Bengaluru: Cambridge University Professor Dr Bhaskar Vira, London University Professor Georgina Mace and Malaysian prime minister’s Scientific Adviser Professor Tan Sri Zakri at the Commonwealth Science Conference in Bengaluru on Thursday.
India is likely to experience extreme weather events between now and 2090 as per an estimation by scientists and academics who have compiled a new report, ‘Resilience to Extreme Weather’, which has captured weather patterns across the world.
It could be very severe like the drought that gripped Europe and the United States last year, or the cyclone-hurricane Katrina that walloped the western and southwestern United States in 2005.
The report was released at the Commonwealth Science Conference in the City on Thursday.
Predictions by climate analysts indicate that river basins, especially in the southern parts of Europe, are likely to become more prone to periods of reduced water supply due to climate change.
Stream and river minimum flow levels may be lowered by up to 40 per cent and periods of water deficiency may increase up to 80 per cent due to climate change alone in the Iberian Peninsula, south of France, Italy and the Balkans, European climatologists have warned. Even in the United States, droughts appear to be intensifying over much of the West and Southwest as a result of global warming. Recent droughts in some regions have rivalled the dry spells of the 1930s and 1950s.
About 30 per cent of the contiguous United States was in at least a moderate drought as of November 11, commentators on the US weather have stated. Things have been particularly bad in California, where state officials have approved drastic measures to reduce water consumption.
And at least 1,833 people died in the hurricane Katrina and subsequent floods that hit the United States.
Odisha was cited by experts at the conference as an example of how extreme events can be handled if resilience is built. In 1999, almost 9,000 people were killed across 14 of the state’s districts, while in the 2013 Cyclone Phailin, 21 lives were lost directly and 23 died in the flash floods.
The difference in impacts in 1999 and 2013 proves that resilience through preparedness, early warnings, political commitment and technology works.
Dr Bhaskar Vira of the University of Cambridge, one of the authors of the report, present at the conference, says the risks to people from extreme weather are increasing.
“In India, we have already seen the devastating impact of those sort of events, including earlier this year in Kashmir and last year in Uttarakhand. We have to act now if we are to reduce the impact of future events. We need to use the best of engineering but combine that with approaches that work with nature.”
India is expected to combat droughts, heatwaves and severe cyclones as we go along in the decades ahead. The damage will be severe considering that India has an ageing population, too – a good proportion is above 65 years.
By the end of the century, the combination of climate change and population change could lead to more than 10 times the number of annual heatwaves exposure events currently suffered by people over 65 years of age. The report calls for action at all levels of government – international, national and local, to make society resilient to extreme weather events.