“Litany of broken promises”~ UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on global warming
The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), painted a rather grim picture. The UN secretary general was scathing in his observations and stated that the report was “a file of shame cataloging empty pledges.”
Experts are of the opinion that we are on way to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degree Celsius limit agreed upon in Paris in 2015. The scientific proof of this rather shocking assessment, brought forth by the IPCC report, says that greenhouse gas emissions have been on a continuous rise since 2010 “across all major sectors globally.” Given the situation, it seems we are well on our way to a climate catastrophe that could result in large areas of land underwater, unprecedented heat waves, devastating storms, and water shortages that would be widespread. It could mark the end of existence for a major number of species, and a threat to human civilization. Mr. Guterres said that the world needs to “triple the speed” of the shift to renewable energy, a radical shift involving investment and subsidies to be focused in that area.
Increasing global temperatures led by climate change have already started affecting water availability in several parts of the world. With increased frequency of severe droughts and floods, water shortages are here to stay unless drastic action is taken. Climate change has the potential to impact the water cycle with erratic precipitation and severe weather events. As the earth warms up, water evaporation will increase, leading to more frequency and intense rainfall. This would in turn cause floods and contamination of water bodies due to polluted runoff.
At the moment however, rainfall is in a declining phase, and water resources are stretched, something that is exacerbated by ballooning population growth. Flows into the country’s key freshwater resources are dwindling as a result of human activity and overexploitation. If global warming continues unabated, the World Health Organization estimates that by 2025 nearly half of the world’s population will be water-stressed.
Hydrologist Steven Gorelick, director of the Global Freshwater Initiative at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, noted that “Rainfall is somewhere between beautiful and a nuisance . . . It’s not something you immediately drink.” In effect, the water crisis continues to build up slowly over time. We tend to forget when rainfall seems normal. The truth, however, is that this time the buildup continues and unless drastic corrective action is taken, we are headed for catastrophic consequences.
Today, a change in climate is felt primarily through a change in water, and it is necessary to tackle this emerging problem on an immediate basis.
How To Correct The Course
Scientists have been brainstorming and come up with several ways to correct the course. This calls for a revolution in how we produce energy and energize our world. Action needs to be taken by managing carbon emissions that should peak within three years, and fall rapidly thereafter. In addition, scrubbing the atmosphere of carbon dioxide emissions is required to bring temperatures under control.
While it is abundantly clear that we have the wherewithal in terms of technology and policy to address climate change, the ONLY major obstacles exist due to interests of the fossil fuel industry and the politics around it.
Some of the interventions that could be critical to contain global warming are:
- Shift to sustainable sources of energy generation like solar and wind; phase out polluting sources.
- Invest in cutting technologies like carbon dioxide removal (CDR) to scrub the atmosphere.
- Manage demand scenarios by curbing demand for energy in the areas of shelter, mobility, and nutrition.
- Invest in clean energy climate solutions and research, and reduce fossil fuel subsidies.
One of the big differences with this report from previous releases is that social science features heavily.
Agricultural Development – Cause And Effect
As global warming spreads its tentacles, water systems are increasingly stressed, and some rivers, lakes, and aquifers are drying up. In the past, humans have managed to harness natural waterways through dams, wells, irrigation systems, etc., an effort that has allowed civilizations to thrive.
Agriculture consumes almost 70 percent of the world’s available freshwater. Almost 90 percent of this goes to waste due to irrigation systems that are inefficient or nonexistent. Cultivation of crops that are water intensive for the particular region also place undue stress on the water ecosystem. This inefficient use of water is leading to depleting water levels in rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers. Added to these is the fact that erratic and deficient rainfall leads to a situation where these water sources are not adequately recharged.
The pressing need is to address institutional challenges to manage water resources as the worst impact of climate change unfolds. It is also important to work toward promoting climate change adaptation with the help of community participation. It is a given that people from lower socioeconomic status from rural areas are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change on water. To prepare the vulnerable to tackle climate change, water management in agriculture needs to take an approach that builds capacities and resilience in the ecosystem and communities.
In effect, water management in agricultural development needs a fresh look as we look toward a future that could place increased stress on the freshwater sources.
Tackling Water Management In Agriculture And Sustainable Development At Grassroots
S M Sehgal Foundation (Sehgal Foundation), a rural development NGO in India has been working since 1999 to improve the quality of life of the rural communities in India. Established as a public, charitable trust, S M Sehgal Foundation creates sustainable programs to address rural India’s most pressing needs. Two of the major areas that S M Sehgal Foundation works on are Agricultural Development and Water Management.
The Water Management program works with communities to harvest and store rainwater for direct use, and/ or replenish groundwater by building and restoring infrastructure in villages. It supports revival of traditional water bodies, construction of water storage infrastructure, and safe disposal of wastewater. It promotes safe drinking water for all with innovative low-cost, sustainable technologies, and WASH behavior. It creates awareness about the need for water conservation and builds capacities of local communities for better management and long-term sustainability of their water resources. The program seeks opportunities to collaborate for continuous improvement and replication of low-cost water management interventions.
Guwada Success Of Check Dam
Guwada is one of the six villages of Chula panchayat, in Alwar district, Rajasthan. The 350 families who live here are entirely dependent on agriculture for livelihood.
During monsoon, a rainwater stream flows through Guwada’s panchayati land in the form of a rainy river with a depth of about eleven feet. In Sodawas village, the stream merges with the Sabi River. The rainwater stream flowed straight across and out of Guwada without any benefit to the villagers.
In December 2020, the team under a CSR-supported partnership project implemented by S M Sehgal Foundation proposed to construct a check dam across this stream, so that rainwater would accumulate in it and recharge the groundwater.
The check dam construction began in December 2020 and was completed in April 2021. The check dam was of a capacity of 33 million liters (about 5 feet in depth). During the monsoon, the villagers observed that it filled up and emptied four times, implying that about 132 million liters of water had percolated into the ground. The three farmers whose homes are close to the check dam reported that the water level in their wells had come up by about thirty feet. The water level at a depth of about 125 feet earlier came down to about 95 feet.
The villagers were enthused upon observing these results, which has led to a positive change due to harnessing of the water runoff.
The World Economic Forum has identified the water crisis as the major global risk that has the potential to derail economies and societies. Living with climate change will mean adapting to the vagaries of the water ecosystem and taking the necessary steps to reduce the vulnerabilities of communities and economies. The role and action of policy and polity have to go in unison with change agents with a vision to realize the dream of a harmonious future.