India prepares for a greenhouse future

The impacts of climate change on India's water, food production and forests are the subject of a major UK-Indian collaborative research study, announced at an international sustainability summit in Delhi this week.

Scientists will develop climate change scenarios up to 2050 to then work out the effects on water, agriculture and forestry so that the country can factor future climatic changes into development plans. The project, launched by UK environment minister David Miliband at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, is the second phase of a larger effort to prepare India for the effects of climate change.

Previous studies found that climate is likely to reduce wheat and rice crops as well as impacting human health as temperatures rise, heat waves increase and water grows ever scarcer.

The second phase of the study is to look into these and other questions in more detail, in particular:

  • Water resources – impacts on water availability under different water use scenarios

  • Agriculture – how climate change will affect India’s main food products

  • Forestry – how forests will be impacted by water availability and use

  • Human health – the effects of heat-waves on human health.

    Indian researchers are to carry out the work under the supervision of UK consultants ERM.

    Launching the study, David Miliband said: “The UK has so far committed over £40 million to help build developing countries understanding of how climate change will affect them and to improve integration of climate risks within development plans. This project, comprising a total spend of £850K, includes £500K on research to be carried out by Indian research institutes.

    “Understanding climate change and its consequences is critical to protect lives and assets upon which India’s economy is dependent. Awareness of climate change and its impacts on people, the economy and livelihoods will be important to balance economic growth and development with a changing resource base,” he said.

    Climate change in India is an additional stress on an environment and society already under pressure from galloping urbanisation and economic development, the authors of the first phase of the study concluded:

    “With its large and growing population and an economy that is closely tied to its natural resource base, India’a population is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as changes in forest and water resources and sea level rise.”

    Previous work involved looking into climate change and socio-economic scenarios for India and the impacts on sea levels, water resources, agriculture, forests, industry and human health, all using detailed regional models of the Indian subcontinent.

    More information of Defra’s work with India can be found here.

    Goska Romanowicz

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