The Background Of Magic 1.5
Global warming is a grim reality facing the world today. Rapid industrialization and scant respect for the environment have taken a toll on the natural processes and mechanisms that affect climate. As a result. the planet is increasingly facing the ill effects of climate change and global warming. Human activity has already resulted in mean temperature rise of approx 1.0°C above pre-industrial levels. Unchecked, temperatures could go up by as much as about 2.0°C in the near future. This could pose a huge threat for development especially for developing countries. The resultant anticipated change in livelihoods is alarming policymakers across the world.
To address this looming threat, world leaders have been trying to identify workable solutions to limit the damage. In 2015, world leaders converged in Paris, and came to an agreement to limit the temperature rise to well below 2.0°C above the pre-industrialization levels. More recently, at the COP 26 summit in Glasgow, agreements and action plans were thrashed out to achieve the Paris agreement goals. The envisaged goal of reducing carbon emissions by almost 50 percent to achieve a net zero status by 2050 was ambitious to say the least. The worrisome lack of intent and loose action on the ground was discussed at the COP26 summit.
The generally accepted figure of a 1.5°C change in temperature is what is being touted as the magic figure. Whether it is indeed a magic figure or would be consigned to become and remain a cause célèbre remains to be seen. Even to achieve the ambitious 1.5°C, emissions would have to come down by 15 percent a year, every year, until a status of net zero was achieved. With shifting goalposts, the situation becomes more alarming with each passing day, and adverse events keep affecting the livelihoods of the poor and marginalized. We continue to see erratic weather across the world and higher warming temperatures than the global annual average are being experienced in many land regions and across seasons.
The Indian Conundrum
Climate change and the consequent global warming is led by greenhouse gases, CO2 being the prominent offender. Rapid industrialization and development have led to a situation that has made India the third-largest emitter after China and the US. Population growth and dependence on coal and oil for energy needs have seen emissions on a steep upward trajectory. The skewed growth and disparity in development have seen that the top 20 percent of the high-expenditure population in India causes emission that is seven times higher than the poor. The carbon footprint of the poor is a mere 0.19 tons per capita, while it was 1.32 tons for the affluent.
With the government committed to a more-inclusive development agenda, this is only going to increase going forward.
Realizing this, the PM set a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2070, a later deadline than the originally envisaged 2050. Rightly so, he put the onus on industrialized nations to share the burden for their past excesses. India has brought forward the concept of an “emissions intensity” target, as a fair approach to compare it with other countries.
India has thus found a middle ground of being serious about climate change and balancing economic potential, rural growth, and development.
Impact Assessment For Rural Development In India
The IPCC report has made an assessment that the impact of a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures will “disproportionately affect disadvantaged and vulnerable populations through food insecurity, higher food prices, income losses, lost livelihood opportunities, adverse health impacts, and population displacements.” India, with its huge population, poverty, and inequality, could be in a high-risk situation, and the impact could be devastating to say the least.
Some of the effects global warming could have in India:
- Acute Heat. Average temperatures in India have already been on the increase over time. Unusual spells of hot weather and heat waves will increase in frequency and become widespread rather than localized. Areas near the west coast and southern part of India could experience substantially higher temperatures, and agriculture could be impacted significantly.
- Erratic Rainfall and droughts. Agricultural development in India is highly dependent on monsoon rainfall. Over a period of time, India has been experiencing diminishing average monsoon rainfall as also heavy and concentrated precipitation events. Global warming could lead to an increase in droughts in arid regions, while the coastal regions could experience substantially higher rainfall. With acute heat, crop yields tend to fall significantly as well.
- Water Scarcity. With global warming, freshwater sources will see diminishing returns placing pressure on the already stressed groundwater resources. With little planning to harness rainfall, falling water tables and increase demand could lead to a humanitarian crisis. Further, glacier melt could significantly affect the stability of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra basins and alter agriculture patterns.
- Food Security. Global warming would have the most profound effect on the agricultural development and food security of the teeming millions in rural India. Staples like wheat and rice would encounter falling yields due to the heat. Increased salinity due to overexploitation of groundwater and seawater intrusion will jeopardize the food security in India.
- Health. With higher temperatures, health disorders will cripple the vision of inclusive development. In the absence of a robust healthcare system, malnutrition and vector-borne disease will increase, leading to increased mortality rates and social disorder.
Planning For The Future
While India looks to balance development and climate change, it lacks the resources and technologies to limit/ remove carbon from the atmosphere. The IPCC report states that technologies for large scale removal are simply unavailable. That being said, we must plan for the future and not be buried with the uncontrollables.
India has differing agricultural and climatic zones and requires a dynamic approach to vulnerability, risk assessment, and planning. Adaptation readiness and transitioning requires a mindset that goes beyond conventional approaches since there are no precedents. It is important to plan for the future with approaches that take climate consideration into focus. Rural development programs, human capacity development, and action plans require mainstreaming climate adaptation into the policy landscape. This is the future for achieving the pathway to sustainable rural development in India.
Though macro-level planning is necessary, the coping mechanisms across different socioeconomic and agro-climatic settings should be integrated and incorporated at the micro-level in a country like India with its vast rural landscape. With poverty and lack of resources for the vulnerable sections, climate change initiatives are often rendered ineffective due to barriers against adaptation.
Leading The Way
S M Sehgal Foundation (Sehgal Foundation) has been leading the way in the quest for improving quality of life for rural communities in India. A rural development NGO in India established in 1999, S M Sehgal Foundation looks at creating sustainable programs to address rural India’s most pressing needs. It has been spearheading rural development initiatives in five core areas: Water Management, Agriculture Development, Local Participation and Sustainability, Transform Lives one school at a time, and Outreach for Development. With agriculture being the primary occupation and source of income, the effort to promote sustainable livelihoods in India by building capacities of farmers is a key focus area. To tackle the effects of climate change, S M Sehgal Foundation has been actively involved in promoting improved agricultural practices and new technologies that increase crop yields, conserve water, and improve soil fertility. S M Sehgal foundation teams work with smallholder and marginal farmers in rain-fed and irrigated areas to facilitate adoption of advanced and agriculture and sustainable development that include soil health management, climate-smart interventions, crop production management, input-use efficiency, small farm mechanization, water-efficient irrigation techniques, horticultural development, livestock management, and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in agriculture.
Their interventions are a step in the direction of making the present secure for the rural farming community and enabling them to plan for the future through promotion of climate-resilient agriculture. This effort is spearheading India’s rural agri progress through a “triple win” situation. The dissemination of information and their work on the ground is leading the way to enhanced productivity, resilience, and a reduction in carbon footprint across rural India.
With support from donors and partners around the world, S M Sehgal Foundation’s grassroots programs and development interventions have already reached 3 million people across India, empowering individuals and communities in need to escalate and enhance their own development.