Global Warming : Climatic Disaster and Mitigation

By Shaveta Kharbanda
September 2018

Ms. Kharbanda is Assistant Professor Sachdeva Engineering College for Girls in Gharuan, Kharar, India.

Abstract
Global Warming is the talk of town in this century with its detrimental effect already being brought to limelight by recurring events of massive floods, annihilating droughts and ravaging cyclones throughout the globe. The average global temperature is higher than they have ever been during past millennium and levels of greenhouse gases in atmosphere have crossed all the previous records. Increase in greenhouse gases in atmosphere produce a positive radiative force of climate system and a consequent warming of surface temperature and rising sea level caused by thermal expansion of the warmer seawater in addition to contribution from melting glaciers and ice sheets. A scrutiny of past records of 100 years indicates that India figures in first 10 in the world in terms of fatalities and economic losses in a variety of climatic disasters. The research paper presents that how an increase in concentration of carbon dioxide effects our environment and leads to various disasters in India. To cope up with climate change disasters, scrutiny nexus, country India needs to have better technical understanding, capacity building, networking and expansive consultation processes spanning every section of the society.

Keywords: Green house gasses, Global warming, Thermal expansion, Climatic disasters, Radiative forces

Introduction

“That so many of us are here today is a recognition that threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent and it is growing. Our generation’s response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it – boldly, swiftly and together – we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe”. No nation can escape the impact of climate change. Rising sea levels threaten every coastline. More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent. More frequent drought and crop failures breed hunger. On shrinking islands, families are already forced to flee their homes as climate refugees. The security and stability of each nation and all peoples – our prosperity, our health, and our safety – are in jeopardy. Major cause of this climate change is global warming. Global warming is increase in average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere, especially a sustained increase great enough to cause changes in the global climate. Before embarking on a detailed analysis of Global warming and its impact on Indian climate, we should know about climate, green house effect and global warming actually mean. The climate is defined as “the general or average weather conditions of a certain region, including temperature, rainfall and wind”. The earth’s climate is most affected by latitude, the tilt of Earth’s axis, the movement of earth’s wind belts, and difference in the temperature of land and sea, and topography. The climate system is a complex, interactive system consisting of the atmosphere, land surface, snow and ice, oceans and other bodies of water, and living things.

Year Predicted rise in temp
(in Celsius)
Estimated increase in sea level
(in cm)
In last 100 years 0.5 10 (already recorded)
2030 1 20
2100 4 65
2150 5 100

Source: IPCC 2007
Above given table shows that in last 100 years, earth’s temperature is increased by 0.5°C which led to sea level rise by 10 cm. 1cm rise in sea level is so destructive. The result will be worst when sea level will increase by 100 cm till 2150.

Global Warming is gradual increase of temperature of earth’s atmosphere and oceans. The term global warming is synonymous with enhanced green house effect implying an increase in amount of green house gases in earth’s atmosphere, leading to entrapment of more and more solar radiations, and thus increasing the overall temperature of earth. Human activity, especially relating to the depletion of the ozone layer, is also an important factor. United Nations formed a group of scientists called International Panel on climate change or IPCC. The IPCC meets every year to review latest scientific findings and write a report summarizing all that is known as global warming. Whereas green house effect is the phenomenon whereby the earth’s atmosphere traps solar radiation and is mediated by the presence in the atmosphere of gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapour and methane that allow incoming gases to pass through, but absorb the heat radiated back from the earth’s surface. Green house gases are emitted by combustion of fossil fuels in cars, factories and electricity production. Different greenhouse gases have very different heat trapping abilities. A molecule of methane produces more than 20 times the warming of a molecule of CO2. Nitrous oxide is 300 times more powerful than CO2. Chlorofluoro carbons have heat trapping potential thousands of time greater than CO2.But because their concentrations are much lower than CO2; none of these gases add as much warmth to atmosphere as CO2 does. The green house effect increases the terrestrial and atmospheric temperatures all over the globe. Hence it is pertinently named “GLOBAL WARMING”. At the present rate of increase, scientists have predicted the following temperatures in future years (IPCC 2007)

Objectives

The aim of the study is the following:

Methodology

The methodology involves secondary data, comprehensive studies using historical and socio-economic and political perspective for better representation and understanding both time and space. The secondary data is collected from newspaper, books and generals/magazines. The focus of the study is to understand the impact of global warming on the climate.

Effect of Global Warming on the Earth’s Climate

The planet is warming from North Pole to South Pole, and everywhere in between. Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the earth’s poles. This includes mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering west Antarctica and Greenland, and Arctic sea ice. Researcher Bill Fraser has tracked the decline of the Adeline penguins on Antarctica, where their numbers have fallen from 32000 breeding pairs to 11000 in 30 years. Sea level rise became faster over the last century. Some butterflies, foxes and alpine plants have moved farther north or to higher, cooler areas. Precipitation has increased across the globe, on average.

