Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Pachauri: Let's go beyond Bali

The Times of India, an editorial by R.J. Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: … Projections of average global temperatures by the end of this century range from a best estimate at the lower end of 1.8 and at the upper end of 4.0 degrees C. Climate change will not proceed in a smooth and linear manner, and there is already enough evidence of an increase in intensity and frequency of heat waves, droughts, floods and extreme precipitation events (perhaps similar to what occurred in Mumbai earlier this year and in 2005).

We also have growing problems associated with melting of glaciers and overall scarcity of water across the world. The problem of sea level rise would have serious implications not only for various parts of our extensive coastline, but also in our neighbourhood - in Bangladesh and the Maldives.

Agriculture in India will also be significantly affected by climate change. The effects of warming are being observed in the form of decline in productivity of certain crops, such as wheat.

The problem of rain-fed agriculture, on which a large number of lives are dependent in this country, is particularly important, since adverse conditions arising out of changes in precipitation and water availability would affect the livelihoods of almost half a billion people. Given the fact that even if the concentration of GHGs were to be stabilised today we would still have to encounter climate change for several decades, this country as well as other regions of the world will have to adapt to climate change to minimise risk.

We would have to use our water resources much more efficiently. Agricultural practices may need to be altered to cope with higher temperatures and growing salinity of water resulting from sea level rise, particularly in areas not far from the coast.

Against this backdrop, it is essential for the global community to stabilise the earth’s climate by stabilising the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere. The mood in the Bali conference clearly reflected a sense of urgency created by the IPCC’s findings, with some countries eager to reach agreement on specific quantitative targets for reduction of emissions by 2020. There was, consequently, heated debate on this issue with a group of countries adamantly opposed to such targets. In the end a compromise was reached with the Bali Action Plan recognising “deep cuts” in global emissions will be required to achieve the ultimate objective of the convention.

A great deal of discussion also focused on the acceptance of some commitments by large developing countries, such as China and India. This issue was resolved through a compromise that specifies action on mitigation, including consideration of “Measurable, reportable and verifiable nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing country parties in the context of sustainable development, supported by technology and enabled by financing and capacity-building”. It is, therefore, time for India to identify those measures that should be undertaken in any case to move away from an unsustainable pattern of development…

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