fall by 40%. Around seven million people are projected to be displaced due to, among other factors, submersion of parts of Mumbai and Chennai, if global temperatures were to rise by a mere 2 °C (3.6 °F).[14]

Villagers in India's North Eastern state of Meghalaya are also concerned that rising sea levels will submerge neighbouring low-lying Bangladesh, resulting in an influx of refugees into Meghalaya—which has few resources to handle such a situation.

If severe climate changes occur, Bangladesh will lose land along the coast line.[15] This will be highly damaging to Bangladeshis especially because nearly two-thirds of Bangladeshis are employed in the agriculture sector, with rice as the single most important product. The economy has grown 5-6% over the past few years despite inefficient state-owned enterprises, delays in exploiting natural gas resources insufficient power supplies, and slow implementation of economic reforms. However, Bangladesh remains a poor, overpopulated, and inefficiently governed nation.[16] If no further steps are taken to improve the current conditions global warming will affect the economy severely worsening the present issues further.. The climate change would increase expenditure towards health care, cool drinks, alcoholic beverages, air conditioners, ice cream, cosmetics, agro chemicals etc.[17]


Climate Change in India will have a disproportionate impact on the more than 400 million that make up India's poor (See Poverty in India). This is because so many depend on natural resources for their food, shelter and income. More than 56% of people in India work in agriculture, while many others earn their living in coastal areas.[18]

Thick haze and smoke along the Ganges River in northern India.


Thick haze and smoke, originating from burning biomass in northeastern India[19] and air pollution from large industrial cities in northern India,[20] often concentrate inside the Ganges Basin. Prevailing westerlies carry aerosols along the southern margins of the steep-faced Tibetan Plateau to eastern India and the Bay of Bengal. Dust and black carbon, which are blown towards higher altitudes by winds at the southern faces of the Himalayas, can absorb shortwave radiation and heat the air over the Tibetan Plateau. The net atmospheric heating due to aerosol absorption causes the air to warm and convect upwards, increasing the concentration of moisture in the mid-troposphere and providing positive feedback that stimulates further heating of aerosols.[20]


Indian media can contribute to increased awareness of climate change and related issues. A qualitative analysis of some mainstream Indian newspapers (particularly opinion and editorial pieces) during the release of the IPCC 4th Assessment Report and during the Nobel Peace Prize win by Al Gore and the IPCC found that Indian media strongly pursue the frame of scientific certainty in their coverage of climate change. This is in contrast to the scepticism displayed by American newspapers at the time. Alongside, Indian media highlight frames of energy challenge, social progress, public accountability and looming disaster. This sort of coverage finds parallels in European media narratives as well and helps build a transnational, globalised discourse on climate change. [21] Another study has found that the media in India are divided along the lines of a north-south, risk-responsibility discourse. [22] However, much more research is required to analyse Indian media's role in shaping public perceptions on climate change.

Tribal people in India's remote northeast plan to [23] honour former U.S. Vice President Al Gore with an award for promoting awareness on climate change that they say will have a devastating impact on their homeland.

Meghalaya- meaning 'Abode of the Clouds' in Hindi—is home to the towns of Cherrapunji and Mawsynram, which are credited with being the wettest places in the world due to their high rainfall. But scientists state that global climate change is causing these areas to experience an increasingly sparse and erratic rainfall pattern and a lengthened dry season,[24] affecting the livelihoods of thousands of villagers who cultivate paddy and maize. Some areas are also facing water shortages.

People are becoming aware of ills of global warming. Taking initiative on their own people from Sangamner, Maharashtra (near Shirdi) have started a campaign of planting trees known as Dandakaranya- The Green Movement. It was started by visionary & ace freedom fighter the late Shri Bhausaheb Thorat in the year 2005. To date, they have sowed more than 12 million seeds & planted half a million plants.

