Sep 17, 2019-Tuesday
The human cost of climate change is increasing every year. According to a report in the Hindustan Times, this year’s June 1-September 14 monsoon saw the highest number of extreme rainfall events (1,800), and the most people (1,422) killed in the season, since data started being recorded in 2010. Data also showed that monsoon-related deaths were more widespread across India than in any previous year with the highest toll of 317 in Maharashtra, followed by 203 in West Bengal and 200 in Madhya Pradesh. It’s not just rain-related deaths; other extreme weather-related events such as heat waves or cyclonic storms, are also having huge impact on the people, especially the poor. On July 9, the government informed the Lok Sabha that over 2,400 people died due to extreme weather events in the last one year. Between 1980 and 2010, the government added, India experienced 431 major natural disasters. Unfortunately, minister of state for environment Babul Supriyo, added that “direct attribution to climate change [to the extreme weather events] has not been indicated”. But United Nations reports have said that over the last 40 years there has been a doubling of extreme weather events, causing huge loss of life, disrupted billions of lives and caused staggering economic losses.
To reduce climate-related deaths, mitigation and resilience, which the Paris Climate Agreement talks about, every policy decision needs to be evaluated from the climate angle. In addition, India’s governments and people must recognise the protective value of forests, and strictly enforce regulations that protect them. Second, stop building infrastructure on danger zones such as flood plains or at the foot of unstable hills. Third, alleviate poverty and strength public institutions to reduce the risk. Fourth, improve forecasts and multi-hazard early warnings, be it on heat waves or floods.
While the central governments have been pushing the states to improve their climate action, the performance of the states has been varied across the country, says Driving climate action: State leadership in India, a May 2019 report by the Climate Group. This is unfortunate because the climate-laggard states must realise, as the data-rich report also shows, that along with saving lives, economic gain and climate action can go hand in hand. This is borne out by the fact that the top 10 performing climate action states align almost identically with the 10 highest per capita income states.
First Published: Sep 16, 2019 21:33 IST