Climate change is a substantial issue we have been facing for decades and it is becoming an ever more pressing concern. We have all heard about it, but what is climate change, and what kind of consequences do we have to face?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes climate change as “a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity, that alters the composition of the global atmosphere, and that is in addition to natural climate variability over comparable time periods.”

Climate change will lead to a variety of impacts on the planet, humans’ lifestyle, and the global economy. The repercussions are huge: a shortage of drinking water, an increase in mortality, changes in food production due to flooding, storms, droughts, and heatwaves.

The least developed countries are likely be the ones that will have to face the most unpleasant and unfortunate consequences of climate change due to their limited resources to deal with its effects. For the same reason, people who are marginalised in social, economic, political, and institutional contexts are considered to be the most vulnerable to climate change.

In 2001, the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported several examples of climate change and its impacts. On average, temperatures increased by roughly 0.6° during the 20th century, and sea levels rose by 10 to 12 centimetres due to melting icecaps. The last report of the IPCC (2021) shows that human influence is probably the principal culprit in glacial retreat across the world since the ‘90s, and the reduction in Arctic Sea ice area between 1979–1988 and 2010–2019.

Even though climate change is a phenomenon that is affecting the whole world, the emphasis must be put on South Asia. South Asia is a region of 8 countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives. This area was rated one of most affected by climate change between 1996 and 2015. Due to a combination of geographical components such as its low-lying topography, its substantial population size, and its levels of poverty, South Asia is considered to be especially vulnerable to climate change. A rise in sea levels, an increase in temperature, precipitations, and hurricanes were reported to have impacted this area.  

Concerning the local temperatures, the IPCC predicts that average temperatures in this area may be increased by 3.3° before the end of the century, this figure could fluctuate between 2.6° and 6.1°. Additionally, another major consequence of climate change is related to water. Not only did the sea level rise by 3.1 mm per year from 1993 to 2003, but it is predicted that by the year 2100 they may have risen by one metre. Rising sea levels have many implications. The low-lying islands in the Sundarbans have been submerged by the sea. Unless action is taken it is predicted that the cities of Thatta and Badin in the Sindh province of Pakistan will be under water in just 40 years. In this area is reported that seawater submerges, on average, 80 acres of land each day. It seems that a tremendous number of people will face the dire consequences of rising sea levels. By 2050, the land currently home to around 150 million people will be under the sea at high tide, and the land home to 300 million people will be flooded at least once every year ‘unless carbon emissions are cut significantly and costal defences strengthened’ according to a study published in Nature Communications.

Local people’s lives and livelihoods are threatened. The Bangladeshi coast is at risk of being submerged by seawater which would be a catastrophe for its population, 50% of whom rely on agriculture, especially rice.

In India, due to global warming and the consequent rise of sea levels, millions of people might need to relocate due to the high risk of submersion of Mumbai and Chennai. India could see a 9% decline in GDP due to a change of rice growing seasons decreasing yield by 40%. The cost of everyday products and services like healthcare is also likely to increase.

To stop the devastating impacts of climate change in South Asia and around the world, a concerted and committed effort is required to cut carbon emissions dramatically.

Credits – Nuvola Massignan

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