Future climate changes

CHENNAI: Chennai, it appears, is yet to warm up to the climate change discourse that the rest of the world is critically engaged in.

If the proceedings of a public online chat with experts on global warming conducted by the Directorate of Environment on Wednesday are anything to go by, levels of awareness are still very low.

So much so that both the Regional Meteorological Centre and the Tamil Nadu State Council for Science and Technology are now thinking in terms of a comprehensive awareness drive, starting with school children.

The most common doubts were over the sea level rise, coastal vulnerability and deforestation.

“Most of those who came online were inclined to blame the government rather than own up individual responsibility. Not that there is a need to press the panic button, but we need to be on guard as we too would be vulnerable if Bangladesh is affected. Sea levels along the Tamil Nadu coastline are likely to rise by 0.8 metres over a period of time, leading to the possible submersion of a few islands around Chennai,” says S.R. Ramanan, Director, Cyclone Warning Centre, who responded to questions on the chat.

Though the fourth annual report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), convened by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation, indicates that India would be one of the countries likely to be worst affected by climate change, not much attention has been focussed on peninsular India, leading to a sense of complacency, environmental analysts say. The draft national policy on climate change, which is being put together by the National Council for Climate Change, needs to factor in more of the southern landmass as the fragile and porous coastline is imminently vulnerable to erosion and inundation, they aver.

Imagine this: the rising sea level claiming a substantial landmass around Adyar river, an increased high tide line, the Marina coastline getting submerged by about one metre to three metres, causing the seawater to enter land, while elsewhere large tracts of lands become deserts.

“One of the characteristics of climate change is that it will hasten evaporation and evapotranspiration of surface water (thus drying out water-scarce areas) and increase water levels in areas where there is more water (thus leading to submerging and inundation of land) If the Marina coastline sinks by even one km, it could be potential disaster,” says M. Karmegam, former director, Centre for Water Resources, Anna University.

Awareness and affirmative action are critical.

Tamil Nadu faces the threat of climate change and its impacts. Available evidence shows that there is high probability of increase in the frequency and intensity of climate related natural hazards due to climate change and hence increase in potential threat due to climate change related natural disasters In the (relative) absence of state level climate models and/or vulnerability studies, as well low community awareness, Tamil Nadu is potentially highly sensitive and vulnerable to climate change and its impacts.