R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Aug 18 - The Climate Reality Project, a worldwide organization founded by Nobel Laureate and former United States Vice President Al Gore, is of the view that the South East Asia including India is already facing the effects of climate change and among other issues, deforestation is one of the main reasons for the present state of affairs.
The Assam Tribune got in touch with the Climate Reality Project through Rituraj Phukan, who has been associated with the organization since 2013 and visited both North and South Poles. The organization replied to a host of questions from this newspaper on issues relating to climate change and possible impacts in this part of the globe.
The Assam Tribune: As the Climate Reality Project has been dealing with the issue of climate change, how serious, according to the organization, will be the impact in South East Asia including India in the days to come?
Climate Reality Project: The climate crisis is a global one with potentially dire consequences worldwide if we fail to address it fully and with the urgency it requires.
South East Asia and India are already seeing significant impacts in the form of less reliable and more extreme precipitation. It has resulted in increased heatwaves, rising sea levels, and retreating Himalayan glaciers. Monsoons, which of course recently this summer turned deadly in India and nearby countries, may also become more erratic. That’s not even a fully comprehensive list of the impacts that are already being felt or what’s expected to happen in the future. It’s important to again point out that the extent and severity of future impacts depends on us and how quickly we act to solve this crisis.
AT: Is massive deforestation one of the prime reasons for the present state of affairs?
CRP : Deforestation is a major contributor to the climate crisis along with the burning of fossil fuels and other agriculture and land use activities that result in higher greenhouse gas concentrations. Stopping deforestation and stepping up reforestation and afforestation efforts are important pieces in solving the crisis.
AT: It is reported that the climate in the Arctic regions is changing fast and how it will affect India in the coming days?
CRP: What’s happening in the Arctic will have worldwide impact all over the world, including in India. Land ice in the Arctic is melting and is contributing to global sea level rise. Future sea levels and how fast waters rise will depend largely on how quickly and to what extent that ice melts. That question itself is dependent on the extent of future greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists are also telling us that rapid warming in the Arctic is producing changes in ocean circulations and the jet stream, which affect the placement and speed of movement of storm systems around the globe.
AT: There have been reports that the Himalayan glaciers are shrinking fast. How will it affect India and other parts of the world?
CRP: So many regions of the world depend on glaciers and seasonal meltwater to satisfy their water needs. Fast-melting glaciers can produce altered river flows and even increased flooding risk in the short-term, but water availability may be severely curtailed as glaciers dry up. Changing precipitation patterns and increased water demand because of higher temperatures could exacerbate the problems in India and elsewhere.
AT: Water crisis has become a major issue and it is often said that the Third Word War would be fought over water. What is the opinion of the organization in this regard?
CRP: The climate crisis presents a host of security challenges. We’ve seen the consequences when the natural resources that so many depend on for survival fail or are used up. It can lead to increased competition for dwindling resources and instability and conflict. Water availability or lack thereof could heighten these negative responses, so it makes climate action to curb these negative impacts vitally important.
AT: Parts of India is already facing severe water crisis and the ground water level in many parts of the country is going down. What will be the suggestion of Climate Realty Project to deal with the problem?
CRP: It’s clearly a major concern for farmers, citizens, and officials in India and in other parts of the world. It will take careful planning, coordination, and cooperation to adapt as our climate continues to change. If we’re to avoid the worst impacts from the climate crisis, we’ll have to work together to stem it. On a larger, longer-term scale, local, regional, and national governments have to do all they can to address the climate crisis by raising climate ambition, reducing emissions, and transitioning to a clean energy economy.
AT: What will be the suggestions of the Project to deal with the problem of climate change in India and the Himalayan region?
CRP: It’s increasingly clear that we must act quickly if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. It’s going to take everyone doing their part. That includes governments, businesses, and citizens working together to reduce emissions and speed the global transition to a clean energy economy.