by Zakia Qurashi
SRINAGAR: Earth is warming at a faster pace. By 2041, the world will witness the average temperature improving by 1.5 degrees Celsius, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said it in its new bleak forecast in its report Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.
Given the fact that Kashmir has already emerged as the crucible for the climatic change, the indications suggest most of the glacier cover will suffer serious damage.
Authored by 234 scientists, and spread on almost 4000 pages, the report paints a grim picture of the time to come. Earlier, the Paris Climate Agreement adopted by the world countries had set the goal of limiting global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial levels. However, the latest reports suggest that the threshold would be breached within the coming twenty years.
The report while talking about the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region has alarmed the people about the rate of shrinkage of glaciers. The sixth assessment report has also projected an increase in precipitation over the Himalayas and across India if the current trends continue with freezing levels in the mountainous regions likely to undergo change.
The report has also predicted that once in a decade weather events are now 1.3 times more likely to happen.
Recently appointed Vice-Chancellor to the Islamic University of Science and Technology and the former head of the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Kashmir, Professor Shakeel Romshoo said that mountainous regions are most transitive to increase in temperature.
“The temperatures, particularly in the northern hemisphere, have warmed by 0.9 degrees Celsius while the rate of global warming in the Himalayas is 1.2 to 1.3 degrees,” Ramshoo said. “It is greater than the world average.”
The earth scientist said that Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, had nearly 15000 glaciers, some even as long as sixty kilometres. “They are the most important resource.”
“The IPCC report has given special attention to the Himalayan glaciers, how they are melting because of global warming. We will have a lot of implications because of the increase in temperatures on water resources and snow,” Romshoo asserted.
Terming mountains as very fragile systems and more susceptible to global warming of temperatures, he said, “If it would take 20 years for the temperature to rise by 1.5 degrees, it would take less than that in mountains because of their sensitivity.”
While Jammu and Kashmir and the larger Himalayan belt is devoid of any industries which are the main source of greenhouse gas emissions, Dr Romshoo said that despite not being a major contributor, the region will face the maximum brunt of it.
“Locally, some activities may contribute towards it, for example, the number of cars running on the roads, biomass burning etc. but that is very minuscule when studied in the larger context,” he said.
Calling it a global phenomenon, he said that action has to be global as well.
“But that does not absolve us of local action. Local actions will pave the way for global actions. In that sense, a massive afforestation programme is needed, so that more and more trees are able to sequester the carbon from the atmosphere,” explained Romshoo.
In Autumn, Kashmir sees a lot of biomass burning leading up to winters, Romshoo emphasized the need for more environment-friendly ways to be introduced.
“In North America and Europe, there are also a lot of apple orchards. Unlike us, they don’t burn the pruned twigs etc. They convert them into wood pellets. We could make use of those pellets in our hamams during winters, which could also save our trees from being felled,” he suggested.
Similarly, if the government is able to provide an efficient public transport system, which can reduce the number of cars on road, would also lessen the emissions to a certain extent.
In 2019, the administration had introduced eco-friendly electric buses for Srinagar and Jammu. Even though the buses received positive responses from experts and people alike, they have been unable to cater to such a huge demographic.
While many people in Kashmir have started shifting from paddy to horticulture, owing to better yield and profit, Romshoo believed that the impact of changing temperatures won’t be that fast. Because, you don’t need that much water for orchards as compared to paddy,” he said.
“However, Pakistan being mostly downstream with 85% of their agricultural lands being irrigated by waters emanating from Jammu and Kashmir might face a grave threat,” Ramshoo warned. “But it is a matter of time when we would also be adversely impacted.”