India has its own growth story. It has grown leaps and bounds since liberalization until three years back from today. Amidst the slowdown and unfinished success story, we have significant challenges coming in the following decades. While harnessing the demographic advantage remains a considerable challenge in the next decade, we have a mammoth task to counter for the next three decades. This challenge is 'Climate Change.'
Though gradually, but climate change is now becoming part of debates. In developed countries, leaders like Trump deny any such threat. Recently young climate activist Greta Thunberg thundered "How Dare You?" speech. Then there are countries like India who have taken a pledge to reduce emissions up to 35% of 2005 levels.
Climate Change is an issue that is dealing with an extreme lack of awareness, especially in underdeveloped and developing countries. This article talks about the Indian economy will be affected if we don't stand against climate change today.
The Agricultural Change
How climate change affects agriculture is evident. We have seen this in random spells of droughts and floods. Here is why this happens. Monsoon winds travel from low temperature to high temperature. During summers in India, the temperature starts increasing. On the other hand, there is a low temperature near Australia. Winds start traveling from that colder region to hotter region in India and monsoon rains start after peaking temperature.
When the global temperature starts rising, the colder region near Australia starts getting warmer. This means the temperature difference between the Indian subcontinent and the region will drop. No difference means no winds. No winds mean no rains! No rains would result in long spells of drought and terminally ending agriculture. While India today sees massive unemployment due to policy failure, there will be a huge loss of livelihood for agricultural laborers.
Not just this, global warming would melt the Himalayan snow. This snow holds the water for us during the rains and releases it for us in summers. However, with the end of snow, no water will be trapped. In fact, such a huge quantity of water in rivers would flood the regions around riverbanks. This water, when going into the sea, will only accelerate the already rising sea level.
Not to forget, some of India's largest industrial cities are on the bank of some of the other Himalayan rivers. Delhi (Yamuna), Kanpur (Ganga), Kolkata (Hoogly), Guwahati (Brahmaputra) are just a few names.
Peninsular rivers dry due to drought, Himalayan rivers flooding for some years and then ultimately drought. The economy will take a backseat and survival will become the question.
Talking of floods, there is more than one way it may happen. Today, when water levels rise, we have a line of mangrove forests that make sure the water does not flood the mainland. However, the day when sea-level rise beyond the capacity of mangroves, we will be bound to face the wrath of floods. This means the entire Indian coastline that contributes the most to Indian tourism will flood. This includes Goa, Kerala, Odisha, and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands, which bring most foreign travelers.
Islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep are not just threatened by rising sea levels. Lakshadweep is an island based on coral reefs. Andaman islands also house many of it. When Carbon-dioxide levels increase, they start dissolving more and more in the seawater. It makes the water acidic, ultimately killing the reefs. This means the islands would eventually finish.
Islands are already India's biggest destination for foreign tourists. In fact, the popular medium of travel is through planes. The end of the islands will affect not only tourism but also the aviation industry.
As per the 2019 International Labour Organization report 'Working on a warmer planet: The impact of heat stress on labor productivity and decent work,' the productivity of laborers has already gone down by 2.2%. This has happened because the temperature is rising and days are scorching. This productivity will go down to 6% by 2030. This is just ten years from now! Laborers, especially in construction and agriculture, will be most affected. They have to toil hard in the daytime. Our productivity as a nation will go down directly, affecting the economy.
Every infrastructure we create, we do it as per the condition of a place. In rocky places, we use coal-tar roads while in regions of black soil, we have to use concrete because black soil sinks over time.
Similarly, our infrastructure is resistant to only a certain kind of climate. If it starts changing, our current infrastructure will begin to crumble.
For a starter, concrete expands on heating. Our roads are prepared for current temperatures. When the temperature rises, the concrete will expand more. The road would develop more cracks than often. If you scale this to the entire country, we will have to spend a huge amount, just 'patchworking' this. This is just roads. What about buildings, bridges, steel railway tracks! The cost of maintenance is huge.
What we discussed in labor was mostly rural and underprivileged. What we discussed on infrastructure was generic. However, this climate change will affect us personally, as well.
With increased temperatures, more investment will be needed on cooling infrastructure. Offices would spend less on employees and more on powerful cooling systems. People will be buying ACs before other much-needed requirements. Hence, the demand for electricity will soar and the infrastructure would crumble. We will have to pay huge bills while suffering from frequent outages.
In the digital era, data centers are the new temples. The data centers need a lot of cooling. Industries survive on electricity and no outages. Gradually, industries would start closing down, leaving 'the elites' unemployed.
Climate Change is real. It is just vague to limit the discussions to higher temperatures and rising sea levels. It will directly (read brutally) affect the economy. Loss of livelihoods affects the social structure. Crimes would increase and security will be in peril.
Whatever in the article might look like an exaggeration today, will become a reality if we do not start changing at home. Use ACs as less as possible. Try taking public transport, or at least buy electric or hybrid vehicles. The Government of India has started various initiatives in combating climate change one can associate. We still have time to resist, but no more time to delay.