India faces a major climate change challenge. During the last century, India’s average temperature increased by around 0.7°C (1901–2018), largely on account of anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission-induced warming (see mitigation profile of India under section B.1, as well as discussions under section B.2). By the end of the twenty-ﬁrst century, these temperatures are projected to rise by approximately 2.4°C to 4.7°C1. Extreme weather events and natural hazards will increase in frequency and severity in the coming decade, putting pressure on the country’s critical natural resources such as water, damaging infrastructure and threatening livelihoods of its population (see climate impact trends in section B.1). In the absence of rapid and far-reaching mitigation and adaptation measures, the impacts of climate change are likely to pose challenges to the country’s economic development – India can lose the equivalent of 1.8% of GDP by 2050.
In 2014, India emitted 2,607,488.12 Gg of CO2e (2,607.49 million tonne of CO2e) greenhouse gases from Energy, Industrial Process (IPPU), Agriculture and Waste sectors. Of this, the Energy sector contributed the most with 1,909 CO2e MT followed by the Agriculture sector 417.2 CO2e MT, IPPU – 202.3 CO2e MT, and the sector Waste with 78.2 CO2e MT. Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities remained a net sink in 2014. Considering emissions and removals from LULUCF activities, net emissions were 2,306,295.43 Gg of CO2e. See summary below on detailed breakdown of emissions.
The increasing trend has been also observed in 2018 (2,993 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF) and is projected to persist until 2030 to grow emissions to 4,382-4,478 MtCO2e as indicated in table B1.1. It is noteworthy, that B.1.1 projections are based on current policy projections of a target of (1) 40% share for non-fossil generation as a share of cumulative power generation capacity and (2) target of 33% to 35% below its 2005 emissions intensity of GDP9. Even with these ambitious targets, the numbers indicate 46–50% increase in emissions from 2010 levels by 2020 and a more than doubling of 2010 levels by 2030.
Climate Change trends and impacts
India is ranked 5th in Global Climate Risk Index; with climate change affecting the country’s 1.5 billion population among which 30% are below the poverty line. The section below briefly summarizes the key climate change trends, while also analyzing its impacts on the water and energy sector given its relevance to the proposed programme.
Increase in the summer monsoon mean rainfall from 6% to 8% under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5.
Increased frequency of heavy rain occurrences and variability.
At 4.4 °C an extremely wet monsoon that currently has a chance of occurring only once in 100 years is projected to occur every 10 years by the end of the century.
The effect of increased temperatures will result in further thermal expansion of seawater and the melting of glaciers (especially in the Himalayas).
Storms, heat waves, droughts, cyclones and floods are predicted to increase both in frequency as well as intensity under future climate change scenarios, resulting in considerable losses and damages to infrastructure, as well as loss of life.
Increase in temperature and intensification of hydrological cycles is expected to result in water stress, affecting the supply of ground and surface water.
Further, climate change is expected to impact water quality as well as water variability.
Hotter temperatures are likely to increase energy demand due to increased air conditioning requirements & consequently increase GHG emissions given India’s energy mix.
Extreme climate events can damage infrastructure and disrupt livelihoods.
- Increased Temperature: The annual mean near-surface air temperature over India has warmed by around
0.7 °C during 1901–2018, with the post-1950 temperature rise attributable largely to anthropogenic GHG, aerosol radiative forcing and changes in land use and land cover (LULC). The mean temperature rise over India by the end of the twenty-ﬁrst century is projected to be in the range of 2.4–4.4 °C across greenhouse gas warming scenarios relative to the average temperature over 1976–2005.There is however an increasing evidence suggesting a 4.71 °C ( ± 0.35 °C) warming for annual mean of daily minimum surface air temperature by the end of the twenty-ﬁrst century under RCP8.5 scenario; These studies are deemed as highly reliable as it is associated with the lowest uncertainty (of 7.4%).11 By the end of the twenty-ﬁrst century, the frequencies of occurrence of warm days and warm nights are projected to increase by 55% and 70%, respectively, relative to the reference period 1976-2005, under the RCP8.5 scenario. The frequency of summer (April–June) heat waves over India is projected to be 3 to 4 times higher by the end of the twenty-ﬁrst century under the RCP8.5 scenario, as compared to the 1976–2005 baseline period. Already in 2018, temperatures in India reached as high as 50°C. The average duration of heat wave events is also projected to approximately double. India is particularly vulnerable to extreme heat due to low per capita income, social inequality and a heavy reliance on agriculture. Thus far, the worst hit regions have also been among India’s poorest. A study by the International Labour Organization concludes that by 2030, India could lose 5.8% of its working hours due to heat stress (equivalent of 34 million jobs).
