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Understanding The Nuances Of Climate Change In The Indian Subcontinent: Impact And Way Forward – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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Understanding the Nuances of Climate Change in the Indian Subcontinent 3

Priyanka Negi

In the context of climate change events across the Indian subcontinent, the IMPRI Center for Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainable Development (CECCSD) at the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, recently presented a transformative event. The six-week immersive online introductory certificate training course, titled “Understanding the Nuances of Climate Change in the Indian Subcontinent: Impact and Way Forward,” unfolded on six consecutive Saturdays, spanning from August 5 to September 9, 2023. The sessions took place from 3 to 5 p.m. IST on the Zoom platform, offering a unique opportunity for individuals from diverse backgrounds to delve into the complexities of climate change, particularly in the Indian subcontinent and South Asia.

The sessions for this event were hosted by Priyanka Negi, researcher at IMPRI who welcomed the organizers, experts & the participants. Under the able chairmanship of Mr. Tikender Singh Panwar, a Senior Fellow at IMPRI and former Deputy Mayor of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, the event was enriched with his vast knowledge and experience in environmental issues. His insightful contributions and leadership set a strong foundation for the program. Dr. Simi Mehta and Dr. Arjun Kumar, the dedicated convenors of this event, played a pivotal role in shaping its structure and ensuring a seamless learning experience for all participants. Their vision and organizational prowess were instrumental in bringing together a diverse group of experts and participants, fostering meaningful discussions on climate change.

The program’s themes covered a wide range of critical topics, providing a holistic understanding of climate change and its implications. The diversity of experts, drawn from various fields, contributed to a rich tapestry of perspectives, fostering meaningful discussions and knowledge exchange. The fragility of the region, with scorching heatwaves, devastating droughts, destructive floods, and formidable cyclones, underscores the urgency of comprehensive climate change education. This collective effort represented a significant step forward in raising awareness and finding solutions to the challenges of climate change in the Indian subcontinent.

This report summarizes day-wise sessions of the six-week immersive online introductory certificate training course, titled “Understanding the Nuances of Climate Change in the Indian Subcontinent: Impact and Way Forward”.

Week 1 | August 5, 2023 | THEME: Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Policy Interventions

The sessions for week 1 of “Understanding the Nuances of Climate Change in the Indian Subcontinent: Impact and Way Forward” were based on the theme- Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Policy Interventions. The week 1 sessions were taken by Mr Soumya Dutta, Prof Vibhuti Patel and Dr Bamadev Sigdel.

The session commenced with opening remarks from the event chair, Mr. Tikender Singh Panwar, a Senior Fellow at IMPRI and former Deputy Mayor of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. He brought into focus the urgency for climate change education and or dialogue now more than ever citing examples from the climate change affected states of Uttarakhand & Himachal Pradesh. He brought into focus the fragility of the Himalayas & the need for policy dialogue towards reshaping perceptions and igniting a fervent commitment to building a more resilient and sustainable future for the region in the face of climate change challenges.

Dr. Bamadev Sigdel, a Visiting Professors of Economics, Program Director, Centre for Policy Studies & Rural Development, Kalimati Kathmandu, Nepal, initiated the first session of the event by providing a comprehensive overview of climate change, highlighting its intricate nature, and emphasizing the global shifts in climate patterns that endure over extended periods. In the context of South Asia, home to a population of around 1.5 billion people, the challenges posed by climate change in the pursuit of sustainable economic growth and poverty alleviation were addressed. Dr. Sigdel underscored the economic, social, and environmental repercussions that climate change could bring, particularly through increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

Climate change’s impact on the South Asian region was further explored, with the focus on countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Maldives. These nations, with varying characteristics, grapple with issues such as flooding, landslides, infrastructural damage, agriculture losses, and disruptions in water and energy supply. He then highlighted the significant economic implications, projecting per capita GDP losses that might surpass the global average. The melting glaciers in the Himalayan region were identified as a stark indicator of climate change’s effects, leading to flooding and water scarcity. He also addressed the shared water resources originating from the Himalayas, recognizing the potential for geopolitical tensions among neighboring countries. 