Impacts of Global Warming on Climate of India

India exhibits a wide diversity of temperatures; from the freezing cold winters in Himalayas to scorching heat of Thar desert. There has been a particularly alarming effect of global warming on the climate of India. India is already a disaster prone area, with the statistics of 27 out of 35 states being disaster prone, with most disasters being water related. The process of global warming has led to an increase in the frequency and intensity of these climatic disasters. These climatic disasters mainly include floods, draughts, cyclones etc. Here this paper presents study of floods, cyclones and droughts which recently occurred in subcontinent of India.

Floods

India is the most flood distressed in the world after Bangladesh accounting for 1/5th of global deaths every year with unprecedented floods take place every year at one place or the other with the most vulnerable states of India being Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal, Gujarat, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. The climatic history of India is studied with a very large number of floods, which have wreaked havoc on the country’s economy.

Here are some states which are severely affected by floods in India like Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa, Kerala, Karnataka etc. Bihar is an overpopulated state in Northern India, extremely prone to floods. Bihar faces with predicament of floods almost every year with the link between India and Nepal through Kosi river, being one of the main reasons for the flood in Bihar. Excessive rainfall due to the recent global warming in Nepal leads to an overloading of dams and leads to flash floods in Bihar region. The flood of 1987 in Bihar was very destructive. After this flood, the river Kosi has been named as “Sorrow of Bihar”. The 2008 Bihar floods are considered as one of the most disastrous floods in state’s history. The flood affected more than 2 million people. In 2005, a major climatic catastrophe occurred in the state of Maharashtra in the form of massive flooring leading to a death toll of 5000 people. Hence naming the date 26 July 2005 as the Black Day in the history of Mumbai. The wave of flood in Maharashtra reached the state of Gujarat as well, accounting for one of the worst floods in the Indian history as it caused a financial loss. Infrastructure of the state also suffered badly as train services, road operations and communications were destroyed. In 2007 global warming finally triggered a flood formation that was so devastating, that it annihilated the entire South Asian region, destroying large zones in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. It was termed by UNICEF to be the worst flooding of South India in living memory. The 2009 India floods affected various states of India in July 2009.The most affected states were Karnataka, Orissa, Kerala, Gujarat and North East Indian states. On 6th August 2010, Leh and many other villages of the Ladakh range were drowned by a downpour. The unexpected heavy rainfall was attributed to the climatic changes resulting from global warming. The 2011 surge of severe precipitation affected India savagely, with surging flood waters in Northern and Eastern India affecting more than 10 million people as the swollen rivers washed away roads and towns, particularly in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Kerala and Assam. The year 2012 is also included in the continuous chain of years of floods in India. Starting on 4th august, unremitting showers fell on the northern states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu, resulting in landslides, cloudbursts and flash floods. On 7 September 2014 Srinagar city was full of water. About 80% area of Srinagar was affected with this flood. About 300-400 people died in this deadliest flood in Kashmir. Heavy rain in July 2015 resulted in widespread flood in Gujarat resulting in more than 70 deaths. Heavy rains in July - August 2016 resulted flood in Assam, affecting 1.8 million people and flooding the Kaziranga National park killing many wild animals. Due to heavy rain falls in July 2017, Gujarat was affected by severe flood which caused more than 200 deaths. Due to heavy rain for 3 months in 2018, resulted in severe flood in Kerala which affected many people. During 1901-2015 there has been three-fold rise in widespread extreme rainfall events, across central and Northern India. The rising number of extreme rain events are attributed to an increase in fluctuations of monsoon westerly winds, due to increased warming in Arabian Sea.

Draughts

Other climatic disasters like Droughts and cyclones also severely affected the people of India. The process of global warming has such an impact on the climate that it increases the severity of precipitation at one time, and minimizes it in the other. Therefore, this process has resulted in severe drought like conditions in India, with tens of millions of deaths resulting from it in the past few centuries. India depends heavily on prolonged and optimum monsoons for its agricultural productivity, failure of which results in the decreased crop productivity, leading to droughts. Of the total agricultural land in India, about 68% is prone to drought. This is particularly the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

Cyclones

As a result of global warming, the average no of hurricanes per year has increased over the past 30 years. India has an 800km coastline, and is there for very susceptible to cyclonic activity. Cyclones have been observed to be more frequent in the Bay of Bengal than the Arabian Sea. Consequently the states of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu along the Bay of Bengal are the most affected. The National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), under Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Government of India researched on the impacts of climate change on sea level and concluded that an increased occurrence of cyclones in the Bay of Bengal, particularly in the post monsoon period, along with increased maximum wind speeds associated with the cyclones and a greater no of high surges under climatic changes has been observed.

