While the cascading impacts of climate change affect every part of the world, some are far more vulnerable than the others. A recent study, by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and the Indian Institutes of Technology, Mandi and Guwahati, identified Indian districts that are the most vulnerable to climate change.
As per the study, while all 612 districts are vulnerable to climate change, 100 districts—primarily situated in the Eastern parts of India—are at exceptionally high risks.
The research was funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). According to the statement from the department, eight states showed maximum vulnerability—Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Mizoram, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal. Senior Adviser and Head, Akhilesh Gupta, Policy Coordination and Programme Management (PCPM) Division, and a climate change expert at DST, highlighted these vulnerabilities in a policy dialogue.
“Out of 100 most vulnerable districts in the country, 70% of them are in five states of Eastern India—Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa,” Dr Gupta said on the occasion of the inaugural session of the two-day policy dialogue on ‘Localizing Climate Resilience Agenda: Vision 2050 and 2100’ under CAP-RES DST-GOI Project.
Impact of climate change on India
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent Working Group-I report suggested that global temperatures, which have already risen to 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels, will likely rise by 1.5°C in the coming decades.
In the future, India will likely bear the brunt of global warming, with an increase in the frequency, severity, and duration of heatwaves. The monsoons may turn increasingly unpredictable, while droughts and floods will occur more frequently. A rise in sea levels is also a genuine possibility. In the last two decades, the sea level has already risen gradually. The number of tropical cyclones may also increase, the seawater may become more acidic as carbon dioxide levels in the oceans rise, and so on, Dr Gupta pointed out.
“Next two decades are going to be very crucial. IPCC’s working group report gives the starkest of warnings for global climate impacts. The two-degree rise in global temperatures may come earlier than expected. It may have a huge impact on India, especially on agriculture, health and water security. India is confronted with a challenge of addressing such impacts,” he said.
Need for acting locally
The danger mark has been reached, warns Maj. Gen. M K Bindal, Executive Director, National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM). Rapid access to information is required to protect lives and livelihoods and the use of STI will be critical to combat climate change issues, he said.
“The sixth IPCC report has pushed the button to act now, and it is time to act locally. Good policies need to be translated into action. We are working with state governments for localising action plan,” said Christiane Hieronymus, Head of Economic Cooperation & Development, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Prof V K Sharma, Vice Chairman, Sikkim SDMA, also emphasised the importance of taking action at a local level such as the panchayat level.
“Science and technology is a major tool to fight the menace of climate change. Of late, hazards are not happening in isolation but in combination with two or more. There is an urgent need to put in place a multi-hazard warning system, along with better coordination at inter-agency, inter-ministerial and Centre-State levels,” says Dr Gupta.
Overall, India is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change and the states and districts in the eastern part of the country remain even more vulnerable. As the impacts compound and approach a tipping point, it is high time for us to find ways to cope while simultaneously mitigating the climate emergency.
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