, Volume 55, Issue 1-4, pp 41-64

Recent climatic change, greenhouse gas emissions and future climate: The implications for India

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Summary

In this paper, we discuss past climatic trends over India, greenhouse gas emissions due to energy consumption, forest and land-use changes, climate change scenarios for the year 2050, potential consequences for agriculture and cyclone activity and the possibility that India might limit the increasing trend in its emissions.

India's mean surface air temperature has increased significantly by about 0.4°C over the past ccntury. Neither monsoon nor annual rainfall shows any significant trend. On average, there has been a rise in sea levels around India over recent decades, though considerable uncertainties exist in the accuracy and interpretation of the available data.

Carbon emissions from the energy sector amount to 71 MT a year, equivalent to all other sectors combined. From land-use data, a marginal net sequestration of 5.25 million tonnes of carbon occurred during 1986. Following the IPCC guidelines, methane emissions from rice and livestock are estimated at 17.4 and 12.8 Tg/year, respectively.

According to recent climate model projections, India may experience a further rise in temperature of 1 °C by the year 2050, about four times the rate of warming experienced over the past 100 years. A modest increase in precipitation amounts might occur. Cereals production is estimated to decrease and the nutrition security of the population-rich but land-hungry region of India might be hampered. An increase in local tropical cyclone activity may occur over thc next century, posing added problems as large areas in the coastal regions have a dense population.

About 70% of the electricity generation in India is from coal-based power stations. Altering this dependence significantly to reduce emissions would imply a substantial change in the present energy policy of India. There is great potential for improving energy efficiency and conservation. The adoption of cleaner coal-technologies should be considered, as must the development of renewable, non-conventional energy sources. In all cases, serious institulional barriers and resource limitations need to be addressed. The scope for carbon sequestration is limiled by land availabilily and other factors. It is argued that any response to global warming must be located firmly in the framework of sustainable development.

With 5 Figures