Climatic Effects on the Sea and Coastal Area

India has a long coastline with the Arabian sea and The Bay of Bengal. The coastal areas of India are highly vulnerable to the effects of global warming, they are densely populated with people who are totally dependent on the sea for their food supply. Therefore any damage to the natural cycle of the sea affects the people of India very severely. Already global warming has resulted in an increased cyclonic activity, sea level rises displacing people, flooding, and the reduction in the sea food due to the acidification of the waters. Thousands of people have been displaced by ongoing sea level rises that have submerged low-lying islands in the Sundarbans. The effects of global warming have also caused damage to coastal infrastructure, aquaculture and coastal tourism. The aquatic ecosystems such as mangroves, coral reefs and grasslands have also been affected by the climate change.

Steps Taken By Indian Government to Mitigate Floods and Other Climatic Disasters

Thus the process of global warming has affected India intensely, destroying its economy and depriving its people of their basic needs like food and shelter. The current patterns of destructive floods, increasing intensity of cyclones, re-occurring droughts and the increasing temperatures are all results of global warming. The Indian Government also realizes predicament it faces and multiple steps to mitigate these disasters have been taken.

In India, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is the apex body for addressing the disaster related policy issues and for laying guidelines. The Ministry of External Affairs and Forests, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of External Affairs as well as the Prime Minister’s Office are the offices related to climatic changes. India has always been plagued by the recurrent and devastating floods. The history of mitigating steps taken by the Indian Government can be tracked back to 1953, when the unprecedented floods of 1953 struck India, at which time the first national policy in this regard was made. After that, every government employed many polices and committees to counteract the dreaded floods and their devastations. Structures built to prevent floods are embankments, dams; national detention basins channel improvements, drainage structures, flood zoning, flood proofing, and water shed development.

Steps to Mitigate Climatic Changes and Global Warming

Climate change mitigation consists of actions to limit the magnitude or rate of long term climate change. Climate change mitigation generally involves reductions in human emissions of greenhouse gases. Mitigation may also be achieved by increasing the capacity of carbon sinks, e.g., through reforestation. Mitigation policies can substantially reduce the risks associated with human-induced global warming. According to the IPCC’s 2014 assessment report, “Mitigation is a public good; climate change is a case of the ‘tragedy of the commons. Effective climatic change mitigation will not be achieved if each agent acts independently in its own selfish interest, suggesting the need for collective action. Example of mitigation include facing out fossil fuels by switching to low carbon energy sources, such as renewable and nuclear energy and expanding forests and other sinks to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Energy efficiency may also play a role, for example, through improving the insulation of buildings.

Stabilization of Greenhouse Gases in Atmosphere

Greenhouse gas concentrations are stabilized in atmosphere at a level where ecosystems can adopt naturally to climate change, food production is not threatened, and economic development can proceed in an sustainable fashion. Green house gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and a group of gases referred to as halocarbons. The emissions reductions necessary to stabilize the atmospheric concentrations of these gases. Human activities are adding CO2 to the atmosphere far faster than natural processes can remove it. Stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations would require anthropogenic CO2 emissions to be reduced by 80% relative to peak emissions level. An 80% reduction in emissions would stabilize CO2 concentrations for around a century. Stabilizing the atmospheric concentration of other greenhouse gases humans emit also depends on how fast their emissions are added to the atmosphere, and how fast the GHGs are removed.

Alternative Energy Sources

Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly. In its various forms, it derives directly from the sun, or from heat generated deep within the earth, electricity and heat generated from solar, wind, ocean, hydro power, biomass, geo thermal resources, biofuels and hydrogen derived from renewable resources. Climate change concerns and the need to reduce carbon emissions are driving increasing growth in renewable energy industries. Low carbon renewable energy replaces conventional fossil fuels in three main areas; power generation, space heating and transport fuels. Renewable power generators are spread across many countries, with wind power providing it significant share of electricity in some regional areas. Solar water heating makes an important and growing contribution in many countries. The use of biomass for heating continuous to grow as well. Renewable biofuels for transportation, such as ethanol fuel and biodiesel have contributed to a significant decline in oil consumption. The incentive to use 100% renewable energy has been created by global warming and another ecological as well as economic concerns.

