Climate change: Time to act

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The India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) State of Climate Report 2019 confirms yet again the reality of changes in climate and weather patterns which have been noticed in the past few decades. According to the report, the climate change has claimed 1,659 lives in India in the year 2019. 2019 is the seventh warmest year since 1901. These changes have gained pace in the last few years and are demonstrated by many unusual natural phenomena across the country. There have been warnings about such phenomena from experts, and people have noticed and experienced them in their daily lives. The report validates the concerns and apprehensions over these shifts in the ways of nature and puts on record the most important of those changes that occurred in the past year. The changes that have been noticed in 2019 are also a part of the changes that are taking place all over the world due to climate change caused by global warming.  The report says that 2010-2019 was the hottest decade in India. In the last 119 years, 2019 was the seventh hottest year and 11 of the hottest years occurred in the last 15 years. Last year, the annual mean temperature was found to be 0.36 degree above normal. There was excess rainfall during the monsoons, but many places were also badly affected by droughts.

The extreme weather events that occurred in the country in the year 2019 were all linked to climate change. It includes cyclones, floods, heat waves. Following Bihar, other states such as Maharashtra, UP, Kerala, Rajasthan and Karnataka showed high numbers of deaths due to extreme weather events. The report also stated that heavy rains claimed 850 lives. Heat waves that was stronger in North Eastern and western parts claimed 350 lives. There were eight cyclones in the Indian Ocean which caused much damage on the east coast. In the Arabian Sea, there were five cyclonic storms while most years have seen only one. Many extreme weather events like snowfalls, thunderstorms, dust storms, heat and cold waves were recorded. Heat, cold and rainfall killed 1,562 people. The actual toll might have been higher. There was damage to infrastructure and loss of property and assets because of weather conditions adversely affecting agriculture, industry and services. The report has not estimated the losses, but they are considerable.

Many of these changes have been seen and pointed out year after year. The IMD annual reports record, evaluate and assess them. They should help to find ways to counter them and to deal with them. But, unfortunately, not many policies are drawn up or actions taken that will reduce the impact of climate change. Remedial measures are also not taken. All levels of government and the entire society will have to be engaged in tackling climate change issues. Lifestyles, agricultural practices, industrial production strategies, management of resources like water, etc., are some areas that need to see such changes. But they are yet to see any significant action. One positive trend is that there is increasing public awareness about the perils of climate change and the need to protect the environment. But mere awareness no longer suffices. It is time to act.

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