Climate change and variability are concerns of human being. There current droughts and floods threaten seriously the livelihood of billions of people who depend on land for most of their needs. The global economy is adversely being influenced very frequently due to extreme events such as droughts and floods, cold and heat waves, forest fires, landslips etc.
The natural calamities like earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, though not related to weather disasters, may change chemical composition of the atmosphere. It will, in turn, lead to weather related disasters.
The loss of forest cover, which normally intercepts rainfall and allows it to be absorbed by the soil, causes precipitation to reach across the land eroding top soil and causes floods and droughts. Paradoxically, lack of trees also exacerbates drought in dry years by making the soil dry more quickly.
Among the greenhouse gases, CO2 is the predominant gas leading to global warming as it traps long wave radiation and emits it back to the earth surface.
Climate change and agriculture
Based on some of the past experiences indicated above, impact of climate change on agriculture will be one of the major deciding factors influencing the future food security of mankind on the earth. Agriculture is not only sensitive to climate change but also one of the major drivers for climate change.
The climate sensitivity of agriculture is uncertain, as there is regional variation in rainfall, temperature, crops and cropping systems, soils and management practices. The crop losses may increase if the predicted climate change increases the climate variability.
Main projections for climate change at Global Level:
The projections of future climate patterns are largely based on computer-based models of the climate system that incorporate the important factors and processes of the atmosphere and the oceans, including the expected growth in greenhouse gases from socio-economic scenarios for the coming decades. The IPCC has examined the published results from many different models and on the basis of the evidence has estimated that by 2100-
- The global average surface warming (surface air temperature change) will increase by 1.1 - 6.4 °C.
- The sea level will rise between 18 and 59 cm. The oceans will become more acidic.
- It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.
- It is very likely that there will be more precipitation at higher latitudes and it is likely that there will be less precipitation in most subtropical land areas.
- It is likely that tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and heavier precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical sea surface temperatures.
Likely Effects of climate change on key sectors at Global Level:
The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report of the Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability describe the likely effects of climate change, including from increases in extreme events. The effects on key sectors, in the absence of countermeasures, are summarized as follows.
Water: Drought affected areas are likely to be more widely distributed. Heavierprecipitation events are very likely to increase in frequency leading to higher flood risks. By mid-century, water availability is likely to decrease in mid-latitudes, in the dry tropics and in other regions supplied by melted water from mountain ranges. More than one sixth of the world‘s population is currently dependent on melt water from mountain ranges.
Food: While some mid latitude and high latitude areas will initially benefit fromhigher agricultural production, for many others at lower latitudes, especially in seasonally dry and tropical regions, the increases in temperature and the frequency of droughts and floods are likely to affect crop production negatively, which could increase the number of people at risk from hunger and increased levels of displacement and migration.
Health: The projected changes in climate are likely to alter the health status ofmillions of people, including increased deaths, disease and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts. Increased malnutrition, diarrhea disease and malaria in some areas will increase vulnerability to extreme public health, and development goals will be threatened by long term damage to health systems from disasters.
Observed Changes in Climate and Weather Events in India
Surface Temperature- At the national level, increase of 0.4° C has been observed in surface air temperatures over the past century. A warming trend has been observed along the west coast, in central India, the interior peninsula, and northeastern India.However, cooling trends have been observed in northwest India and parts of south India.
Rainfall- While the observed monsoon rainfall at the All India level does not show any significant trend, regional monsoon variations have been recorded. A trend of increasing monsoon seasonal rainfall has been found along the west coast, northern Andhra Pradesh, and north-western India (+10% to +12% of the normal over the last 100 years)
while a trend of decreasing monsoon seasonal rainfall has been observed over eastern Madhya Pradesh, north-eastern India, and some parts of Gujarat and Kerala (-6% to - 8% of the normal over the last 100 years)
Extreme Weather Events- Trends of Extreme Weather Events observed in multi-decadal periods of more frequent droughts followed by less severe droughts. There has been an overall increasing trend in severe storm incidence along the coast at the rate of 0.011 events per year.
While the states of West Bengal and Gujarat have reported increasing trends, a decline has been observed in Orissa. Scientists, while analysing a daily rainfall data set, have shown (i) a rising trend in the frequency of heavy rain events, and (ii) a significant decrease in the frequency of moderate events over central India from 1951 to 2000.