In summary, the session provided an in-depth understanding of climate change, its repercussions, and the pressing need for sustainable development and regional cooperation in South Asia.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

The second session on “Gender and Climate Change” led by Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Distinguished Professor, IMPRI (Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra); Vice-President, Indian Association of Women Studies (IAWS), shed light on the profound role of women in addressing climate change and the specific challenges they face in the Indian context. Women in many developing nations shoulder significant responsibilities related to environmental tasks, including food and water provision, and are disproportionately impacted by climate change. The session highlighted the adverse effects of climate shifts on women, particularly in terms of food security, which can lead to scarcity and domestic violence. Moreover, it emphasized the importance of empowering women in policy-making processes and addressing gender disparities within key climate change institutions.

The report also delved into the historical struggles of women in environmental activism, such as the “chipko movement” in the Himalayas, and the profound impact of global movements on environmental awareness. It underscored the implications of gender discrimination and climate change on livelihoods, and the pivotal role women play in agricultural activities. The session concluded by emphasizing the need to recognize and address the gendered impacts of climate change to create a sustainable and equitable future amid environmental transformations.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Mr. Soumya Dutta, Co-Convener, South Asian People’s Action on Climate Crisis (SAPACC), New Delhi, led the session on “Contextualizing Climate Change in South Asia with a special focus on its Impact” and provided a comprehensive overview of the climate change challenges faced by the Indian Subcontinent. It emphasized the global origins of climate change and its diverse impacts, particularly the significant warming of the Earth’s surface. The session highlighted the consequences of rising temperatures, including elevated ocean temperatures and wet bulb temperature-related health hazards, which especially affect vulnerable populations engaged in outdoor work. The impact of climate change on agriculture, water scarcity, and the health and well-being of millions across the subcontinent was discussed, along with the economic repercussions, such as coal power plant operations and coastal vulnerabilities. Moreover, the discussion delved into the escalating trends in climate-induced migration, with a focus on the Ganga-Brahmaputra Delta’s fragile ecosystem and the need for a multi-pronged approach to address this pressing issue.

The session concluded by stressing the urgency of government response to climate change’s impacts and the need for proper monitoring and execution of disaster management plans. It highlighted the critical role of the international community, businesses, and industries in addressing climate change through mitigation efforts, adaptation strategies, and sustainable practices. Mr. Soumya Dutta also emphasized the significance of community engagement and education to build awareness and resilience against climate change, promoting sustainable resource utilization, disaster preparedness, and eco-friendly practices. Collaborative efforts at urban and district levels, including sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, water management, coastal resilience, and international collaborations, were underscored as essential for a more climate-conscious and sustainable future.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Week 2 | August 12, 2023 | THEME: Climate Change Assessment and Economic Impact

The first session of week 2 of this event was led by Professor Joyashree Roy, Bangabandhu Chair Professor and Director, Centre on South and South East Asia Multidisciplinary Applied Research Network on Transforming Societies of Global South, AIT School of Environment, Resources and Development, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand . Professor Joyashree Roy’s discourse provides a comprehensive framework for addressing climate change and unlocking economic opportunities in South Asia and beyond. The foundation of her discussion centers on the five forms of capital investment—physical, human, social, natural, and knowledge capital—essential for resilience and sustainable development. She highlights the influence of global commitments and operational frameworks, guiding the way to balanced economic growth and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The concept of the “triple win” pervades her narrative, emphasizing the potential of developmental projects to benefit the environment, society, and the economy, particularly in sectors like energy, industry, and transportation.

A critical focus on renewable energy, electrification, infrastructure, technology, and behavior change underscores the multifaceted approach required for sustainable change across various sectors. Professor Roy advocates for resilience-building in climate-exposed sectors and the foundations of informed decision-making, stressing the importance of partnerships, governance, and reliable data. She also addresses the significance of regional cooperation and the leveraging of global funds to finance climate initiatives. In a world interconnected by climate challenges, Professor Roy’s insights stand as a call to united efforts and cooperation among nations, offering guidance for addressing climate change and advancing sustainable development collectively.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

The second session was led by Dr. Jabir Syed, an accomplished Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at COMSATS University, Islamabad, Pakistan. Dr. Jabir Syed’s session highlights the severe and far-reaching impacts of climate change on Pakistan’s economy, particularly focusing on the vulnerability of its agricultural sector, which serves as the backbone of many livelihoods. The discussion underscores the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, including floods and heatwaves, leading to substantial economic losses. The session emphasizes the urgent need for climate resilience measures, air pollution reduction, and the importance of regional and global collaboration to address the challenges posed by climate change on both national and international levels.

