Impact of Climate Change
Is the Human Life at a risk of Destruction? Indeed, the rapidly increasing Climate change and global warming is posing a great risk to the very existence of human life. Climate Change is one phenomenon which we cannot dare to ignore as it is growing in a rapid manner which is evident in the many natural disasters worldwide.
OUTCOMES OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Some of the direct outcomes of climate change due to which greenhouse gases effect the hydrological cycle are,
Notable changes in the spreading and increase in precipitation
Increased frequency of droughts.
Depletion of soil moisture and increased transpiration.
Quicker melting of ice glaciers.
The growing increase in heat waves and risk of fires.
Changes in green cover and reduction in plant life due to high temperatures.
A rise in sea levels which causes coastal flooding and loss of wetlands.
Deforestation and increased cyclones.
Changes in the balance between rain and snow.
Changes in management of land resources.
The steady increase in temperature every year is having an impact on water resources, due to which many places are experiencing drought like conditions. Climate, water, rain and energy are closely connected, but the connection is slowly losing its significance due to the rapid increase in climate change.
IMPACT ON WATER RESOURCES
Water is an important requirement of our day to day life, climate change apart from causing much destruction is also affecting the supply of water. The melting of glaciers in cooler places due to the rapid rise in temperatures is resulting in the destabilization of slope and also decrease in the river flows and also affecting the people who depend on glacial fresh water for their daily use. Glaciers and ice caps once melted cannot be revived; many areas depending on glaciers for fresh water are facing severe drought conditions. Global warming is increasing the frequency and occurrence of droughts and forming drought like conditions by increasing evaporation and prolonging the dry summer seasons. There will also be a rapid rise in demand for water for irrigation and agriculture purposes, thereby increasing the scarcity of water.
Global warming like a 2 degrees rise in temperatures worldwide could also increase the occurrences of storms, thereby causing an increase in rainfall, which results in runoff of rainwater which instead of seeping into the ground flows freely, causing flooding of that area, this water cannot be stored and results in low levels of groundwater and ultimately leads to water shortage. In countries like India, ground water is an important source of water for agriculture and drinking purposes, due to the growing population, rising industries, services and rapid urbanization, groundwater which is as it is precious has become an even bigger problem because of climate change, there is a continuous depletion of ground water due to repeated dry spells. Dry seasons tend to be even more dryer and monsoons even wetter, in India the North Western regions like Mumbai and the South Eastern parts like Kolkatta may receive heavy rainfalls if the rise in temperatures prevail.
The increasing urbanization of metro towns is another reason wherein the skyline appears beautiful with glass façade buildings, devoid of greenery and black asphaltic roads, but these very attractive features increase the temperature contributing to global warming. For example the rise in sea levels at an alarming rate (global sea levels are expected to rise up to 2 to 3mm every year) poses a threat to flood the many islands and low lying areas and can cause increased salinity of the water. The salinity of water will contaminate and degrade the quality of groundwater which impacts agriculture and contaminate drinking water which could increase the possibility of outbreak of water borne diseases like cholera and diarrhea.
With the increasing population, there is an increase in demand for water used for agriculture and irrigation, water is a daily necessity for everyone, and with the growing population and urbanization there is an increase in incomes and with people living luxurious lives, there will be an increase in demand for using water for gardening, washing machines, dishwashers, car washing apart from the daily household chores. Water shortage could increase the prices of water, making it difficult to obtain water connections for new offices and homes, this would also put excess burden on the middle class families.
In the agriculture sector, there could be lesser crop yield due to the effects of climate change. For temperature rises up to 0.5 to 1.5 degrees, the crop yield of wheat and maize might reduce and for a temperature rise greater than 2.5 degrees the losses in wheat and rice crop yields in Asia can trim the net agricultural revenues by an increased percentage and also reduce crop production. Water scarcity is going to be a huge hurdle in the near future, as in India which is a country which mostly depends on agriculture in the rural areas and sees an increase in population every year, but the available water is forecasted to be even more in shortage in the coming years. This could even more aggravate the situation if the warm climate continues causing all sorts of hardships for the common man.
Food prices have seen a steep rise all over the world even without climate change but due to the growing population and increasing urbanization. The lack of rains and excessive evaporation will have an impact on the crop yield of rice and wheat the two major foods consumed in India, there will be a fall in production of these two food grains. This phenomena of climate change could put the country’s food security at a risk, and if these conditions prevail in the coming years owing to the low production of rice and wheat, India will have to import more than double the quantity of food grains of what they’re importing now. The increase in importing food grains will also see a sharp rise in the prices of food which will be a severe blow to the community below poverty line.
Diagram showing the effects of Climate Change
Picture Courtesy : USGCRP
The above picture focuses on the changes and conditions which occur as a result of climate change. There is an increase in precipitation and evaporation due to the excessive heat trapped in the atmosphere. When the atmosphere is warm it also tends to hold more water vapor which also traps heat. The diagram also shows the melted glaciers and ice packs, a reduced runoff, lesser rainfall and premature high stream flow. It also shows that there is a decrease in rainfall due to warming temperatures which leads to proportionate increase in evaporation. The frequency and occurrence of severe droughts will increase due to the combination of increased water temperatures, increased usage of water and decreased water flow. Added changes take place like droughts between rains, the gradual decrease in even lighter rains, increased evaporation and temperature and lesser lake ice. Frequent incidents of flooding and deposits and ultimately resulting in excessive runoff are caused due to recurrent rainfalls due to increased precipitation. The existing quantity of water will be reduced due to excessive water required by plants and the quicker evaporation of water. On the whole increased temperatures due to global warming will have a cascading effect on many instances of changes occurring in the hydrological cycle.
