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Indian Science Congress: Scientists differ on causes behind climate change

The session saw different voices, some who blamed human interference and others who blamed natural causes.

Written by Anjali Lukose | Mumbai |
January 7, 2015 9:22:36 pm

For the first time in earth’s history, man is responsible for accelerating climate change but the extent of man’s activities on climate change is difficult to pinpoint, believed a majority of scientists during the climate change session at the Indian Science Congress.

The session saw different voices, some who blamed human interference and others who blamed natural causes for climate change on Tuesday. This comes even as the latest Synthesis Report based on findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report says “human influence on climate change is clear”.

“Anthropogenic influence is certainly accelerating climate change, but how much human activity influences climate change is not possible to quantify, unless you can quantify natural variability and its influence on climate change,” said Rajesh Agnihotri, from the Radio and Atmospheric Science Division, National Physical Laboratory, Delhi.

“Problem is that some people believe that everything that happened in the last few decades is because of human interference. Even if we did nothing, increase in carbon dioxide would occur as it has, cyclically, in the past. The problem is that the percentage of carbon has not begun to decrease as per the pattern,” added Dhruvsen Singh, from Centre of Advanced Studies in Geology, University of Lucknow, who added that natural causes, especially solar influence, are much stronger on climate change than anthropogenic causes.

The session at Kavi Kusumagraj Bhasha Sankul auditorium in Mumbai University campus also saw S Rajan, director of National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa, talk on climate change. Rajan held that human interference has had an impact on climate change and steps should be taken to curb our carbon output.

Despite their diverse opinions, all scientists concluded that there needs to be sustainable development, proper coordination between scientists researching climate change and policy makers to control pollution and arrest depletion of natural resources, which are responsible for the 2013 Uttarakhand-like tragedy.

“Unplanned settlement by increasing population in places vacated by rivers and glaciers or in the rivers’ flood plains will have devastating effects like the Uttarakhand tragedy. Rivers cannot accommodate excess water in case of natural events like a cloudburst if there are settlements built in their valleys and flood plains,” said Singh.

Singh reiterated that Coastal Regulation Zone norms are essential to prevent loss of property in case of natural extreme events. He pointed out that the government does not plan properly and artificial dams are constructed in summer without study on fluctuation of discharge of rivers in the monsoon, and this has disastrous effects on settlements around these dams in case of extreme events.

The country does not have a hazardous area map and dilution of CRZ norms, which keep flood prone areas of water bodies out of the development zone, need to be enforced to avoid disasters, believes Singh.

He added that no lessons have been learnt or plans been implemented after the Uttarakhand tragedy. “There is no coordination between scientists researching climate change and policy makers and even less implementation. We are not prepared to handle another similar disaster,” he added.

Meanwhile, Rajan explained how polar region has a major say in climate variability and the glacial melting will result in high rainfall in the tropics. “Glaciers are good indicators as they advance and retreat directly in proportion to temperature. And India is ideally poised to assess the influence of polar region on Indian summer monsoon because of its presence in Antarctica and Artic regions,” he added.

Predicting the Indian summer monsoon trends in the country, Agnihotri said that studies suggest that monsoon activity seems to be weakening in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Kerala, while majority of India, including J& K, Maharashtra, WB, West UP, appears to have strengthening of monsoon activity. Agnihotri added that Marathwada, which is already in the rain-shadow region and has low ground water levels, is going to experience lower monsoon activity. “Perhaps, the government can use interlinking of rivers in the region,” he suggested.

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