The Climate Change quagmire that India faces

By Larissa Fernand |  12-11-21 | 

Climate scientists estimate that roughly half of India’s population will experience extreme heat by 2070.

A study has revealed that the frequency of intense heat waves has increased in India over the recent years. India’s average temperature has risen by around 0.7°C during 1901–2018. By the end of the 21st century, average temperature over India is projected to rise by approximately 4.4°C relative to the recent past (1976–2005 average). The frequency of summer (April–June) heat waves over India is projected to be 3 to 4 times higher by the end of the 21st century, as compared to the 1976–2005 baseline period. The average duration of heat wave events is also projected to approximately double.

A hotter planet will exacerbate floods, something that we are already witnessing. It is pretty evident that Indians are likely to be among the worst-affected by a warmer planet.

The vicious cycle of cooling.

  • Heat requires air conditioning.

Developing countries lag behind advanced economies in deploying cooling technologies and the Indian market is set to reach $11 billion by 2023. India will take until 2050 to fit air conditioning into half of its households. In contrast, at least nine in 10 homes in the U.S., Japan and Taiwan already have cooling technology.

  • Air conditioning requires power.

Air conditioning is an energy-intensive process and may triple power consumption across the world by midcentury. Ten new units are set to be sold every second globally for the next 30 years, with Indonesia and Vietnam making the biggest jumps.

  • Power may come from fossil fuels.

If the energy that powers these air conditioners comes from fossil fuels, it will add heat-trapping emissions. If more fossil fuels are burned, it will exacerbate air pollution. Toxic air kills an estimated 7 million people every year, and is responsible for about 18% of all deaths in India, according to a report by the Lancet, a British medical journal.

  • This leads to emissions.

Air conditioners also rely on cycling hydrofluorocarbons, a superpotent greenhouse gas often released to the atmosphere at the end of the device’s life. The International Energy Agency has warned that without intervention, emissions from hydrofluorocarbons and energy use could rise 90% above 2017 levels by midcentury.

Climate change is the wicked problem caused by everyone, and the benefits of tackling it will be enjoyed by everyone. Hence, no one entity seems incentivized enough.

The Indian government’s COP26 commitment is to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2070. Yes, India is the world’s third-biggest emitter and most populous country, but worth noting is that we have used fossil fuels for decades, if not centuries, to lift living standards. That is an option that India’s millions of rural poor — often reliant on diesel generators — are only just beginning to enjoy. Not only is India’s contribution to historic emissions much less than other countries but its high ranking on aggregate emissions reflects a much bigger population. On a per head basis its emissions are towards the bottom of the table, thanks to its relative poverty.

Alongside the net zero target, the Indian government set out a series of earlier goals, including obtaining half of its energy from renewables and reducing the carbon intensity of the economy by 45%, both by 2030.

In his speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that rich countries should provide as much as $1 trillion in climate finance by the end of this decade. India is asking for such a large sum because it’s also taking into account loss and damage, and the fact that poor countries see this as a debt owed by nations who are responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gases accumulated in the atmosphere.

The above information has been sourced from:

Some facts on India and the world…

  • The largest emitters of carbon dioxide are China, the U.S., and India
  • China tops the list of coal power producing countries, followed by India and the U.S.
  • 70% of the electricity in India is generated using coal
  • India is the lowest-cost producer of solar power
  • India is the second- lowest cost producer of wind energy, the first being Brazil
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