Dr. Syed’s call for collective action and regional cooperation resonates as a crucial response to the global challenge of climate change, transcending borders and mandates for a holistic approach to finding solutions and mitigating its adverse effects.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Professor Nianthi, Professor, Department of Geography, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, took the third session of the week. Professor Rekha Nianthi‘s presentation offered a comprehensive and well-informed exploration of the intricate impacts of climate change on the Indian subcontinent and Asia. She stressed the profound economic consequences faced by these regions, including increased droughts, flooding, agricultural losses, energy demands for cooling, glacier melting, water scarcity, biodiversity changes, health risks, and more. The presentation underscored the urgent need for proactive measures, including both mitigation and adaptation, to mitigate these economic losses and secure a future of sustainable development.

Professor Nianthi’s concluding message served as a powerful call to action, highlighting the essential nature of collaborative efforts at local, regional, and global levels to address climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. She emphasized that this challenge is intricately linked to the economic and social well-being of millions in the Asian region, making it not only an environmental concern but a matter of utmost importance for the prosperity and resilience of Asian nations.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Week 3 | August 19, 2023 | THEME:  Observable Calamities Due to Climate Change

The first session of week 3 featured a discussion on “Reporting Observable Calamities due to Disasters and Climate Change,” led by Mr. Himanshu Shekhar, Senior Editor at NDTV India. Mr. Shekhar began by highlighting recent events related to climate change, including unseasonal rains affecting crop yields and the impact of erratic rainfall patterns on regions like Himachal Pradesh. He discussed how India’s average temperature has risen, leading to increased precipitation extremes and droughts. The rise in sea levels and the frequency of cyclonic storms in the Arabian Sea were also noted.

The discussion touched on the challenges of attributing specific events to climate change and the need for comprehensive, long-term studies to definitively establish the influence of climate change on the monsoon patterns. In conclusion, Mr. Shekhar emphasized the economic consequences of climate-related calamities, particularly in coastal regions, and the importance of robust response strategies and early warning systems to mitigate losses. Overall, the session underscored the urgency of addressing climate change and its far-reaching impacts on the Indian subcontinent.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

The panel discussion on climate change and disasters, led by Prof. Anil K Gupta, Professor & Head, ECDRM; HoD, Director of Projects & Centre of Excellence & International Cooperation, National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), New Delhi, delved into the complexities of climate change in India. Prof. Gupta emphasized that climate change awareness dates back to the early 1980s, with significant awakening occurring in 2007 through the IPCC’s fourth assessment report. He highlighted India’s vast diversity in geography, culture, and the varying levels of awareness and responsiveness among different stakeholders.

The discussion included case studies of climate-related disasters in India, such as landslides, floods, droughts, earthquakes, and cyclones, which have left a significant impact across the country. It also emphasized the need for sustainable development and disaster management that aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The speaker illustrated India’s proactive approach to disaster management, with central and state government ministries formulating specific plans for their sectors to address vulnerabilities and mitigate the impact of various disasters, including those affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services. In conclusion, the speaker mentioned India’s initiatives for the vision of 2047, the year marking 100 years of India’s independence, and the significance of global policies related to climate change and disaster management.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

For the third session on week 3, Dr Reazul Ahsan, Associate Professor, Urban Ecology Program, University of Utah Asia Campus, Incheon, South Korea, discussed climate migration in Bangladesh and provided valuable insights into this complex issue. The discussion commenced with an engaging quiz, drawing the participants into an interactive exploration of climate migration’s implications for marginalized communities. Dr. Ahsan explored the push and pull factors of migration, emphasizing the interplay between economic motivations and the fundamental human instinct for safety and security.

The case study of Bangladesh highlighted the pressing challenges faced by poor and marginalized communities due to climate change. Millions have been displaced, leading to inadequate housing, limited access to clean water, sanitation, and employment opportunities. The discussion emphasized the absence of comprehensive plans and sustainable strategies to address this issue, especially in coastal regions highly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Dr. Ahsan underlined the urgency of addressing climate migration, considering the impact of altered weather patterns and cyclones. He also highlighted Bangladesh’s policies and initiatives aimed at addressing climate challenges and building resilience. 

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

During his discussion, Mr. K J Joy, Founding Member and Senior Fellow, Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM), Pune, brought attention to the pressing matter of how climate change affects water resources, with a specific focus on India.  He emphasized the severity of India’s water crisis, with millions of lives at risk and hundreds of millions facing high to extreme water stress. The consequences of this crisis are dire, with hundreds of thousands of individuals losing their lives due to inadequate access to clean water.

