Connect with us

Green Planet

The Urgent Need For Political Action On Climate Change In South Asia

Published

on

The universal consensus on climate change is the need of the hour. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has confirmed that climate change is real in its Fourth Assessment Report. Climate change denialism will make the planet more vulnerable to anthropogenic activities. It will further polarise the world on a burning issue that needs international attention. The benefits from adaptation and mitigation methods are far more than not taking action on climate change. 

***

South Asia has a unique geographical location blessed with various rivers and a diverse ecosystem. The region’s diverse flora and fauna make it one of the richest regions abundant with natural resources. However, the tentacles of climate change have made the region susceptible to threats. The effects of climate change would be more adverse in this region because the majority of the population is dependent on the agrarian sector. Moreover, colonisation and internal conflicts in South Asian countries have crippled the economy and pushed large sections of the population into poverty. The bulging population in developing countries makes the threat to natural resources more serious. 

Most of the countries opened up their economy through liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation but it only widened the gap between the rich and the poor. One of the most adverse effects of globalisation on South Asia was that it infused a consumerist and aspirational attitude in young minds at the expanse of the environment. Globalisation has often pushed development by putting the environment on stake. The worst thing about crony capitalism is that it is only motivated by profits. The core countries have often encouraged the South Asian countries to adopt policies at the cost of the environment. For example, the state government of Himachal Pradesh declared Badi as a tax free region. As a result of this, many international and national industries were set up. When the government realised that the benefit from industries was meagre compared to the harm they were causing to the environment. The industries, therefore, thought of shifting their production houses somewhere else. (Skylab, 2009) The hypocrisy of globalisation and capitalism will result in destruction of the environment which will lead to a gloomy future for our future generations. This article will try to analyse the importance to address the problem of climate change in South Asia and how a green economy can benefit the population in the long run.

The Climate Change Threats And Consequences That South Asian Countries Are Facing 

Flash floods: Flash floods in South Asia is a result of climate change. It increases the water to an alarming level. The American Meteorological Society (AMS) describes flash floods as, “A flood that rises and falls quite rapidly with little or no advance warning, usually the result of intense rainfall over a relatively small area.” It has led to loss of property and lives in South Asia. Hyderabad recently experienced flash floods. The city recorded 191 mm of rain within the span of a few hours. It has been the heaviest ever recorded in 97 years. Almost 70 people lost their lives. (Indian Express, 2020) 

Melting of Himalayas: Himalayan glaciers are melting at a very fast rate posing grave danger to South Asian countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Scientists have revealed that the melting of glaciers has doubled with the beginning of the century. The most prominent reason for melting of the Himalayan glaciers at such a fast rate is anthropogenic activities of the human race. This will lead to severe floods in the South Asian countries. The glacier lake outburst flood (GLOF) can lead to mass destruction. According to a 2011 study, 42 lakes in Nepal were at high risk of flood. (National Geographic, 2019) 

Rise in water level: Low-lying areas are at risk due to the rise of water level in South Asian countries. A large chunk of land from countries like Maldives and Bangladesh will get submerged due to climate change. Most of the areas of Bangladesh are already sinking. Moreover, the saline water makes the land poisonous due to which crops die. The coral reefs of maldives are getting threatened due to rising sea level. They are one of the major sources of the growth of nature based tourism in Maldives which has contributed 70% of the country’s GDP. (The World Bank, 2010) 

Rise in temperature: Many of the regions of South Asia have experienced extreme high temperature over the years. Western Afghanistan and Southwestern Pakistan have experienced extreme hot climates. In many of the regions the monsoon precipitation rate has decreased. Central and Western India has experienced extreme dry periods and wet periods.However, the temperature will increase least in the coastal areas of South Asia because oceans help to moderate the temperature.(Bandyopadhyay et al., 2018) When temperature rises, photosynthesis and respiration become unbalanced. Pollination of a plant is most susceptible due to rise in temperature. 