According to data from 2009 India is the world's third biggest emitter of CO2 after China and the United States - pushing Russia into fourth place.[25]

See also


  1. ^ Karanth KP (March 2006). "Out-of-India Gondwanan origin of some tropical Asian biota" (PDF). Current Science 90 (6): 789–792. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  2. ^ Wolpert 2000, p. 4.
  3. ^ Enzel Y, Ely LL, Mishra S, Ramesh R, Amit R, Lazar B, Rajaguru SN, Baker VR, Sandler A (1999). "High-Resolution Holocene Environmental Changes in the Thar Desert, Northwestern India". Science 284 (5411): 125–8.  
  4. ^ Pant GB (2003). "Long-term climate variability and change over monsoon Asia" (PDF). Journal of the Indian Geophysical Union 7 (3): 125–134. Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  5. ^ a b IPCC, 2007: Summary for Policymakers. In: Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M.Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. (Hereafter abbreviated to IPCC AR4 – WG1 – SPM) Table SPM-3, page 13.
  6. ^ Christensen, J.H., B. Hewitson, A. Busuioc, A. Chen, X. Gao, I. Held, R. Jones, R.K. Kolli, W.-T. Kwon, R. Laprise, V. Magaña Rueda, L. Mearns, C.G. Menéndez, J. Räisänen, A. Rinke, A. Sarr and P. Whetton, 2007: Regional Climate Projections. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. (Hereafter abbreviated to IPCC AR4 – WG1 – chapter11) Table 11.1, page 855.
  7. ^ Harrabin, Roger (1 February 2007). "How climate change hits India's poor". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-03-10. 
  8. ^ Khan, Sami (2012-01-25). "Effects of Climate Change on Thatta and Badin". Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  9. ^ Dasgupta, Saibal (3 February 2007). "Warmer Tibet can see Brahmaputra flood Assam". Times of India (Times Internet Limited). Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  10. ^ Aggarwal D, Lal M. "Vulnerability of the Indian coastline to sea level rise" (PDF). SURVAS (Flood Hazard Research Centre). Retrieved 2007-04-05. 
  11. ^ Normile D (May 2000). "Some coral bouncing back from El Niño". Science 288 (5468): 941–942.  
  12. ^ "Early Warning Signs: Coral Reef Bleaching". Union of Concerned Scientists. 2005. Retrieved 2007-04-05. 
  13. ^ "Bangladesh." MERIC. 18 Oct 2008. 18 Oct. 2008. .
  14. ^ Sethi, Nitin (3 February 2007). "Global warming: Mumbai to face the heat". Times of India. Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  15. ^ Ahmed, Ahsan; Koudstall, Rob; Werners, Saskia (2006-10-08). "‘Key Risks.’ Considering Adaptation to Climate Change Towards a Sustainable Development of Bangladesh". Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  16. ^ "Climate change: The big emitters". BBC News. 4 July 2005. Retrieved 18 October 2008. 
  17. ^ Ramesha Chandrappa, Sushil Gupta, Umesh Chandra Kulshrestha, Climate Change: Principles and Asian Context, Springer-Verlag, 2011
  18. ^ UNDP. "India and Climate Change Impacts". 
  19. ^ Badarinath KVS, Chand TRK, Prasad VK (2006). "Agriculture crop residue burning in the Indo-Gangetic Plains—A study using IRS-P6 AWiFS satellite data" (PDF). Current Science 91 (8): 1085–1089. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  20. ^ a b Lau, WKM (February 20, 2005). "Aerosols may cause anomalies in the Indian monsoon" (php). The Climate and Radiation Branch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. NASA. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  21. ^ Mittal, Radhika (2012). "Climate Change Coverage in Indian Print Media: A Discourse Analysis". The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses 3 (2): 219–230. 
  22. ^ Billett, Simon (2010). "Dividing climate change: global warming in the Indian mass media". Climatic Change 99 (1–2): 1–16.  
  23. ^ Das, Biswajyoti (2007-08-29). "India tribe to honour Gore on global warming". Reuters. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  24. ^ Kharmujai RR (3 March 2007). "Wet Desert Of India Drying Out". Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  25. ^ World carbon dioxide emissions data by country: China speeds ahead of the rest Guardian 31 January 2011

Further reading

  • Toman, MA; Chakravorty, U; Gupta, S (2003), India and Global Climate Change: Perspectives on Economics and Policy from a Developing Country, Resources for the Future Press,  .

External links

  • Climate Change India
  • Fighting Global Warming in India
General effects overview
Maps, imagery, and statistics
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