Energy Efficiency and Conservation

Energy Efficiency is the goal of efforts to reduce the amount of energy required to provide products and services. For example, insulating a home allows a building to use less heating and cooling energy to achieve and maintain a comfortable temperature. Installing fluorescent lights or natural skylights reduces the amount of energy required to attain the same level of illumination compared to using traditional incandescent light bulbs. Compact fluorescent lights use two-thirds less energy and may last 6 to 10 times longer than incandescent lights. Modern energy-efficient technologies, such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and carbon neutral synthetic gasoline and jet fuel may also help to reduce consumption of petroleum, land use changes and emissions of carbon dioxide. Utilizing rail transport, especially electric rail, over the far less efficient air transport and truck transport significantly reduces emissions. Energy conservation is broader than energy efficiency in that it encompasses using less energy to achieve a lesser energy demanding service. Examples of conservation without efficiency improvements would be heating a room less in winter, driving less, or working in a less brightly lit room. Reducing energy use is seen as a key solution to the problem of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, improved energy efficiency in buildings, industrial processes and transportation could reduce the world’s energy needs in 2050 by 1/3, and help control global emissions of green house gases.

Sinks and Negative Emissions

A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that accumulates and stores some carbon-containing chemical compound for an indefinite period, such as growing forest. A negative carbon dioxide emission on the other hand is a permanent removal of carbon dioxide out of atmosphere, such as directly capturing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and storing it in geologic formations underground. Creating carbon dioxide emissions literally removes carbon from the atmosphere. Examples are direct air capture, biochar, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage and enhanced weathering technologies. These processes are sometime considered as variations of sinks or mitigation, and sometimes as geoengineering.

Reforestation and Afforestation

Almost 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions were from deforestation in 2007. It is estimated that avoided deforestation reduces CO2 emissions. Transferring rights over land from public domain to its indigenous inhabitants is argued to be a cost effective strategy to conserve forests. This includes the protection of such entitled in existing laws, such as India’s Forest Rights act. A 2016 report concludes that modest investments in indigenous land rights will generate economic, social and environmental returns for the communities involved and for climate protection.

Avoided Desertification

Restoring grasslands store CO2 from the air into plant material. Grazing livestock, usually not left to wander, would eat the grass and would minimize any grass growth. However grass left alone would eventually grow to cover its own growing buds, preventing them from photosynthesizing and the dying plant would stay in place. A method proposed to restore grasslands uses fences with many small paddocks and moving herds from one paddock to another after a day in order to mimic natural grazers allowing the grass to grow optimally.

Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon capture and storage is a method to mitigate climate change by capturing carbon dioxide from large point sources such as power plants and subsequently storing it away safely instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. The international energy agency says CCS is “the most important single new technology for CO2 savings’ in power generation and industry. CO2 removal has been proposed as a method of reducing the amount of radiative forcing. A variety of means of artificially capturing and storing carbon, as well as of enhancing natural sequestration processes, are being explored. The main natural process is photosynthesis by plants and single-celled organisms.

Solar Radiation Management

The main purpose of solar radiation management seek to reflect sunlight and thus reduce global warming .The ability of stratospheric sulfate aerosols to create a global dimming effect has made them a possible candidate for use in climate engineering projects.

Building Design

New buildings can be constructed using passive solar building design, low energy building or zero energy building techniques, using renewable heat sources. Existing buildings can be made more efficient through the use of insulation, high efficiency appliances, double or triple-glazed gas filled windows, external window shades and building orientation and siting. Renewable heat sources such as passive solar energy reduce the amount of green house gases emitted. In addition to designing buildings which are more energy efficient to heat, it is possible to design buildings that are more energy-efficient by using light colored, more reflective materials in the development of urban areas and planting trees. This saves energy because it cools buildings and thus reducing the use of air-conditioning.

Kyoto Protocol

The main current international agreement on combating climate change is the Kyoto Protocol, which came into force on 16 February 2005. The Kyoto Protocol is an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change (UNFCCC). Countries that have ratified this protocol have committed to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, or engage in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of these gases.

Recommendations

Global Warming is mainly caused by developed countries through industrialization but developing countries are more vulnerable of it. Both developed and developing countries should go hand in hand to mitigate global warming. Global warming should also be reduced at individual level. We should not wait for government to find a solution for this problem; each person can bring important help by adopting a responsible life style, starting from daily things like reducing waste, planting trees, reducing use of fossil fuel and conserving water etc.

Conclusion

“Bringing down emissions of green house gases asks a good deal of people, not least that they accept the science of climate change. It requires them to make sacrifices today so that future generations will suffer less and to weigh the needs of people who are living far away”. Global Warming is the major challenge for our global society. Global Warming can have serious effects on the climate if it is not realized. It is going to hit everyone, not just the poor or democrats. We are all on a heap of trouble. Each and every citizen should understand it and steps should be taken to control it otherwise day will not far away when we will vanish. All steps and polices to mitigate it should be implemented. We must try our best to solve it and strive to reinstate balance on our earth for sake of our future generations. If we are flexible and pragmatic; if we can resolve to work tirelessly in common effort, then we will achieve our common purpose: a world that is safer, cleaner and healthier than the one we found; and a future that is worthy of our children.

References

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