The discussion included a case study highlighting the challenges faced by Bangladesh and other coastal areas due to rising water levels driven by climate change. Mr. Joy also underscored the need to focus on demand management options and the importance of recognizing the significance of gray water, which can be harnessed through recycling and reusing practices. He advocated for a shift in perspective, emphasizing coexistence with nature and championing principles of equity and distributive justice. The discussion concluded with a call for stronger democracy in the water sector to ensure the voices of underprivileged communities are heard and to address conflicts in resource allocation across different sectors. 

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Week 4 | August 26, 2023 | THEME: Climate Justice and Equity

In this discussion led by Ms. Bhargavi S. Rao, Trustee & Senior Fellow, Environment Support Group (ESG), Bengaluru, the critical issue of climate justice and equity in India was brought to the forefront. Dr. Rao highlighted the ambitious climate goals of India and raised concerns about land allocation for renewable energy projects, pointing out how these often bypassed the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act of 2013. These projects frequently impacted marginalized communities, displacing them from sustainable livelihoods and traditional knowledge systems. The discussion emphasized the need for inclusive, sustainable approaches to address climate change’s impact on land and livelihoods.

Dr. Rao’s concluding remarks underscored the negative consequences of displacing rural populations for large-scale renewable energy projects. She advocated for decentralized, eco-friendly energy solutions and the importance of reducing energy consumption. The discussion highlighted the necessity of involving local communities in decision-making and skill development to effectively address climate change while promoting sustainable energy practices.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

In an illuminating discussion by Mr. Arjuna Seneviratna, Board Member, Climate Action Network of South Asia; Development Consultant Energy Forum, Sri Lanka, the intricate relationship between climate change and water resources in Sri Lanka was explored. The discussion touched upon several key issues, including the disruptive impacts of large dams, the consequences of flawed land policies on agriculture, and the challenges faced by upper watersheds due to dam construction. The adverse effects on communities, biodiversity, and the environment were evident, highlighting the imperative for a just transition in managing water resources and addressing climate change, both at a national and regional level.

Mr. Seneviratna emphasized the complexity of hydrosociology and the need for interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle water-related conflicts effectively. He underscored the critical role of women in water management and called for improvements in Integrated Water Management Systems across countries to navigate the intricate challenges presented by climate change and its impact on water resources. This discussion sheds light on the urgent need for collective action and strategic planning to ensure water security and sustainability in the face of climate change.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Mr. Ashish Kothari’s discussion on “Eco Swaraj and Alternative Developments: Towards Rainbow Recovery” explored the multifaceted crises we face today, including the climate crisis and the pandemic, which have led to authoritarian governance and profit-driven corporate interests. Mr. Ashish Kothari is the Founder-member, Kalpavriksh, Pune. He highlighted the need to redefine the concept of development, emphasizing the move toward more sustainable and equitable alternatives. Mr. Kothari discussed resistance movements across South Asian countries, exemplifying cases where marginalized communities are not only opposing ecologically harmful projects but also proposing sustainable solutions. These movements, often led by women and indigenous populations, have successfully revitalized traditional, climate-resilient agriculture and promoted local culture and language, emphasizing self-reliance in basic needs.

The discussion underscored the significance of community conserved areas, community-driven energy solutions, and energy-efficient architectural designs, presenting real examples that go beyond large-scale renewables. It outlined the need for systemic transformation across political, economic, social, cultural, and ecological spheres, embodying the principles of Ecoswaraj or Radical Ecological Democracy. Mr. Kothari advocated for collective action, connecting resistance movements with constructive alternatives and emphasizing local autonomy, direct democracy, and environmental sustainability in governance. This approach not only addresses climate change but also tackles social inequalities, ensuring equitable access to decision-making and benefits for all. It provides a holistic framework for a more just and sustainable future.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Week 5 | September 2, 2023 | THEME: Alternative Energy Solutions

On the week 5 of this course, the first session was led by Dr Aditya Guisain, Principal Environmental Specialist, Environmental Management Centre, Mumbai. Dr. Aditya Gusain’s interactive session on “India’s Transition Journey To Cleaner Energy” provided a comprehensive overview of the pressing need for transitioning to cleaner energy sources and India’s evolving energy landscape. Dr. Gusain adeptly navigated through various aspects of this transition, including the global CO2 emissions scenario, the imperative need for cleaner energy due to climate change and health concerns, and India’s remarkable journey towards renewable and sustainable energy solutions. 