In India statistics show a 20% rise in rainfall in most of the states except states like Punjab, Tamilnadu and Rajasthan. The Western Coast and Western Central India are going to witness excesses of maximum and minimum temperatures and precipitation. The per capita availability of water in the coming 20 years is going to drastically fall down, even without considering the increasing temperatures and rapid urbanization, if we predict the per capita water availability considering climate change we’ll be getting alarming results which call for an immediate action against global warming. There has been an alarming increase in glacial melting all over the world due to climate change, the Himalayas could melt down from the current 500,000 sq.km to 100,000 sq.km by 2030 if the current warm conditions prevail. This glacier melting could result in excessive runoff and flooding resulting in lesser ground water, and also could result in excessive flow in rivers like Indus and Brahmaputra which will flood the low lying areas and will effect irrigation and have a cascading effect on the amount of food produced.
Diagram showing women carrying water from long distances
Picture Courtesy : youthkiawaaz
Especially in a country like India were majority of the population is below poverty line and live in rural areas, and most of these people depend on agricluture for their livelihood, climate change can have a huge impact on their quality of lives. As it is many people are facing acute shortage of water even for their daily household chores in addition to safe drinking water, with the added burden caused by the effects of climate change. The impact of climate change on water resources is such that women have to walk long distances to obtain a single pot of drinking water, due to drying up of wells and insufficient rainfall not filling up the water basins. Even in big metro cities people living in the slums have to wait in long queues to fill up a single pot of drinking water from the daily water tanker which visits their area or the hand pump in the corner of a street.
Diagram showing people queuing up for water from a Tanker
Picture Courtesy: Noah Seelam/Agance France-Presse/Getty Images
In India the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) has laid down certain principles to identify the best method to be approved to overcome the difficulties caused by the impact of climate change. Among the many missions identified, the National Water Mission is one such mission which will consider the requirements made by the National Water Policy in developing an agenda for the effective usage of water and increasing water efficiency by using supervisory mechanisms and pricing. The role of the mission is to ensure that they effectively utilize the waste water by recycling to meet the water requirement of people in the urban areas. It also ensures that by using alternative sources of water like implementing newer technologies like desalination of ocean water the water needs of the coastal areas can be met. The National Water Policy will reconsider their policies by considering the changes in river flows and rainfall caused due to climate change, it will also look into increasing the efficiency of the present irrigation systems and try to introduce newer technologies in irrigation apart from drip and sprinkler irrigation systems.
REDUCING THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE:
The only way to reduce the impact of climate change on water resources is by creating awareness, developing new regulations to reduce green house gases, proper planning, research and development and a government which takes proactive action to curb the increase in global warming and green house gases by establishing certain standards and ensure that people follow them. Other than that ensuring that we can use lesser energy by driving less, avoiding the unnecessary use of electricity, using fuel efficient cars, using public transport, car pooling to go to offices, insulating our homes properly, avoiding bottled water and eating less of non vegetarian can help in a big way in reducing the emission of green house gases. Water conservation by using rain water harvesting pits and recycling of waste water is another manner in which we can increase the efficiency of water.
Photo showing drought conditions
Picture Courtesy: Thehindu
Some of the steps that can be taken to minimize the impact of climate change on the hydrological cycle and water resources of any nation are by developing implementable and practical strategies. Proper consideration should be given to consider the effects of climate change while planning and developing any project related to water, agriculture and irrigation purposes. This can be done by selecting suitable designers who give importance to viable designs, properly assessing the resources needed, adapting feasible design practices and codes, implementing efficient irrigation systems and approving effective policies which consider the impacts of climate change by proper drought and flood management.
Some more important steps to be taken to reduce the impact of climate change on water resources can be by doing sufficient research to develop drought resistant crops which will help in reducing the impacts in case of drought, highlighting the effective and proper use of groundwater resources to ensure that every person is aware of the necessity and feel responsible for efficiently using groundwater. The government can make some good and sound investments in projects related to water storage to benefit by storing water when there is a heavy flow in spring and using for lesser flow when required. Using diverse crops, employing better soil use and management practices, making it compulsory for every person constructing a house to construct a rain water harvesting pit and the effective use of water alongwith using drought resistive crops will make a huge difference in reducing most of the impacts of climate change on water resources.
Climate change being such a problem the impact of which is going to have a much bigger negative impact on water resources in the coming years, making it necessary to address this problem at the earliest.should be the immediate priority of the Government. Introducing this as a compulsory lesson in the Environmental Sciences subject in schools and having specialized courses in colleges should be done to create awareness among children at an early stage, as they are the future generation. The government and other concerned Environment Departments should create awareness among the general public by conduting road shows, camps, workshops and also training all government employees, which will make them much more aware as an individual and ultimately help in reducing the impact of Climate Change in all aspects our life.
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