THE HEAT IS ON
08, Apr 2019
Prelims level : Environment Mains level : General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management
Why in news?
- Local administrators must draw up plans to address heat stress and possible water scarcity.
- The monsoon, which normally sets in between June 1 and July 15 across the country, turn out to be deficient, it will add to the pressures on rural employment and the economy as a whole.
- Things may become clearer when the India Meteorological Department also issues its forecast, although error margins and the erratic nature of rainfall in different regions render the exercise fraught with uncertainty. Last year, for instance, the realisation of rainfall was 91% of the long-term average, while the prediction was for 97%. More immediately, India will go to the polls in the peak of summer after an intensive campaign.
- It is the responsibility of State administrations to prepare for the likelihood of a heat spike, particularly during April and May, to prevent loss of life and extreme distress to communities.
- Official agencies and NGOs should start adopting the drill on this, using the template drawn up by the National Disaster Management Authority.
Protection in heat waves:
- The key elements of protection in a heat wave are avoiding exposure during the hottest part of the day around noon, especially in the case of senior citizens, staying adequately hydrated, wearing suitable clothing including headgear, and creating shade in public places. These messages and weather alerts can be disseminated through television, mobile phone messaging and social media platforms.
- Urban local bodies in particular have a responsibility to care for the large number of vulnerable city dwellers. Yet, few cities have drawn up proper heat action plans to respond to extreme weather or made them public. During the current year, there is apprehension that the focus of administrators will mainly be on the conduct of the elections, relegating the public health risk of heat waves to the backburner.
- National Commission on Farmers suggested the wider adoption of both rain water harvesting and aquifer recharge, in order to provide irrigation for small farmers.
why climate change?
The atmosphere is warming.
- CO2 traps infrared leaving the Earth, increasing the temperature of the atmosphere. Methane also traps infrared, in much higher amounts than CO2 but dissipates from the atmosphere much faster.
- Humans have increased the parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere by 67% in the past couple of hundred years.
- If CO2 and methane double (which we are closing in on), that locks in 1.0 to 1.2 degrees Celsius.
- There is a feedback factor with water vapour. More warmth in the atmosphere means more water vapour and water vapour traps even more heat. If CO2 and methane double once again, closing in on this then the feedback with water vapour results in an additional 1.6 degrees of warming. There’s a small range of uncertainty around that and it means we are currently on track for 2.6 to 2.8 degrees of warming if action isn’t taken just from CO2, methane and water vapour.
- There is a feedback factor with clouds which has a wider range of possible results in the models, from 0.3 degrees to 1.1 degrees with 0.7 degrees being the median. That cloud feedback will increase warming is 100% settled, but the range of the feedback is of lower certainty. That adds up to 2.9 to 3.9 degrees of warming as a range.
- There is a median likelihood, given the above, of one meter of sea level rise if we merely stopped adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere extremely rapidly. There’s a fair amount of variance on this, almost all of which is on the really bad side, with news every day of new ice shelves dropping into the sea and feedback effects eliminating more ice currently on land much more rapidly than expected. The science on sea level rise certainly isn’t settled except for one part: there is 100% certainly that the sea will rise substantially, it’s just a question of whether it’s a meter or several meters and whether it’s in 80 years or 150 years.
- Extreme weather events will increase. That means more droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, monsoons, floods and the like. That’s 100% certain. The degree of increase and the actual numbers vary widely. Where the impacts will be most felt varies substantially. The degree of impact is not settled, but the basics are.
- The impact on species, humans, disease spread and the like is almost entirely negative due to the rapidity of change. How severe the impacts will be and where they will be felt specifically has much greater variance.