Sunday, June 28, 2009

Praying for rain in the cauldron of climate change

A vivid picture of the late monsoon in India, by Dean Nelson in the Telegraph (UK): …The monsoon is now two weeks late and the impact of the delay is potentially devastating. The farmers cannot plant rice, cotton or sugarcane until the rains soften the parched, cracked soil, and if they don’t plant in the next week or so their yields will plunge, prices will rise, and the number of farmer suicides will increase. So far central and north-west India have received between 25 and 60 per cent of normal rainfall.

Mihir Sharma in the Indian Express gave a compellingly alarming explanation of why this is, why India can expect more drought, and in the process highlighted how the slow pot-roasting of the planet will be felt more painfully in India than perhaps anywhere else on earth.

India’s winters are milder than they used to be, its summers are getting hotter, and its monsoons are scattered showers compared with the cloudbursts they once were, he said, and it’s because of the way India has developed.

Delhi, which was once an arid city set in semi-scrub has been lined with trees, while the land surrounding it has been irrigated. The plain it sits on is not as dry as it used to be, and so its atmosphere does not suck in the humid monsoon clouds as powerfully as it once did.

…And while world leaders attend summit meetings to tackle climate change, here global warming seems to have an unstoppable momentum. It is being fuelled by India’s continuing growth which means more vehicles, more city dwellers, more pollution, less water, more electricity, and steel jungles of sky-scrapers covered in glass-panels which send temperatures soaring even higher.

…As I write this, a power cut brings the air conditioner to a halt, it’s getting hotter, and suddenly I care more about the environment than I ever thought possible.
If only it would rain.

The Minaret at Qutb Minar in Delhi, India, shot by Wtclark, who has generously released the image into the public domain

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