The latest report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the Ganga, Indus and the Amu Darya, amongst several other river basins, could face severe water scarcity by 2050. Climate Change and related impacts could act as stress multipliers. Ahmedabad is one of the Asian cities that faces a high risk from the urban heat effect, which means that urban areas experience a higher temperature than nearby areas. Moreover, Mumbai is at an increased risk of facing floods and rising sea levels. South Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions globally because of severe climate impacts due to extreme poverty and inequity.
Over 4 Million Displacements Since 2019
Among the visible climate change impacts, India, along with other South Asian countries like Bangladesh, China, India and the Philippines, recorded more than 4 million disaster displacements in 2019. The South East and East Asian cyclones, floods and typhoons triggered internal displacements of more than 9.6 million people in 2019, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of the global displacements in the duration. Additionally, the number of people exposed to one in a century storm surge was the highest in the Asian continent, Hindustan Times reported.
Several other cities like Chennai, Lucknow, Bhubaneshwar and Patna are experiencing dangerous heat and humidity levels every passing year. In the second part of its sixth assessment report, IPCC deals with climate change impacts, risks, vulnerabilities and adaptation measures. For the first time ever, the panel focused on regional cities and mega-cities individually. Moreover, India is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impact of sea-level rise. According to the estimates, nearly 35 million people could face the risk of annual flooding, which could increase to 45 to 50 million people by the end of the century if the emissions continued to rise.
Cost of Climate Change Could Rise To $36 Million
Currently, the damage, if countries continue to reduce their emissions as they have promised, would amount to $24 billion. The cost could increase to $36 billion if the ice sheets are unstable and emissions increase. The report also noted that “Hot extremes including heatwaves have intensified in cities, where they have also aggravated air pollution events and limited functioning of key infrastructure. Observed impacts are concentrated amongst the economically and socially marginalised urban residents… Infrastructure, including transportation, water, sanitation and energy systems have been compromised by extreme and slow-onset events, with resulting economic losses, disruptions of services and impacts to well-being”.
The global heat and humidity levels would extend beyond human tolerance. India will be one of the worst-affected countries of humidity if it fails to reduce carbon emissions. The current population of urban India accounts for 480 million (until 2020) and is expected to increase to 877 million by 2050, thus making the metropolitan areas most affected due to rapid climate change. Urbanisation is likely to increase to over 40 per cent in the next 15 years. While mega-cities are rapidly expanding, smaller regional industrial hubs are also growing. Congested settlements in urban areas would make them at the forefront of climate change.
Wet-bulb temperature refers to the lowest temperature to which air can be cooled by evaporating water into the air at a constant pressure. It is therefore measured by wrapping a wet wick around the bulb of a thermometer, and the measured temperature corresponds to the wet-bulb temperature. Currently, the wet-bulb temperatures in India are expanding to more than 31 degrees Celsius, while most of the country is accounting for 25 to 30 degrees Celsius. The report also highlights that if emissions are cut at the levels currently promised by the government, the wet-bulb temperature for most cities would still go beyond 31 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
Already Visible Effects of Climate Change
The activities impacting climate change are widespread and, in several cases, irreversible. Human mortality because of increased heat in the atmosphere has risen, and people are increasingly exposed to malnutrition and food insecurity. Important sectors of the economy like agriculture, tourism and fisheries are experiencing a significant decline. While rich countries are primarily responsible for not adhering to restrictions concerning their carbon emissions, it is the developing or the under-developed countries that face the wrath of global warming. Moreover, the sufferers are not even getting the monetary help they are entitled to.
The report highlights that droughts, heatwaves, floods and other extreme weather conditions are rapidly accelerating. Melting of ice caps and glaciers have a cascading effect on other artificial disasters like wildfires, dying-off trees and peatlands, and thawing of permafrost, leading to an increase in carbon emissions. In an alarming update, IPCC has found that 47 per cent of the 976 species they examined faced climate-caused extinctions. Moreover, no inhabited region in the world could escape climate change and global warming, and millions of people around the globe already face food and water shortages. Critical ecosystems eventually lose the ability to absorb carbon dioxide, thus converting them from carbon sinks to carbon sources.
Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health
Climate change can also impact the mental health of people. Global warming affects people at different times and most often affects those directly exposed to vulnerable geographical conditions and lack resources, information, and protection. Some research papers have highlighted the prevalence of climate change, and mental disorders were described by introducing new terms, coined only recently: eco-anxiety, eco guilt, ecopsychology, ecological grief, solastalgia and biospheric concern, amongst others.
It can even have direct, indirect, short-term and long-term effects. However, the IPCC report has rightly highlighted how climate change has impacted us by careless decision-making in the past centuries through factors like colonialism and racial discrimination. Therefore, rich countries must finally step up and do their share and meet the long-standing demands of developing countries to pay up, and compensate for the losses and damage.