Rise in Sea Level- Using the records of coastal tide gauges in the north Indian Ocean for more than 40 years, Scientists have estimated that sea level rise was between 1.06-1.75 mmper year. These rates are consistent with 1-2 mm per year global sea level rise estimates of the IPCC.
Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) intensity is projected to increase in the beginningof 2040 and by 10% by 2100.
Impacts on Himalayan Glaciers The Himalayas possess one of the largest resources of snow and ice and its glaciers form a source of water for the perennial rivers such as the Indus, the Ganga, and the Brahmaputra.
Glacial melt may impact their long-term lean-season flows, with adverse impacts on the economy in terms of water availability and hydropower generation.
Some Projections of Climate Change over India for the 21st Century
Some modelling and other studies have projected the following changes due to increase in atmospheric GHG concentrations arising from increased global anthropogenic emissions:
Annual mean surface temperature
The simulation studies by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, estimated that annual mean surface temperature is expected to raise by the end of century, ranges from 3 to 5° C with warming more pronounced in the northern parts of India.
Impacts on Agriculture and Food Production
Food production in India is sensitive to climate changes such as variability in monsoon rainfall and temperature changes within a season. Studies by Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and others indicate greater expected loss in the Rabi crop.
Every 1°C rise in temperature reduces wheat production by 4-5 MillionTonnes. Small changes in temperature and rainfall have significant effects on the quality of fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, aromatic and medicinal plants, and basmati rice. Pathogens and insect populations are strongly dependent upon temperature and humidity, and changes in these parameters may change their population dynamics.
Other impacts on agricultural and related sectors include lower yields from dairy cattle and decline in fish breeding, migration, and harvests. Global reports indicate a loss of 10-40% in crop production by 2100.
Impacts on health
Changes in climate may alter the distribution of important vector species (for example, malarial mosquitoes) and may increase the spread of such diseases to new areas. If there is an increase of 3.8 °C in temperature and a 7% increase in relative humidity, the transmission windows i.e., months during which mosquitoes are active, will be open for all 12 months in 9 states in India. The transmission windows in Jammu and Kashmir and in Rajasthan may increase by 3-5 months. However, in Orissa and some southern states, a further increase in temperature is likely to shorten the transmission window by 2-3 months.
Impacts on Forests
Climate projections indicate that the country is likely to experience shift in forest types, with consequent changes in forests produce, and, in turn, livelihoods based on those products. Correspondingly, the associated biodiversity is likely to be adversely impacted.
Some Current Actions for Adaptation and Mitigation in India
Adaptation, in the context of climate change, comprises the measures taken to minimize the adverse impacts of climate change, e.g. relocating the communities living close to the sea shore, for instance, to cope with the rising sea level or switching to crops that can withstand higher temperatures.
Mitigation comprises measures to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change in the first place, e.g. by switching to renewable sources of energy such as solar energy or wind energy or nuclear energy instead of burning fossil fuel in thermal power stations.
Current government expenditure in India on adaptation to climate variability exceeds 2.6% of the GDP, with agriculture, water resources, health and sanitation, forests, coastal-zone infrastructure and extreme weather events, being specific areas of concern.
- Crop Improvement: Programmes address measures such as development of arid-land crops and pest management as well as capacity building of extension workers and NGOs to support better vulnerability-reducing practices.
- Drought Proofing: The current programmes seek to minimize the adverseeffects of drought on production of crops and livestock, and on productivity of land, water and human resources, so as to ultimately lead to drought proofing of the affected areas. They also aim to promote overall economic development and improve the socio-economic conditions of the resource poor and disadvantaged.
- Forestry: India has a strong and rapidly growing afforestation programme. Theafforestation process was accelerated by the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, which aimed at stopping the clearing and degradation of forests through a strict, centralized control of the rights to use forestland and mandatory requirements of compensatory afforestation in case of any diversion of forestland for any non-forestry purpose. In addition, an aggressive afforestation and sustainable forest management programme resulted in annual reforestation of 1.78 mha during 1985-1997, and is currently 1.1 mha annually. Due to this, the carbon stocks in Indian forests have increased over the last 20 years to 9 -10 gigatons of carbon (GtC) during 1986 to 2005
- Water: The National Water Policy (2002) stresses that non-conventional methods forutilization of water, including inter-basin transfers, artificial recharge of groundwater, and desalination of brackish or sea water, as well as traditional water conservation prac-tices like rainwater harvesting, including roof-top rainwater harvesting, should be practiced to increase the utilizable water resources. Many states now have mandatory water harvesting programmes in several cities.
