AS the years roll by, climate is getting more and more severe and extreme. And if environmentalists are to be believed, things are expected to escalate even more in the future. This is being attributed prominently to the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone in the atmosphere.
The increasing trends in warm temperature-based indices and decreasing trends in cold temperature-based indices are getting out of order. The precipitation indices on the other hand, show weaker and irrational trends with a general tendency towards dry and wet regions. The extreme climate change may result in large-scale adverse impact on the environment and ecology.
Climate change is central to the global environment management and sustainability and has implications on the natural and human systems. The heavily and abundant increase in emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is causing global warming. Resultantly, all this has enhanced the probability of temperature and precipitation extremes and will further have a severe effect on global food production, geography, ecology, economy, health and infrastructure. Along with the rising greenhouse gas emissions, the change in the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events is also considered an indicator of changing climate in a region.
Climate change has a wide-ranging and profound impact. Temperature rise due to global warming leads to heat waves, droughts, and wildfires, posing risks to human health, agriculture, and ecosystems. Precipitation changing patterns alter rainfall patterns – there are either intensive rainfalls or drought which either cause flash floods or water scarcity respectively. Rising sea levels and melting ice caps, threats of tsunamis and intrusion of salinity in freshwaters… it’s all a result of global warming and climate changes. Extreme and severe weather event include hurricanes, cyclones, storms and heavy rainfalls which may cause damage to property and infrastructure, causing migration of people from environmentally degraded places to safer zones and eventually cause conflict over scarce resources.
- Climate gets harsh in the heavenly Valley
Jammu and Kashmir is a hilly and a water-rich terrain, and one would think it strong against global warming and climatic changes. But the impact of global warming on J&K is significant. The last few years have witnessed a rise in cloud bursts, rainfalls and flash floods mainly in areas like Doda, Poonch, Kathua, Balthal and many other districts which have led to deaths, injuries and property damage. Erratic rainfall, snowfall patterns and the unusual warmth in winters are some of the key characteristics that define the climate change in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to reports, the temperature in Jammu and Kashmir has risen by an average of 1.4 degree celsius against the global increase of 0.9 to 1 degree celsius over the last 100 years. The increasing average temperature has resulted in melting of the glaciers and greater precipitation, which may lead to disaster. Such phenomenon is occurring due to climatic change. The devastating floods of 2014 caused by cloudbursts in different areas close to streams and rivers was a major indication and effect of global warming and climate change in the Valley. Owing to the large scale urbanisation that adds to global warming, the loss of biodiversity and water stress are the greatest challenge for the region.
Climate change poses serious threat to varied species and biodiversity, habitats, forests, wildlife, fisheries and the water resources in the region. Many wetlands in J&K that support 20% of the known range of biodiversity in the region are adversely affected. The climatic changes resulting in changing weather movements are relatively unpredictable. The intensity of rainfall is likely to increase by 1-2 mm/ day. This is likely to impact some of the horticultural crops. In J&K, the rain-fed agriculture suffers the most. Horticultural crops like apple are also showing a decline in production. In a study conducted by the Indian Institute of Science, it’s revealed that about 34%-39% of the forested grids are likely to undergo shifts in vegetation under climate scenarios in J&K.
According to reports by the Disaster Management Authority, since 2010, many flash-floods and cloudbursts have hit J&K killing more than 300 people. During last year alone, cloud bursts killed almost 40 people and injured many others in Jammu and Kashmir. Indeed, climate change is being witnessed increasingly and looks to cause greater disasters.
- Understanding the crisis
Research scholar Mohammad Fazil Buchh, who has been researching climate change at the University of Kashmir, says: “Anthropogenic climate change is a global phenomenon which is on a continuous rise. There has been a plethora of Congress Of Parties (COP) meetings in this regard so as to devise policies in order to reduce net carbon emissions and reduce global warming.
Kashmir, despite being the least contributor towards this shift, faces the brunt of this phenomenon because the pollutants reach here through western disturbances from other parts. Until and unless developed nations took concrete steps, both at the policy and the implementation level to curb the emission of greenhouse gases, it would be increasingly difficult to manage the problem”.
Advocate Nadeem Qadri, who is an environmental lawyer, adds: “Like other regions, we too are witnessing climate change in Kashmir and are on the brink of its severity. We are heading towards a climate crisis, which won’t be suitable for us and for our region and it could lead to disasters and sufferings with impact on agriculture, environment, biodiversity, natural ecosystems causing land degradation and destroying infrastructure”. He adds that the government must take immediate measures to mitigate the effects and develop a comprehensive climate change action plan. “We are witnessing erratic weather patterns and imbalance in the environment due to human induced activities too. So, we too must do some self-introspection before it is too late. We missed floods recently just by a few inches, which reflects that we are on the brink,” he warns.
The writing on the wall is clear: We are headed towards a catastrophe unless we took serious stock and did our best to honour Nature, our environment and save what is left.