Climate change is a systematic problem with lifelong consequences in terms of health security and prosperity
Climate change is one of the most complex problems that we face in the current era. What was earlier believed to be just a health issue has resulted now as an existential threat, affecting livelihood of millions of inhabitants around the globe. The present situation will worsen further if the climate-related risks to health, food security, water supply, and green house gas (GHG) concentrations are not taken seriously. The unprecedented change is also risking and endangering our future generations which are a matter of grave concern.
India is among the group of countries standing at higher risk due to adverse climatic conditions. A large group of people rely on the natural resource base for their livelihoods, particularly rainfall and forests, making it one of the most densely dependent populations in terms of economic activity. Agriculture uses more than 80 percent of water supplies despite contributing only 15 percent to total GDP. Nearly 100 million people of indigenous communities depend on the forest livelihoods, whereas energy sector is also highly reliable on natural resource base with 60 percent dependence on coal for total electricity generation. These factors push India at a greater risk than its neighboring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Recent estimates show that by 2020, pressure on India’s water, air, soil, and forests will be highest in the world. The crises of water shortage will affect more than 500 million people in India mainly due to lack of access to drinking water and varying rainfall precipitation. This will be also due to the increasing pressure on ground water, which fulfils almost 70 percent of India’s irrigation needs and 80 percent of its domestic water supplies. World Bank projections predict that India’s water problems are likely to worsen, with more rain expected to fall in fewer days and the rapid melting of glaciers, especially in the western Himalayas. India's emissions in absolute terms also makes it as one of the major emitters of greenhouse gases in the world contributing 12.5 per cent of total deaths in the country. Hence the human induced climate change is going to take an alarming state in the coming decade in the country.
Over the last few decades, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a huge variation in climatic conditions due to unprecedented snowfall, persistent rains followed by floods and increasing temperatures. These human induced changes have highly affected the socio-economic and livelihood pattern of people in the state particularly those living at the higher regions. These changes are well reflected through changing crop patterns, receding apple production, disasters like floods, landslides due to unlikely rains, long dry spells and the outbreak of vector borne diseases.
According to vulnerability index designed by NMSHE to look at the climatic conditions of himalayan region, Kashmir region is at higher risk with a value of 0.62 based on the scale of 1. Vulnerability index is designed to assess the climatic conditions based on socio-demographic, health and economic factors apart from measures like sensitivity to agricultural production, forest dependent livelihoods and availability of information services and infrastructure. Vulnerability index was computed for all the states in the himalayan region and Jammu & Kashmir ranked 3rdonly behind Assam and Mizoram in the list of 12 states. The drivers resulting in vulnerability of state are mainly based on the factors such as road density, area under crop insurance, percentage of marginal farmer’s, livestock to human ratio, women in workforce, area under horticulture etc. These indicators are found to be highly sensitive and lacking any specific mitigation and adaptation approach. The destruction caused by climate change is observed across the state and the impact in near future is going to likely affect the increase in rainfall precipitation, loss of wetlands, food security, receding agricultural production and greater risk of calamities like floods and landslides. Hence these changes will likely affect the output production and the level of development in the state.
Climate change is a systematic problem with lifelong consequences in terms of health security and prosperity. These losses are irrevocable unless they are minimized through collective efforts. The state government must understand the complexity of the problem and provide some adaptive strategies as early as possible. Initiatives at societal level are also key to minimize the risks resulting through human driven changes, such as deforestation, urbanization, changing crop pattern, GHG emission, forest fires and contamination of natural water cycle.Therefore concerted efforts are required to minimize the losses and ensure the sustainable and safe future.
Sustainable practices in agriculture and horticulture are must to avoid the ill facets of climate change and its future consequences in the state. Renewable and clean energy means can be used to avoid the trade-off between per capita energy use and levels of human development. Similarly, carbon taxing can be implemented to de-link the GHG emissions. While as poverty eradication programs should be designed to minimize the livelihood risks. But these measures must be geared up to tackle the increasing incidence of climate change risks like floods and disasters.Efforts must be immediate and conclusive with a time-bound strategy following climate-resilient pathways to minimize the impact of human and livelihood loss in the state.
(Author is a Research Scholar)