Climate Change reporting is increasing in India: Mr S Gopikrishna Warrier

S. Gopikrishna Warrier
S. Gopikrishna Warrier
published by-September 16, 2014
Themes: Environment

Can you tell us about climate change communication in India - at present and in the past?

S. Gopikrishna Warrier: Climate change communication in India, especially through the media, almost follows the same pattern as with the rest of the world. There is much reporting on climate change before, during and immediately after the annual conference of parties (CoPs) to the Climate Change Convention. This year, since the United Nations Secretary General called for a Climate Summit on 23 September, there was reporting on climate change in the recent weeks. There was also reporting during the release of the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC.
It is not as if there is no climate change reporting in the other periods. There are many local environmental stories that appear in the media. These do not always connect to the climate change, even though they may have implications. This is where improving the understanding of the journalists can help.
In the recent years, especially since the Copenhagen CoP in December 2009, there has been an increased reporting in the media on climate change, than it was before. The younger journalists also have greater access to information on the internet and professional trainings on climate change.

The impacts of climate change can be seen in agriculture, health, biodiversity etc. According to you, what are the pressing concerns for India?

S. Gopikrishna Warrier: Considering the size of the country and the fact that it contains almost all ecosystems, India is exposed to most of the problems that are associated with climate change. The Himalayas are vulnerable to melting glaciers. The glacial melts form lakes and when the natural dam holding the water breaks, there can be glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF), as was the reason for the Uttarakhand floods of June 2013.
The plains in the country are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, such as increased incidence of drought and floods, and extreme temperatures in summer and winter.
However, what is of greatest importance is the impact of changing temperatures on the food production in the country. If the growing conditions were to change in the Gangetic belt, Punjab and Haryana, coastal Andhra Pradesh and the Cauvery delta, there could be serious adverse impact on food production in the country. This is not to say that food production would not be affected in other parts of the country. When the temperature and monsoon patterns change, it will affect food production across the country.

What should be done to address the issues in the policy-making level and how can a common man contribute?

S. Gopikrishna Warrier: To be able to deal with climate change, the most important precondition is to understand how the climate could change and how it would affect a particular location. On a global or regional scale, the scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) give a picture of where the world and India are heading. These indicate that the average temperature will increase above 2 degrees C by 2100 and the sea level will rise by at least half a metre.
However, despite the broader picture being available, the picture focusing on smaller areas, like each of the states and cities is not very clear. Specific action can be initiated only once these nuanced pictures are available.
For the citizen, the only way to contribute towards the mitigation of climate change is to reduce his/her carbon footprint, which is the amount of greenhouse gases emitted through his or her actions. In real terms, that would mean reducing energy use, using public transport whenever possible and saving on the use of natural resources.

Do you think that India should look beyond the ‘Common but Differentiated Responsibilities’ principle and take the lead in developing a low carbon economy?

S. Gopikrishna Warrier: As a principle, the concept of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) is the one that gives equity to developing countries when it comes to climate change. This is a guiding principle in the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change that was developed during the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. Since climate change is caused not only by the present day but also past emissions, the principle of CBDR ensured that the developing countries did not have emission reduction targets in the first reporting phase of the Kyoto Protocol (up to 2008-2012).
Even without agreeing to emission reduction targets, India should work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for climate change will affect the country adversely. India has committed to reduce the emission intensity (amount of GHG emitted per rupee of the GDP) of the economy by 20-25 per cent of the 2005 level by 2020.

How can the issue of climate change induced migration be addressed?

S. Gopikrishna Warrier: If the adverse impacts of climate change make it impossible for people to live in their lands, then climate change migration will happen. The only answer is to promote mitigation at the national, regional and global level, and help communities to adapt at the local level. If communities are enabled to deal with present-day climate vagaries, then the chances are they will be able to deal with climate change in the medium- and long-term

- OneWorld Foundation India