The current Indian drought may be directly linked to the larger climate change that is affecting the globe, feels R K Pachauri, chief of the UN-sponsored Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Geneva. It’s a position directly at odds with that taken by the Indian Meteorological Department, which says there’s no question of climate change.
Pachauri, who’s also director-general of the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), New Delhi, says ‘‘it’s been a very peculiar summer this year and some perceptible climate change is taking place in India’’.
‘‘There is a very strong reason to connect the current drought to larger climate change since what we are witnessing is a peculiar and sudden variation in climate as predicted by experts studying global warming’’, he says.
The third assessment report put out by the IPCC in 2001 talked in great detail about the impacts of climate change on South Asia. In fact, it predicted the emergence of drought and floods on this region, stating ‘‘there are possibilities of unforeseen surprises in the future’’.
The way this year’s monsoon has behaved — starting off normally, then suddenly petering out — has no doubt surprised many climatologists. The IPCC is a scientific expert body having 192 countries as its members and is mandated by the UN to assess the scientific, social, and economic issues related to human-induced climate change.
Pachauri feels once the delicate balance in the global circulation patterns is disturbed due to man-made circumstances, ‘‘non-linear and sudden changes are bound to be the outcome’’ and emphasises that this current erratic behaviour of the monsoon is probably the first strong signal of climate change having had a direct impact on India.
The IPCC report had also predicted a rapid glacial melt not just of the polar ice caps but also of the Himalayan regions.
Evidence to that affect is found in the Bhakra reservoir, which is essentially fed by glacial melt and is more than full while other rain-fed reservoirs are less than half full today. This, too, hints at changing climate, Pachauri says.
Interestingly, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has never acknowledged that global warming and climate change are taking place and could seriously affect the pattern of precipitation for India. In fact, the IMD goes to great lengths to condemn any notions of climate change despite the growing body of evidence from across the globe.
S R Kalsi, IMD deputy director-general, feels it is ‘‘incorrect to say that there is a change in climate’’, adding that this is merely a part of the ‘‘natural behavior of the monsoon’’ borne out by the over 125 years of data with the IMD.
Pachauri reacts to this by saying the IMD is ‘‘entitled to have their opinions but the indications of climate change are very strong since the curves from the world over suggest a gradually warming Earth’’.
The TERI chief, who took over as chairman of the IPCC this April, says India needs to step up its primary research on climate change to fully understand the implications of changing climate and to build suitable mitigation measures. He calls for at least a 20-fold increase in the spending on climate related research since the impact of global warming will be felt by all sectors of the Indian economy.