The latest fifth assessment report of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a bleak future for the world, and especially South Asia.

Hinting that it may already be too late for significant course correction on global warming, the report cautions, “Regardless of action taken now to reduce emissions, the climate will change until around the middle of this century.”

Urgent damage control and risk mitigation are the need of the hour, the report notes.

“In the longer term, in all except the low-emission scenario, global warming at the end of the 21st century is likely to be at least 1.5 degree Celsius,” it says, adding that in higher emission scenarios warming is likely to be 2 degree Celsius.

However, the report warns that if emissions are not reduced significantly globally, average global temperatures could rise by 2.6 to 4.8 degree Celsius.

With all these scenarios, the danger of increasing poverty, decreased food production, destruction of infrastructure, rise in vector-borne diseases and heat-related deaths are going to increase.

The situation for India could be especially precarious, the report notes. “In the Indo-Gangetic plains which produce 90 million tonnes of wheat a year (about 14-15 per cent of global production), projections indicate a substantial fall in yields unless there is a shift to different crop varieties and management practices,” it says.

Further, it adds that the incidence of many diseases, such as dengue and Japanese Encephalitis, increase at higher temperatures. In the last few years the incidence of these vector borne diseases has increased in India, so much so, that the Government has been forced to undertake mitigation efforts on a priority.

“The Asia region, as a whole, experienced the most weather and climate-related disasters in the world between 2000 and 2008, and suffered the second-highest proportion (almost 30 per cent) of total global economic losses,” the IPCC report says.

(This article was published on August 5, 2014)
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