Political Action On Climate Change In South Asia 

Climate change will further cripple the South Asian countries if immediate action is not taken together. The domestic policies of the governments are not enough to reduce the implications of climate change. One region might be more responsible for the increase in anthropogenic activities but the impact will be felt by all the regions of South Asia. Similarly, it will not be enough for only one country to take action to mitigate climate change in South Asia. The immediate collective and political action is required to address the implications of climate change. Both mitigation and adaptation is required to minimise the threat of climate change. The mistrust and regional conflict between India and Pakistan and other countries needs to be set aside for cooperation and immediate action for regional interest. SAARC needs to revamp and fulfill its long standing commitments on various agreements and collective policies like SAARC Food Security Reserve for natural calamities, SAARC Seed Bank, SAARC Disaster Management Centre, etc. 

However, we cannot deny the efforts and initiative of our leaders to create awareness and take up various mitigation and adaptation projects to tackle climate change. India along with Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, shares hydrological and meteorological data to prepare for flash floods forecast. Climate Adaptation and Resilience for South Asia (CARE) project has been launched by the World Bank to develop climate resilient technology and policies in South Asia. The World Bank worked with the Government of the Maldives on the Maldives Environment Management Project, $13.5 million IDA credit, to effectively manage environmental risks fragile to the coral reefs and other marine habitats. (World Bank, 2010) Most important of all, the cities of South Asia like Mumbai, Dhaka, Delhi, etc are the hotspots of climate change. The immediate adaptation methods need to be taken to minimise the implications of extreme weather in the cities of South Asia. The countries of the region need to discuss various projects and most important of all they need to discuss funds for adaptation projects. 

Economic Benefits Of Environment Friendly Policies

Most of the population of South Asia is dependent on the agrarian sector. There is a direct relationship between living standard and climate change. This can be understood with the two models i.e. structural models and reduced form models. Structural model analyses the input and output i.e. climate change and consumption expenditure. However, the drawback of structural models is that it doesn’t take into consideration the psychological factor. On the other hand, the reduced form model has greater predictive capability. (Bandyopadhyay et al., 2018) 

In an agrarian based economy, crop failure due to extreme high or fluctuating temperature can lead to reduction in consumption level. On the other hand, wet conditions due to flash floods and extreme climate changes can lead to various diseases. As a result, expenditure on healthcare increases. The people from poorer regions often migrate to urban and developed areas for better opportunities and lack of resources and money to shift to adaptation methods. The condition of the migrated families due to climate change is tragic and they are often susceptible to violence and abuse. They are often not accepted in the regions they migrate. Professor Myers’ estimated 200 million climate migrants by 2050. 

The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change suggests that action on climate change requires 1% of Global GDP. The economic benefits of action on climate change is immense. The Review also suggests that economic damage from not working on climate change is 5% of Global GDP. If wider risks are considered then the economic loss can be estimated upto 20%. ( Stern Review, 2006) According to Simon Dietz and Nicholas Stern (2013), “Thus, what theReview recommends constitutes nothing less than a strong and sustained reduction in the volume of GHGs emitted by global economic activity. Yet, an examination of the ways in which this can be achieved shows that it is both technically and economically feasible and at a cost which, while significant, is small in comparison with the range of benefits of doing so, at least up to the 450–550 ppm CO2e range (i.e., this conclusion is unlikely to apply to even lower stabilization targets, essentially because we have already passed them.” 

Conclusion

It’s high time for South Asia to realise that climate change is real and it will cause destruction to the entire region if serious political action is not taken into account. The countries need to come together putting aside their differences to formulate policies that will benefit the environment, economy and population of South Asia. Moreover, working for a common cause might also help in improving the diplomatic relations between the countries of South Asia. A green economy will have a positive impact on the health of the people and it will also mean a sustainable future. It’s time to realise that our resources are finite to fulfill our infinite desires. 