- Coastal Regions: In coastal regions, restrictions have been imposed in the areabetween 200 m and 500 m of the HTL (High Tide Line) while special restrictions have been imposed in the area up to 200 m to protect the sensitive coastal ecosystems and prevent their exploitation. This, simultaneously, addresses the concerns of the coastal population and their livelihood. Some specific measures taken in this regard include construction of coastal protection infrastructure and cyclone shelters, as well as plantation of coastal forests and mangroves.
- Risk Financing: Two risk-financing programmes support adaptation to climateimpacts. The Crop Insurance Scheme supports the insurance of farmers against climate risks, and the Credit Support Mechanism facilitates the extension of credit to farmers, especially for crop failure due to climate variability.
- Disaster Management: The National Disaster Management programme providesgrants-in-aid to victims of weather related disasters and manages disaster relief operations. It also supports proactive disaster prevention programmes, including dissemination of information and training of disaster management staff.
Demonstration of Climate Resilient Technologies to the farmers may be undertaken by the Extension personnel in the areas of-
Natural resource management: Interventions on in-situ moisture conservation, rain water harvesting and recycling for supplemental irrigation, improved drainage in flood prone areas, conservation tillage, ground water recharge and water saving irrigation methods etc.
Crop Production: Introducing drought/temperature tolerant varieties,advancement of planting dates of rabi crops in areas with terminal heat stress, water saving paddy cultivation methods (SRI, aerobic, direct seeding), frost management in horticulture through fumigation, community nurseries for delayed monsoon, custom hiring centers for farm machineries for timely planting, location specific intercropping systems with high sustainable yield index etc
Livestock and Fisheries: Augmentation of fodder production duringdroughts/floods, improving productivity of Common Property Resources (CPRs), promotion of improved fodder/feed storage methods, preventive vaccination, improved shelters for reducing heat/cold stress, management of fish ponds/tanks during water scarcity and flooding etc.
Institutional Interventions:Institutional interventions, either bystrengthening the existing ones or initiating new ones, relating to seed bank, fodder bank, custom hiring center, collective marketing, and introduction of weather index based insurance and climate literacy through a village level weather station.
Extension system has to focus more on diversifying the livelihood options, changing suitable cropping patterns to adjust to the change which is occurring in the particular location, planting more drought tolerant crops, promoting increased share of non-agricultural activities and Agro-forestry practices, identifying the traditional coping strategies, improved on farm soil & water conservation, promoting mixed cropping pattern and making provision for access to various information sources related to weather and other advisories of climate change would minimize the risks and certainty of farmers related to climate change.
From the above, it is clear that the occurrence of floods and droughts, heat and cold waves are common across the world due to climate change. Their adverse impact on livelihood of farmers is tremendous. It is more so in India as our economy is more dependent on Agriculture. Interestingly, weather extremes of opposite in nature like cold and heat waves and floods and droughts are noticed within the same year over the same region or in different regions and likely to increase in ensuing decades.
The human and crop losses are likely to be heavy. The whole climate change is associated with increasing greenhouse gases and human induced aerosols and the imbalance between them may lead to uncertainty even in year-to-year monsoon behaviour over India.
Therefore, there should be a determined effort from developed and developing countries to make industrialization environment friendly by reducing greenhouse gases pumping into the atmosphere. In the same fashion, awareness programmes on climate change and its effects on various sectors viz., agriculture, health, infrastructure, water, forestry, fisheries, land and ocean biodiversity and sea level and the role played by human interventions in climate change need to be taken up on priority basis.
In the process, lifestyles of people should also be changed so as not to harm earth atmosphere continuum by pumping greenhouse gases and CFCs into the atmosphere. From the agriculture point of view, effects of extreme weather events on crops are to be documented on regional scale.
Aman kumar1, Chaitali kumari2, Anand Kumar Pathak3
1Department of Vegetable science, NDUAT,Ayodhya
2Department of Extension, BAU,Sabour
3Department of Agri. Extension, SHUATS, Allahabad