Climate change in simplified terms is a prolonged change in the earth’s climatic system, characterized by abrupt variations from conventional patterns. A fundamental effect of climate change is the unknown occurrence of extreme events. Hailstorms, unseasonal rainfall, storms and lightning, increasing temperature are examples of such extreme events. Extreme events of this nature have a damaging impact on the earth’s surface. Climate change has affected Earth, and the forecast for the future is not very pleasant either. Models [AM1] concentrating global atmosphere designs have expected that the rates of most extreme climate events driven by a changing atmosphere will be progressively high.
Rise in temperature is the most pivotal factor behind this worrisome development. The rise in temperature results in the troposphere getting hotter. Dissipation rates increase in a hotter than normal troposphere, which brings about an ascent in the measure of rainfall. With time, the moisture content in the troposphere exceeds acceptable limits heralding extreme precipitation causing flooding of increasing magnitude. An IPCC report has warned that sustained warming of the world’s climate over the past two decades may substantially affect the hydrological cycle and precipitation designs over the world.
Warming is essentially more impactful in countries with agricultural foundations. These countries are the back end of the technology curve and the agricultural yield in these countries has been severely impacted by fluctuation in temperature and rainfall patterns. In 2017, the measure of undernourished individuals was evaluated to have expanded to 821 million. Serious dry spells identified with the El Niño of 2015–2016 coupled with a variety of localized extreme climate and atmosphere events were a significant contributor to the unfortunate increase of individuals suffering from undernourishment. The problem shows no signs of abating as studies predict temperature to increase in this present century, assuming present conditions remain. Sequential rain or variations in the seasonal, temporal and spatial distribution will affect the movement of runoff, soil moisture, groundwater table, and would influence the recurrence of dry spells and floods. The IPCC believes that future climate change is most likely going to influence agriculture. Variations in the seasonal, temporal and spatial distribution will affect the movement of runoff, soil moisture, groundwater table, and would influence the recurrence of dry spells and floods.
These developments have damning ramifications for India. As an example, a continuation of present trends is likely to diminish freshwater accessibility in many rivers across India. India has to consider climate change while engaging in long-term policy formulation to prevent potentially extreme maladaptation. The early signs have already shown themselves. Frequencies of most extreme climates in India have expanded over the years. A study looking at the pattern of temperature trends in India shows that temperature has been rising in India by 0.51° Celsius during 1901–2007. Average temperatures have risen by 0.20° Celsius in every decade from 1971 to 2007.
Certain states such as Maharashtra have borne a disproportionate brunt of these events. Analysis of extreme events in India, between 1981 and 2015, by the Pune based Meteorological Department (IMD) has established the aforementioned fact. Monsoon in Maharashtra has been regularly deferred post 1981. It has been dubbed inconsistent in the recent past by farmers. To further compound problems, the past two decades have also seen a gradual decrease in normal rainfall in the Western State. Increase in the number of deficient rainy days in the southern parts of Central Maharashtra are presumably going to have an ill effect on water availability and quality. Cropping patterns in the state however, have not accounted for these changes. As a result, huge parts of Central Maharashtra have witnessed a rapid erosion of their groundwater levels. The erosion has been driven by extraction of excessive groundwater for sugarcane irrigation over workable levels.
Erosion of groundwater is one aspect of Maharashtra’s climate driven ailments. The recurrence & expansion of dry spells in the semi-dry locales of Marathwada and Vidarbha has now become another challenge that confronts the state year after year. Climate change is expected to exacerbate the problem by broadening dry spells in semi-dry peninsular and western India. Inorganic migration of a greater amount of the landless and marginal workers to urban communities is thus only going to intensify from these regions. The grim forecast notwithstanding, there still is hope for improvement. Lessons learnt from past events can enable us to develop a better strategy aimed at mitigating and abating the effects of climate change. The first step in this journey of a thousand miles must begin by state support for scientific enquiry on extreme events & its impact on affected communities. After all, an accurate diagnosis provides the perfect backdrop for identifying a successful prescription.
Aastha Agarwal works at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and is a postgraduate in Disaster Management from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is a climate enthusiast and researcher. She can be reached at email@example.com.