Shruti Shila Saikia is pursuing Political Science from the University of Delhi. As a second-year student, she is still exploring the sub-disciplines of Political Science. Political philosophy and International Relation fascinate her and she likes writing about it. She has a penchant for observing and analysing things that happen around her. She has been an active member of The Inquisitive Circle, a student led academic circle.

Continue Reading
Comments

Green Planet

Climate Change and its Effects on Europe

Published

on

If one thinks Putin has become a headache, then the future of Europe under the forecast climate change regime is pneumonia. 

According to this scenario, ice melt from Greenland and the Arctic will raise sea levels around FloridaAside from greater and wider coastal flooding, this change will inhibit the regular Gulf Stream Drift that makes its way across the Atlantic warming northern Europe and ensuring the English climate is even milder.  Part of it of course is due to Britain being an island and so enjoying the moderating effects of the sea — again more so because of the Gulf Stream. 

This relatively even weather in England has undergone change.  More frequent 90F and higher days in summer, once relatively rare, is one symptom — the UK just recorded its highest ever temperature of 104.54F.  There have also been heavy rains and flooding notably in December 2020 when a wide belt across the south suffered catastrophic inundation of historic proportions. 

Scientists and the UN confirm an increase in the frequency of natural disasters.  This includes forest fires, hurricanes or typhoons, excessive rains and floods. 

July 14 might be celebrated as Bastille Day and a national holiday in France but in neighboring Belgium it now commemorates the devastating floods in 2021.  Heavy rains and the Meuse river overflowing its banks turned streets into canals in the eastern city of Liege. The floods extended to the Netherlands and western Germany, caused by a low pressure system that stalled for two days over the region.  Rain falling on soil already soaked by spring rains and overflowing rivers (the Meuse in Belgium and Netherlands, the Rhine and the Ruhr in Germany) devastated the area.  At least 243 people lost their lives and property damage was estimated at $12 billion. 

If last year was one of floods, this year it’s drought and dry heat and forest fires — temperatures hitting 117 F in Portugal and an estimated 75,000 acres lost to forest fires; also dry as tinder Italy where the river Po, the country’s longest river, has been reduced to a trickle.

England has been subject to a similar pattern, suffering some of the worst flooding in its history last year and now reeling from forest fires. “I’ve fought wildfires for decades.  None of it prepared me for the infernos this week,” screams a Guardian (July 22, 2022) headline quoting a firefighter.  London fire fighters have just had the busiest day since the Second World War.

When will governments understand that the earth is changing, that natural disasters piling one on top of the other, and that forest fires in Europe, in Australia, in the US and elsewhere plus floods and typhoons etc., are not coincidences? 

One hopes it is soon, and we humans learn to moderate damaging behaviors.

Continue Reading

Green Planet

The Greater Frequency of Natural Disasters and our Response

Published

on

Photo: NASA

While no one can ascribe specific natural catastrophic events to global warming, their frequency appears to have increased.  So it is that forest fire seasons have lengthened, and more fires occur more often and of greater intensity.

The current disaster in the news is in the Iberian peninsula and across to southwest France.  Almost uncontrollable wildfires have devastated thousands of acres, and one observer pilot flying too close has been killed reports the BBC.  The fires in La Teste-de-Buch and south of Bordeaux have destroyed 25,000 acres.

In Portugal, 75,000 acres have been devastated by fires this year.  One cause is the dry heat and soaring temperatures, drying out the countryside.  They have hit 47C (117F) in Portugal and above 40C (104F) in Spain.  Residents have been evacuated from the danger areas and a pet rescue operation is ongoing.

Planes are dropping fire retardant chemicals, and helicopters collect sea water from the coast then return to douse the flames.  The high temperatures, the drought and their consequences have not spared neighboring countries.

In Italy, the country’s longest river, the Po, has diminished to a trickle in places and the tinder-dried countryside in its valley is under a state of emergency.

Along other parts of the Mediterranean, the conditions are similar.  In Greece, there are fires southeast of Athens about 30 miles away in Feriza; also on the northern coast in the island of Crete where seven villages near Rethymno have been evacuated. 

