South Asia is alarmingly located at the epicenter of the world’s climate crisis. The region, which is already experiencing a “new climate normal,” is expected to experience harsher weather, more droughts, and longer monsoon seasons as temperatures rise. The area’s extreme susceptibility has been known for a while. In the past 20 years, 750 million people in eight countries, or more than half of all South Asians, have been impacted by one or more climate-related disasters. A further example of the threat that climate change poses to this region, which is home to one-fourth of the world’s population, is the recent catastrophic floods in Pakistan.
Rising sea levels are a problem for a lot of the countries in South Asia. According to IPCC predictions, this increase will cause internal migration and a loss of infrastructure. Recent floods in Pakistan are evidence that this has resulted in enormous losses of lives and property. This year’s monsoon season in Pakistan was not usual.
Nearly all scientists agree that the deluge has the hallmarks of extreme weather events brought on by global warming, even though they cannot yet confirm the extent to which the tragedy has been made worse by climate change. Because Pakistan’s drainage system has not caught the attention of infrastructure designers, swollen rivers inflict additional damage.
Causes of the Climate Crisis in South Asia
South Asian nations made significant advancements in terms of increased economic growth and per capita income over time. Their economies have experienced structural change, with a decline in the percentage of agriculture and an expansion in the service sector and industry.
However, due to the numerous climate-related problems the region is currently facing, such remarkable growth does not necessarily guarantee sustainable development. Infrastructure, human settlements, food security, crop yields, public health, and water quality have all suffered as a result of climate change vulnerability.
Here are some following reasons which are making climate an emergency.
1. Rise in Temperature
The temperature of the sea surface of the Indian Ocean has been increased by 1 degree Celsius. While the average global temperature has increased by 0.7 degrees celsius in recent decades. And, we all know that the more warm temperature, the more it can hold water vapors. And, water vapors increase humidity and subsequent rainfall. It is what is happening in South Asia in recent times.
2. Excessive Rainfall
Again there is the same reason, temperature, which is causing excessive rainfall. This rainfall brings disastrous floods in South Asia. Due to floods, several people get displaced, crops get destroyed, animals die, infrastructure loss happens, and mostly, loss of human lives occurs.
3. Jet stream Meandering
The jet streams usually don’t flow in straight paths rather they flow through alternating ridges and troughs. They are like rivers of wind that flow in the atmosphere. These strips of strong winds have a great influence on climate.
They even can affect weather patterns. Due to global warming, they flow in a meander ( curvy path) pathway. Moreover, they change atmospheric circulation by mixing cold polar air with hot tropic air. Consequently, extreme weather events occur.
The Impacts of the Climate Crisis
Afghanistan has experienced almost 1.8 degrees Celsius increase since 1950. This much change in temperature can lead to a huge drought which can cause collateral damage and property loss. Moreover, Afghanistan can face land degradation and desertification in the near future.
Bangladesh is vulnerable to climate change because of its socioeconomic, overpopulation, and geographical factors. Its geographical factors include delta-exposed and low-lying topography. According to ADB, Bangladesh may face a loss in GDP by 2050 because of the climate crisis.
Because of the climate crisis, Bhutan is facing the melting of glaciers. It can cause next-level floods outbursted by glaciers. And, subsequently, property damage, human loss, and internal and external displacement can occur on large scale.
Tibetan Plateau is facing a continuous temperature rise, that is causing Himalayan glaciers to retreat on large scale. It is threatening the flow rate of rivers like Yamuna, Ganga, Brahmaputra, and others. Moreover, heatwave frequency is increasing which indicates floods. Several landslides are also proof of climate change.
There is a large number of islands in the Maldives. Some of them are low-lying and are more prone to damage because of climate change. Predictions suggest that Maldives will become uninhabitable by 2050 if proper measures could not be taken to contain climate change.
In Nepal, climate change has caused greater variations in extreme weather events. The drought which resulted in a number of wildfires in 2016, was proof of this.
Increases in heatwave frequency and thawing of Himalayan glaciers have impacted some of the major rivers of Pakistan. From 1999 to 2018, Pakistan has been the 5th most affected country by climate change in the world. Currently, Pakistan is experiencing a serious climate disaster as we have seen floods in the monsoon season.
8. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is also one of those countries that are experiencing extreme weather events, in recent decades. Droughts and floods are proof of this. Sri Lanka is prone to climate change because of its social, political, and geographical factors. The impacts of climate change are expected to damage its most important sectors. These sectors include commercial, tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing.
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Way Forward for Climate Crisis
Countries have not been able to fully harness the potential of past initiatives to promote regional cooperation. Cross-border tensions and the ineffectiveness of regional frameworks like SAARC are preventing advancement in environmental research and policy. An exceptional opportunity to concentrate on a green recovery and quicken the switch to more sustainable systems has been provided by the disruptive forces of climate change and the global public health crises working together.
When it comes to fostering regional cooperation in South Asia, the aforementioned actions can be very helpful. With regional stability at stake, South Asian countries need to address climate change fast, and there are several methods to do this.
By heavily investing in resilient infrastructure and reorganizing their industries around cleaner energy, South Asian nations have a unique opportunity to adapt to and reduce climate change while they recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.