A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), on the likely consequences of global warming for Asia, has some very dire projections for India—bear in mind, the report projects Asia to suffer the brunt of the climate change impact. MGI’s may not be the first such projection for India, but at a time when the debate has erupted over whether there is still time for meaningful climate action, or the world has woken up too late, this serves as a reminder of the worst that the country must prepare for. In the absence of adaptation and mitigation measures, leading to a representative concentration pathway of 8.5 (the highest GHG concentration pathway by 2100, as worked out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), by 2050, the country is projected to lose, in terms of doing outdoor work, nearly a third of the daylight hours in a day; indeed, four of the five most populous cities will see the average share of outdoor working hours lost in a year increasing by more than 5 percentage points compared with today. Nearly 500 million people will be living in areas that would witness lethal heatwaves. The likelihood of a more-than 10% decline in yields of four top crops, including rice and wheat, will grow from 12% today to 39% by then. The scale of damage to infrastructure, etc from annual floods increases five-fold from today’s levels, while cities like Kochi, Kozhikode, Mumbai, Pune will see a significant increase in the extreme precipitation events—something that has become clear with the devastating floods in certain reaches of Kerala over the recent years. Oceanic warming will threaten millions of livelihoods in the coastal areas even as water stress in certain areas of the country makes these practicably unlivable.
While a section of scientific opinion believes the world is past redemption—a recently published study (in a Nature group publication) by Norwegian study claimed this—the overwhelming majority says that there is still time, though, the window for action is closing fast. India is doing admirably on climate action—a recent BofA report estimates the country to not just achieve its commitments under the Paris agreement but also to go past these, echoing the prime minister’s claim at the G-20 meeting. As this newspaper has pointed out earlier, this will mean little if other countries don’t get ambitious about climate action. With Donald Trump being ousted as the US president in the recent elections, there is some hope of climate action by the US, under Joe Biden, even if he is unable to give fruition to his entire green plan. At the same time, the UK, which has also been a frontrunner in climate action, is targeting net-zero status by 2050, but experts doubt if the country is willing to put its money where its mouth is on this. Similarly, while the EU is also working on a net-zero target, as this newspaper has pointed out earlier, the steps it intends to take on agricultural emissions will likely mean the shifting of the carbon burden to other economies—quite worryingly, this could have a devastating impact on some of the world’s most critical, and irreplaceable, carbon-sinks. And then, there is Australia, where climate denialism has become the mainstream thought—even in Trumpian America, the party that has historically been climate sceptic is now seeing some leaders soften their stances. Experts have called for the international community to force Australia to correct its course by imposing climate-related trade tariffs—whether this will be possible with the fraying of multilateral governance of global trade and the rising focus on bilateral and regional trade deals remains to be seen. Meanwhile, developed countries have not even given a fraction of the money they had agreed to contribute towards green development in developing and least-developed countries.