Could 2010 be the hottest year ever?

Posted by: Bittu Sahgal on

I wish some of India's sharper climate scientists and economists would play a more pro-active role on the climate change front. 

From what I have picked up from climate science papers, 2010 may well turn out to be the hottest year on record. People living in mismanaged urban India will discover this to their dismay just as compellingly as those living in deforested rural India. Apart from too much carbon in the atmosphere, this year the heat will be aggravated by two apparently disparate events: 

1. The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the climate pattern that takes place roughly every five years in the tropical Pacific Ocean, is slated to cause global temperatures to rise.

2. According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, a phase of ‘maximum solar activity', following an 11-year cycle, is going to raise our planet's temperature measurably. The combination of these two phenomenon -- on top of the human-triggered climate wobble -- is bound to cause lakes, rivers and soil moisture to evaporate faster. 

FOREST FIRES: We can expect these to burn hotter and more intensively across India in virtually every forest type. Typically, rather than singe the bark of trees, which forest officials know happen routinely, a larger number of trees might actually die. Our forest departments have not been warned, nor equipped to take extra steps to counter this possibility. The impact on our wildlife and our tiger reserves is going to be terrible.

POWER PRODUCTION: The left-right temperature punch will also affect power generation. For instance, the MoEF stipulates the temperature at which cooling water can be released. But if the temperature is higher by 2 degrees C to begin with the only way to avoid releasing lethal (to aquatic organisms) high-temperature water would be to reduce power production by as much as 10 to 15 per cent. 

IRRIGATION & FOOD SUPPLY:Evaporation is going to exaggerate the effect of deforestation-related empty reservoirs this summer. Every city will feel the pinch, as will virtually every hydro-power plant. I seriously doubt that the Agriculture Ministry has given this any real thought. If so, its a well kept secret.
Frankly, I see no evidence at all that the Indian state has woken to this major threat. The question of our making preparations to counter the threat does not even arise. Its time that the PM actually went up on national television and alerted the nation to the threat from climate change.     

Every moment that India delays is going to make the ecological recovery and defence against climate change that much more difficult and much, much more expensive.