Climate change and cooperation

Combined adverse effect of temperature and ill timed monsoon could have impact on agriculture and food security in SA.

Dr Akmal Hussain August 21, 2011

South Asia has a highly integrated ecology with shared mountains, rivers and monsoons. Therefore, the policy measures for addressing the socio-economic impact of climate change will have to be undertaken on the basis of cooperation between the nation states of South Asia. Let us briefly examine the vulnerability to, and the impact of, climate change on the economy and society of this region.

The evidence is unmistakable: climate change is already occurring. South Asia with its delicately balanced ecology, its heavy reliance on monsoons, its critical dependence on agriculture and persistent mass poverty, is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change. Increased variability in the magnitude and timing of rain fall during the monsoons could increase the instability of agriculture production and add to the burden of the poor. The long and densely populated coastline with low lying islands, such as the Maldives, make the region vulnerable to sea level rise associated with global warming. The Himalayas containing the region’s glaciers, the source of its rivers, and the key to the region’s climate and economy, are highly sensitive to temperature increases. Srivastava provides evidence to show that some Himalayan glaciers are melting faster than the global average. This could have a critical impact on the stability of water supplies and, thereby, on the economy and society of the region.

The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) had predicted that global warming would increase the frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events. The study by Cruz et. al. (2007), provides data to show that this is indeed happening in South Asia. For example, the frequency of intense rainfall events has increased, causing floods and landslides in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, northeast India and Sri Lanka, during the last decade. Consecutive droughts in 1999 and 2000, in Pakistan and northwest India adversely affected agriculture growth and the drought of 2002 in Orissa (India) caused crop failures which affected 11 million people.

According to the IPCC, the increase in temperatures in South Asia in the decades ahead are likely to be above the global average. The study by Georgi and Bi (2005) suggests that higher temperatures will lead to increased year to year variability of monsoon rains. This combined with the adverse effect of temperature on heat sensitive varieties of food grains could have a critical impact on agriculture production and accentuate the problem of food security in South Asia.

Climate change is also likely to have a significant impact on health. The increased frequency and intensity of heat waves could increase the incidence of heat stroke, cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory diseases according to a recent study by Hales, Edward and Kovats. Furthermore, the increased frequency of floods could lead to increases in the incidence of diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, typhoid and rodent borne diseases.

As local communities across South Asia face a threat to their life and livelihoods due to climate change, large scale dislocation and migration of populations can be expected. Increased flooding and prolonged droughts could displace communities inhabiting the riverine plains; sea level rise would change the salinity profile of coastal areas, degrade large areas of fertile land and consequently displace the local communities which are dependent for their livelihoods on coastal plains. SC Rajan has estimated that climate change could force 125 million people to leave their habitat and migrate to other places in South Asia.

Managing population dislocation, natural disasters, instability of water supply and food shortages resulting from climate change, will require a high degree of interstate cooperation in South Asia. The integrated ecology of South Asia, its mountains, rivers, forests and top soils constitute the basis of sustaining its economy and social life. The nation states of this region share this integrated life support system. They also share the risks posed to it by climate change. Therefore, we the peoples of South Asia and our respective states, must cooperate and bring to bear our shared humanity and innovativeness to face the challenge of climate change. Cooperation, not conflict, is the key to building a better future for the people of South Asia.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd,  2011.


Dolraj Paudyal | 12 years ago | Reply

Each community in local level would have responsibility to enhance the environmental balancing capacity of their own area as has national government. It should be done with proper scientific understanding. Conservation, protection, proper care, economic and wise use of resources, and incorporating environmental perspective to every work would be recommend. Think globally, act locally. Regional thinking is also important but not perfect. There may be some exaggeration, but genuine knocking for climate scientist and world leaders might be worthy.

Baljeet Degun | 12 years ago | Reply

@Meme Mine - those are such poor arguments they don't even stand up for themselves. Science is an incredibly reliable mechanism for drawing valid conclusions from research & analysis. The science of climate change is very heavily researched, and the conclusions are not vague, or in doubt, or questionable. Even a lay person can make the link between 7,000,000,000 humans producing CO2 at an increasing rate, and a corresponding set of global climate-related changes.

Examples why you're wrong: 1) science does not "assume" anything - it does the opposite to that. 2) climate science does not study "effects" in isolation - it investigates relationships. 3) science does not "commit fraud" or "exaggeration". 4) The statement "Scientists gave us pesticides don’t forget, hardly saints." is a an ad hominem attack - ie a logical fallacy. True, it happened, but pesticides did what they were supposed to do, even if in a later and larger context, they had other negative impacts beyond the narrower intention of using pesticides. Science created our understanding in both cases. 5) "Trust nobody". We can trust "trustworthy" people and systems, more than anyone or anything, that means scientists and science. (I trust my comments will get posted, thanks to science). 6) Science doesn't tell us to be "happy" or "disappointed" about the climate - it tells us about causes and effects.

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