Beware! Climate is changing

Showkat Shafi writes on the International Conference on Climate Change, Glacial recession and Livelihoods to be held from 12-14 October, 2009 in the University of Kashmir. <B...

Showkat Shafi writes on the International Conference on Climate Change, Glacial recession and Livelihoods to be held from 12-14 October, 2009 in the University of Kashmir. 

J&K state is all set  to host International Conference on "Climate Change, Glacial recession and Livelihoods" being jointly organized by the Government of J&K, University of Kashmir and Energy Research Institute (TERI), New Delhi at SKICCC Srinagar  from 12-14 October, 2009.
   The Conference shall suggest a strategic plan that outlines the policies and actions required to be taken by different organizations in the state to mitigate and adapt to the climate change effects . Terming  the forthcoming International Conference on Climate Change an important milestone Prof. Punjabi, Vice-Chancellor of the Kashmir University feels  that there is need for coordinated efforts by the academia, Government and the civil society for developing robust strategies for adapting to the Climate Change. The Conferences is being attended by renowned Climate change experts from national and international institutions besides Mr  Umar Abdullah  Chief Minister J&K state and  Pro chancellor University of Kashmir , Sh Jairam Ramesh  Union minister for environment and Forests and Dr R K Panchuri Director General Energy Research Institute (TERI), New Delhi. 
   The Impacts of Climate Change and climate variability, already evident in the region, are likely to affect different sectors of the economy and environment in our state. It is predicted that the Climate Change shall impact Himalaya's natural resource base including water resources, forestry, agriculture and other associated sectors and thus, putting additional stress on ecological and socio-economic systems in the region believes says Dr. Shakil A Romshoo, Convener of the Working Group on Climate Change Research at the University of Kashmir. It is in this backdrop that the University of Kashmir, Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Energy Research Institute (TERI), New Delhi have joined hands to develop an action plan for launching mitigation and adaptation studies in the region. The strategy shall be discussed at the forthcoming conference.. Various technical, plenary and breakout sessions on climate change science, prediction, impacts, vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation are scheduled during the 3-day conference. The outcome of the conference shall be announced in the form of "Srinagar Declaration" on the concluding day of the Conference.
Mr. R. D. Tiwari, Director SFRI, Govt. of J&K and convener of the Steering Committee constituted by the Government believes that the Conference shall provide a platform to different segments of the society to deliberate on various aspects of climate change in the Himalayas. Noted Glaciologist and Padma Shri Prof. Iqbal Hasnain says that there is an immediate need to tackle the climate change in the region on priority as the Himalayas have tremendous ecological and socio-economic importance for the entire south Asian region.
In order to boast the Climate Change research in the region, theUniversity of Kashmir in collaboration with the UK Met Office has recently initiated a regional experiment on studying impacts of Climate change on different sectors particulars water resources and Ecosystem services. Dr. shakil A Romshoo  who represented KU at UK met office says that  that it is of utmost importance that strategies are developed, on priority, to analyze the uncertainty about the nature and extent of climate change and to assess the likely impacts of the climate change on every sector in the state so that we adapt to the climate change in a phased manner.  Dr  Shakil  A Romshoo Associate Professor  Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, University ofKashmir says that  Climate change will have impacts not only on environment but also on society and economy and adds  that  this  is why Climate Change has been rightly identified as a thrust area of research by global community.
 The potential consequences of the Climate Change have been established beyond any doubt at the global level.  The argument that Climate Change is natural and has nothing to do with the humans is simply not tenable in light of the plethora of research that has been conducted in every nock and corner of the globe over the last few decades.  So, whilst we cannot absolutely exclude natural variability as the cause of global warming over the past few decades, and it may have played some role, it is very unlikely that this will have been the sole reason. The changes in the average global temperature during the last century are larger than can be explained by the natural changes alone, For example 11 of the last 12 years have been hottest since the recording of temperature started in 1850. Looking at the ice cores, the levels of Co2 have been 35% greater than they have been for at least last 0.65 Million years.  From the chemical composition of these gases, we know that this is mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels, production of cement and the widespread burning of forests in the tropics. These results enabled International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to pronounce that "…… most of the observed warming over the past 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations".  IPCC thus concluded that most recent warming, observed globally, is due to man's activities. 
 It is in this backdrop  says Dr Shakil Romshoo   believes that Climate change impacts on different sectors in the state of Jammu and Kashmir are already evident and need to be assessed scientifically for each sector.  He says  that preliminary results from the research carried out in UK suggest that, depending upon the level of future emissions, the average temperature increase in valley, by end of the 21st century, may be between 2 and 3 degree Centigrade. Dr Romshoo who  is also an expert of glacier  retreat studies says that  Glaciers are receding at a faster rate in the state compared to other glacial regions in the world.  Giving details he says  that in  Suru basin alone, we have lost about 16% of glaciers for the last 40 years. Similarly, we have lost 18% of the Kolhai glacier, the main source of drinking water and irrigation in valley, during the same period.  Climate change is likely to affect a number of sectors, particularly irrigated agriculture, horticulture, and hydropower capacity in the state adds Dr  Romshoo .
          Every one is aware of the fact that  valley is experiencing erratic snowfall and hotter summers for the last decade or so.  Climate variability and change of both precipitation and temperature will, therefore, affect livelihoods at both local and regional scale through effects on stream flow. An analysis of the stream flow in most of the upper catchments indicates direct relationship with the climatic variables. Changes in the amount and distribution of snow precipitation have potentially serious implications for the glaciological, hydrological and agriculture processes in the state. Therefore,  Dr Romshoo believes that understanding and assessment of climate change impacts on water resources is critical for water resources planning, hydropower development and protection against flooding.  Further, because of the large differences between the regions in the state, it is necessary to identify the sectors and regions that need more detailed studies. 
          Under the leadership of  our vice chancellor Prof Riyaz Punjabi   we at University of Kashmir,  have identified Climate Change as a thrust area of Research and are seeking collaborations and partnerships with the reputed national institutes like ISRO, DRDO, TERI, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and international institutes including Cambridge University, UK, University of California, USA and Newcastle University, UK, to initiate a long term research program on Climate Change on Kashmir Himalayas. The University of Kashmir has recently formed the Working Group on Climate Change (WG-CCR) that shall suggest a strategic plan that outlines the policies and actions required to be taken by the different organizations in the state to mitigate and adapt to the climate change effects.  A regional Climate Change Model developed by the UK's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research is being setup at the University to predict the future climate change scenarios and their impacts on water resources availability in the state.Similarly, we plan to use regional crop growth model driven by the simulations from the Climate Model to predict the changes in the yields of main agricultural crops under the predicted climate scenarios.  The model is also being used to generate impacts of climate change on vegetation, biodiversity and land use / land cover in the state. It is expected that these collective efforts and research collaborations would contribute to the better understanding of the Climate Change linkages to the local environmental problems and ultimately lead to the development of a strategy to mitigate and adapt the climate change in the region.

(The author can be mailed at showketshafi@yahoo.com)

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