At a recent meet of climate change communicators in Kathmandu, a documentary film called ‘A Degree of Concern’ by Syed Fayaz got the attendees talking animatedly. The film made in the last decade, projected a scenario in a distant future when one degree rise in temperature would play havoc with the glaciers, make agriculture unsustainable and, in short, impact every aspect of our life. It ended with an ominous and alarming warning: “Just one degree”. Though cinema-wise sound, the foremost criticism for the film was its poor scientific assumption — it relied on a baseline data of just three years, in which the temperatures in the freeze zones of upper Himalayas was found to be fluctuating increasing by two degrees every year. That was the basic flaw — a poor baseline.
Today, a media report quoting an upcoming paper in the Indian science journal Current Science says the temperature rise scenario isn’t far away. It is just around the corner — by 2030 — and the predicted rise in temperature, primarily due to green house gas emissions, is not one degree but somewhere between 1.7 to 2 degrees! Now that comes as a real alarm. The scientists, including lead author R K Chaturvedi say they have arrived at the conclusion through an average of 18 climate models with a smaller margin of error. This kind of rise will actually be quite severe — N H Ravindranath, a professor at the Centre for Sustainable Technologies and Centre for Ecological Science at IISc and co-author is quoted as saying.
Such temperature rise will make Northern India unbearably hot — as of now the heat wave in peak summers kills many and pushes groundwater levels further down. In northeast India, Arunachal Pradesh will be the worst hit, according to the report.
S K Dash, head of the department of Centre for Atmospheric Sciences at IIT Delhi, quoted in the same report, has been studying regional temperature rises for a long time now. He said in a phone chat that there are a number of open source models predicting temperature rise scenarios across the world and it is possible to collate them and arrive at a figure. He is, however, willing to wait till the scientific paper is out to make a comment one way or the other on the veracity of these findings.
On its own, IIT Delhi is currently undertaking what it calls regional climate modelling (RegCM) to be able to project a future scenario till 2100. “We have studied the temperature rise scene up to the year 2003 and found that in the 100 years preceding it, the rise has been about 1.2 degrees,” he said.
Dash is cautious in making any further remark — and he makes the right scientific query: what is the baseline for this new study? Since when has the data been measured?
Like him, we shall wait for the Current Science paper. It would be interesting to see the climate models used for this study.