He outlined India’s significant commitments and policies, emphasizing the nation’s ambitious goals to increase non-fossil energy capacity, reduce carbon emissions, and fulfill energy requirements through renewables. Dr. Gusain also highlighted the challenges and opportunities surrounding this transition, including the role of private investments and the potential for job creation in the clean energy sector. Overall, the session provided valuable insights into India’s transition to cleaner energy and its profound impact on the environment, economy, and society. In conclusion, Dr. Gusain’s session left participants well-informed and inspired to contribute to India’s cleaner energy journey.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Mr. Srinivas Krishnaswamy, CEO of Vasudha Foundation, provided a comprehensive overview of India’s progress in energy transition during his session on “The Current State of Play of Energy Transition in India.” He leveraged the ‘India Climate & Energy’ dashboard to showcase India’s performance against its NDC targets, emphasizing the substantial growth in solar capacity and total renewable capacity. The discussion also covered challenges in the power sector, such as DisComs’ hesitance to adopt renewables and payment delays. Moreover, Mr. Krishnaswamy introduced the ‘ Energy Transition Platform’, fostering collaboration among energy practitioners in South Asian countries and offering insights into the transition from fossil to non-fossil fuels. The session underscored the importance of data-driven insights in India’s journey towards a sustainable energy future.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Week 6 | September 9, 2023 | THEME: Just Transition to Sustainable Planet

The first session on week 6 of this course included a presentation by Dr. Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on “Just Transition to Clean Energy: Experiences of Bangladesh.” Dr. Moazzem discussed the concept of a “just transition” in the context of energy transition, emphasizing its importance in addressing the social and economic impacts on communities that rely on energy-related activities. He provided an overview of Bangladesh’s energy consumption, its increasing reliance on imported energy sources, and the rise in carbon emissions.

The presentation highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach to energy transition that considers all economic activities, not just the power sector. Dr. Moazzem discussed Bangladesh’s commitments to reducing carbon emissions in its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and emphasized the necessity for concrete initiatives aligned with these goals. He also addressed challenges, including the resistance to change within public institutions in the energy sector and overambitious energy demand projections that lead to fiscal burdens. The presentation stressed the importance of innovative financing, job creation, and strengthening the domestic renewable energy sector while reducing reliance on fossil fuels in Bangladesh’s journey toward a sustainable energy future.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

In the last session of Online International Monsoon School Program on “Understanding the Nuances of Climate Change in the Indian Subcontinent,” Mr. T K Arun, a senior journalist and columnist, delivered a compelling talk on “A Paradigm Shift in the Climate Discourse.” He challenged the conventional approach to climate change by emphasizing the need to address existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rather than solely focusing on reducing emissions. Mr. Arun questioned why there’s not more effort to turn excess carbon dioxide into an economic asset rather than an externality and highlighted innovative companies that are working on carbon capture and conversion technologies.

The presentation underscored the importance of research and development in discovering new ways to utilize captured carbon dioxide. Mr. Arun discussed the role of artificial intelligence in this process and advocated for considering nuclear power and offshore wind as alternative energy sources. He also raised awareness about the need for restraint in consumption patterns as a complementary approach to combating climate change. In essence, Mr. Arun’s talk called for a paradigm shift in climate discourse, focusing on carbon dioxide removal, innovative solutions, and a holistic approach to building a sustainable future.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Conclusion

The journey through the six weeks of the course was filled with insightful discussions, knowledge sharing, and collaboration. The culmination of this transformative experience is this report, which aims to distill the wealth of knowledge and insights presented during the course into a comprehensive resource.

Climate change is a global challenge that demands our collective attention and action. The insights and expertise shared during this course provide a solid foundation for addressing the complex and interconnected issues related to climate change in the Indian subcontinent. It is our hope that the knowledge generated through this course will serve as a catalyst for informed decision-making, policy formulation, and community action.

All the sessions conducted in this program had an interactive question and answer segment wherein the participants showed their enthusiastic & curious presence. The last session of this 6 week program had a small segment featuring feedback from the participants. The six-week immersive online introductory certificate training course, titled “Understanding the Nuances of Climate Change in the Indian Subcontinent: Impact and Way Forward,” received glowing remarks from the participants.

Acknowledgement: This event report is written by Priyanka Negi, Researcher at IMPRI.

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