The opposite side of the Mediterranean has not been spared.  Fires swept through several provinces in Morocco and one village in the Ksar el-Kebir area was destroyed. 

According to James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, the earth should respond naturally to ameliorate global warming.  Unfortunately, human interventions like cutting down forests have damaged its ability to do so.  Is runaway global warming then our future?

The answer has to lie with the same humans, being the only species with the knowledge and faculty to respond to the challenges.  The means are available, from CO2 capture to altering our own behavior.

Work on additives (like oil and fats) for cow feed have helped reduce emissions by 18 percent in Australia where almost 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from ruminants.  Even more promising has been the addition of seaweed which when mixed in small quantities (3 percent) to the diet have reduced their emissions by 80 percent.

In the meantime, we have to change our ways:  Growing our own vegetables — delicious and easy as they grow themselves with minimum care … and have you tried ripe tomatoes fresh from a vine?  Even easier to buy now as plants are sold at food supermarkets.

Eating less meat, walking or cycling instead of driving for short trips and so on.  It is easy and just a matter of habit.  In the end, it is up to us as to the kind of earth we want to leave behind for our children and grandchildren. 

Continue Reading

Green Planet

Interviewing Fabio Domenico Vescovi – Agronomist and Earth Observation Specialist

Published

on

Fabio Domenico Vescovi is an Agronomist & Earth Observation Specialist. He is currently Senior Data Scientist & Technical Lead at Cropin. Fabio develops applications of satellite technologies in tropical countries for the insurance sector (drought and floods). He studies crop biophysical parameters to inform an index-based insurance system and develops AI algorithms based on DataCube and Machine Learning. Fabio has had an international career spanning Germany (Bonn University), Italy (OHB) and UK (Airbus). He has also been deeply involved in various African countries, working with different stakeholders to enable easier data-based access to micro-credit and micro-insurance for farmers. Fabio has a PhD in remote sensing applications in agriculture.

You are using satellite data to track droughts and floods to grow crops more efficiently. Which other companies are doing this globally? 

At Cropin we use satellite data along with other types of data such as weather data, soil information, agro-climatic conditions, seed genetics, global crop sowing and harvesting patterns, agronomics etc. to create AI models that bring predictive intelligence to agriculture and make it more efficient, productive, and sustainable.

There are a host of organisations in this sector offering services which target this challenging area. We believe that the challenges faced by this sector are many and complex and not one player can solve them all and thus a thriving global agritech ecosystem is a great enabler to truly accelerate progress of the agriculture ecosystem. The industry itself is at an evolving phase and technology adoption in the global agriculture arena is still a long way to go. Arable land across the planet is estimated to be 1.4 billion hectares and in terms of being able to digitize and impact the planet’s agri-value chain, the agritech sector is still miles away, but we sure are headed in the right direction.

Why are you passionate about the agriculture sector? What has inspired you to be a part of this field? 

My family and ancestors were all Italian farmers and despite growing up in an urban environment I always had a passion for environmental sciences, agriculture and the socio-cultural connections between our environment, our people and myself.

Tech-enabled services for farmers can be unaffordable for many farmers in a country like India. Do you think India can implement them at a mass scale? 

We are very aware that farmers will face challenges to afford high-end digital and predictive intelligence solutions which brings a meaningful difference to their lives. This is the reason Cropin works via a B2B and B2G business model. We work with large food processing companies, food retailers, seed and agri-input manufacturers, agri-lenders and insurers, governments and development agencies who in turn work with huge numbers of farmers and large areas of farmlands. So, the cost of the technology is borne by our customers and the benefits of higher efficiency, improved yields, lower inputs costs and better sustainable operations benefit all the stakeholders including the farmer. Another important benefit of our B2B and B2G approach is that it also helps us create impact at scale in global agriculture vis-à-vis working directly with individual farmers.  

What is Carbon farming? Which countries is it being implemented in? 