- Shifts in precipitation patterns: The summer monsoon precipitation (June to September) over India has declined by around 6% from 1951 to 2015, with notable decreases over the Indo-Gangetic Plains and the Western Ghats. Multiple date sets and climate models suggest that the radiative effects of anthropogenic aerosol forcing over the Northern Hemisphere have considerably offset the expected precipitation increase
from GHG warming and contributed to the observed decline in summer monsoon precipitation. There has been a shift in the recent period toward more frequent dry spells (27% higher during 1981–2011 relative to 1951– 1980) and more intense wet spells during the summer monsoon season. The frequency of daily precipitation extremes with rainfall intensities exceeding 150 mm per day increased by about 75% during 1950–2015. Urbanization and other land use, as well as aerosols, likely contributed to these localized heavy rainfall occurrences. During 21st century, climate models project an increase in summer monsoon mean rainfall (6-8% under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 respectively) as well as increased frequency of heavy rain occurrences over most parts of India. The interannual variability of summer monsoon rainfall is projected to increase too. Such change patterns are expected to trigger much more severe and longer droughts as well as greater flooding in large parts of India that can disrupt livelihoods, infrastructure and adversely impact water availability in India.
- Increased hydrological variability: Increasing temperature in India has resulted in further thermal expansion of sea and glacier temperatures. Sea surface temperature (SST) of the tropical Indian Ocean has risen by 1°C on average during 1951–2015, markedly higher than the global average SST warming of 0.7°C, over the same Ocean heat content in the upper 700 m (OHC700) of the tropical Indian Ocean has also exhibited an increasing trend over the past six decades (1955–2015), with the past two decades (1998–2015) having witnessed a notably abrupt rise. During the twenty-ﬁrst century, SST and ocean heat content in the tropical Indian Ocean are projected to continue to rise by 1.2-1.6 °C under RCP 4.5 scenario and by 1.6-2.7°C under RC 8.5 scenario. In similar manner, the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) experienced a temperature rise of about 1.3°C during 1951–2014. Several areas of HKH have experienced a declining trend in snowfall and also a retreat of glaciers in recent decades. Melting glaciers and the loss of snow cover over the Himalayas are expected to threaten the stability and reliability of northern India’s primarily glacier-fed rivers, particularly the Indus and the Brahmaputra. By the end of the twenty-ﬁrst century, the annual mean surface temperature over HKH is projected to increase by about 2.8°C under RCP 4.5 and 5.2°C under the RCP 8.5.
- Extreme Weather Events: Consequences of current warming in India already manifested in recurrent extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, glacial regression, cyclones, and heat waves that put a heavy toll on both life, infrastructure and adversely affects the country’s economic For example, the Kerala floods of 2018 — the worst in 100 years —took 324 lives, damaged 20,000 houses and 80 dams. 20,000 people were forced to migrate. India suffered an economic loss of $37 billion only in 2018, which is nearly 50% of what India lost in ($79.5 billion) between 1998-2017. It is noteworthy, that 65% of India’s landscape is drought prone, 12% is flood prone, and 8% is susceptible to cyclones, The future projections of regional as well as global climate models indicate a high likelihood of an increase in frequency, intensity and impact area of extreme weather events under both RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 scenarios12.
Water and Energy sector are currently one of the most sensitive sectors impacted by rapid temperature warming, changes in increased hydrological variability and extreme weather events:
- Water Sector: The impact of climate change on the availability of fresh water is a key area of concern for India. Water availability in India is largely dependent on precipitation, glaciers and snow melt and ground water abstraction. The growing propensity for droughts13and ﬂoods because of changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change would be detrimental to surface and groundwater recharge, posing threats to the country’s water security. It is noteworthy, that already in 2016 (April/May), the groundwater level data for the pre-monsoonal period (April/May 2016), indicates a decline of 65% in the groundwater level, up to 2 meters. As noted above, Himalayan glaciers, which form the main source of water for Indus and Brahmaputra rivers, will continue to retreat, diminishing flows of the aforementioned rivers and leading to severe water shortages14. Rising sea levels will lead to salt intrusion into coastal fresh water sources, thus threatening water availability as well as quality15. With socio-economic development and the increasing population, the demand for
is likely to increase while water availability is impacted by climate change16. The per capita availability of freshwater in India is expected to drop from around 1,545 Cubic Meters (2011 data) to below 1,000 cubic meters by 2050 as a result of the combined effects of climate change and population growth.
- Emissions from Energy sector and Impact on Infrastructure: Rising temperatures will increase energy demand for space cooling, which if met by thermal power would contribute further to global warming by increasing GHG emissions. Warmer air and water temperatures may decrease the efficiency of nuclear and thermal power plant generation in India, which require substantial amounts for water for cooling to generate Increased demand for water by power plants would directly compete with water withdrawal for agriculture and domestic consumption, particularly in water stressed areas of India. Extreme climate events such as heavy rain and floods, may damage critical energy infrastructure17and thus impact reliability of the country’s energy infrastructure and supply.
It is noteworthy, that India’s long coastline, where some of its largest cities are located, is among the most densely populated regions of the planet, making it vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise. Potential coastal risks include loss of land due to increased erosion, damage to coastal projects and infrastructure such as buildings, roads, monuments, and power plants, salinization of freshwater supplies and a heightened vulnerability to ﬂooding. Higher sea levels and receding coastlines escalate the destructive potential of storm surge associated with cyclonic storms. These impacts of sea-level rise may be additionally compounded by land subsidence occurring in parts of the country due to factors such as the declining water table depth.