Carbon farming is a new term but an old practice. I think that people practiced Carbon farming since the time agriculture was invented. One of the simplest examples of Carbon farming is the circulation of organic matter in the form of manure from the stall to the soil. In turn the soil provides food to the animals in the stall. There were many similar Carbon cycles and sub-cycles across people and cultures, where organic matter was recirculated and eventually regenerated.

Nowadays this circularity in Carbon has been slowly destroyed by a mixture of industrial and commercial processes, which though very productive, are not sustainable for the environment.  Just to give you a negative example, Europe is a strong importer of soya, sunflower, and cereals from Brazil, which is now clearing their forests and depleting their soil organic matter to farm these products. However, there is no process in place to return that Carbon from Europe to Brazil to the soil from where it was taken. Only money is returning. We were able to put in place a system which is perfect economically but unsustainable ecologically. Like in a bank, what the soil gives us is a loan, not a donation.

How can AI be used for sustainable agriculture? 

Digitization and AI can be leveraged at scale to increase efficiency, productivity, and sustainability in farming. To leverage AI for farming, Cropin undertakes the complex process of ‘agri asset computation’ which brings together satellite imagery, historical and forecasted weather data, soil information, agro-climatic conditions, seed genetics, global crop sowing and harvesting patterns, agronomics, and other farming insights all under one umbrella to build knowledge graphs for hundreds of crops and crop varieties across the globe. This data is then used to build AI models for any farm plot, region, country, or crop in the shortest possible time. This provides insights and recommendations on various aspects of farming operations – from selecting the right crops and seeds, the right time for sowing and harvesting, the optimal use of water resources and adoption of the right farming practices etc. All this enables much more sustainable farming.

At Cropin, we have already computed 0.2 billion acres of farmland in 12 countries, and we have an ambitious target to compute and build predictive intelligence “on-tap” for 1/3rd of the planet’s cultivable lands by 2025. By doing this, we are helping solve planet scale challenges such as food security, environmental sustainability and better livelihoods for farmers.

How can farmers be empowered globally? 

Farmers are supposed to be the most empowered category in the world, they should dominate even kings, like for example in the American and French revolutions. But the world has become oblivious to this. People forget about farming and the role of farmers, especially the small holder ones. Nowadays if you ask a European child: “Where does this milk come from?”, the answer you may get is: “Well, from the fridge!”. So, milk is perceived as an industrial product and this is ironically not wrong, because the number of industrial processes occurring on every drop of milk from milking to drinking is overwhelming. So, behind a common farm or diary product, we do not see a natural environment anymore but rather a complex system of industrial procedures.

Farmers can be taken onboard of the political arena only if they speak the language of marketing, behave like industrial entrepreneurs, have the knowledge of engineers, act like politicians and talk like salesmen! How can we figure out the farmers role in a complex society which forgotten the importance of farming?

Even in climate change, the only ones empowered to make a significant change on millions of hectares are the small holder farmers. They can play a key role in agro-forestry and Carbon sequestration, much more than any other industrial process. But they are not aware of the processes and of their potentials, and neither is society. We need an educational process involving both agricultural and industrial sectors to raise awareness on their potential.

Finally, a personal question – Is doing a PhD and life as a researcher fulfilling? 

It is, but I must accept that the academic context of a PhD and the lifestyle of a researcher moving across various countries to attend congresses are so different than the cultural context and environmental conditions of a farm. I can’t simply mix the lifestyle of a farmer and that of a researcher. Anyway, whenever I try to do so or I spend some few days in a family-run farm in an African context (e.g. currently I am writing from a small holder farm in Mwingi, a rural area in central Kenya, not even completely electrified) then I get the best results of my research and I grow in the knowledge of how the farming world really is, when we speak about farming, even Carbon faming. My lovely farmers and I dream to raise our common voice and bring awareness on the real role which farming and research can play together: my PhD is not a barrier, it is the way to open my mind to their culture and learn more.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending