Commodityonline: When Gondi Sri Lakshmi Hari Vara Prasada Rao submitted his Ph.D. thesis in 1970′s, there were references to climate change in it. “At that time, I was laughing with in me…climate change…Nobody had heard of it, let alone referred to it.”
Now after four decades, GSLHV Prasada Rao Ph.D is the Special Officer, Academy of Climate Change Education and Research (ACCER) one of the bright spots in the fight against climate change. ACCER is run by the Kerala Agriculture University in South India.
In a chat with Rakesh Neelakandan of Commodity Online, Rao expressed the view that India requires a Ministry for Climate Change. He spoke about how climate variability and not climate change is affecting crops, how climate change effects can be mitigated by small but concrete steps in crop management among many other things. Excerpts:
CO: Can the terms climate change and global warming used interchangeably?
PR: First of all, it is global warming and climate change and not climate change and global warming. Because of global warming there is likely to be changes in weather systems. Once it is there for a long-term, it is climate change.
CO: How climate change affects crops and crop prices?
PR: Climate change is having indirect effect on crops. It is not the climate change that affects crops. It is climate variability. Climate variability is short-term while climate change is long term. Climate change is referred to as any significant change in climatic parameters like temperature and rain fall in any given period with reference to long period averages: the thirty years between 1961 and 1990(which is fixed by the IPCC).
But, climate variability is a short-term change; may be seasonal, may be annual. It can prove to be more dangerous to crops.
We may conclude that climate change is fuelling climate variability affecting the crops which in turn affect the prices.
CO: So what keep the scientists occupied…?
PR: Global warming is likely to impact the atmospheric process. That keeps the scientists worried. Whether the one degree Celsius rise is likely to change the atmospheric process in terms of monsoon uncertainties, heavy cyclones, floods, droughts, heat waves, cold waves, cloud bursts…scientists are worried about them.
Additionally, the frequency of the ravages is likely to increase according to climate model outputs.
CO: How modelling is employed in climate change studies?
PR: Impact analysis of climate change on crops is done through modelling. The parameters in the form of increase in temperature, increase in carbon-di-oxide etc. are provided as inputs into the models. It is a simulation exercise.
When there is increase in temperature, increase in CO2 levels beyond certain optimum levels, they are likely to have adverse effects. This is generally projected as decline in yields. This is irrespective of temperate or tropical regions.
But, because of climate change, if one speaks of crops, that is a question mark. After all, it is modelling only.
CO: How can we mitigate the effects of climate change?
PR: In 2004, due to hydrological drought, black pepper vines in Wayanad were wiped out. There was no water in the rivers, so the farmers could not irrigate. Temperature was high.
But if the combination of black pepper and coffee were employed, it could have withstood the adverse effects of climate change; as coffee would have. It is a traditional practise. Not something new.
If there are proper water outlet systems in paddy fields, it could, in one way save the paddy fields as unexpected rains arrive. These are some simple measures, but can bring huge changes. For instance, managing the timely availability of machines employed in harvesting…
In kharif season, the temperature cannot go beyond 30 degree Celsius. That being the case, paddy can tolerate 34 or even 40 degree Celsius of temperature rise. But the fields have to be irrigated properly. Technology is to be employed.
CO: Is climate change something new? How humans affect climate change?
PR: No. Climate change is a cyclical activity. It is something natural. But it happens once in a while, once in 0.1 million years or so; of which we cannot predict. But after 1998, the planet was spotted warming continuously, the rate of which is unprecedented. So, global warming is deemed human induced.
CO: Is climate change a hoax?
PR: That is not correct, not at all correct. There are more than 2500 scientists across the world. And climate change’s effects are studied throughout the world. When it comes to the definition of climate change, there is unanimity. So, climate change is well defined…global warming is real…polar ice is melting. The IPCC has said this.
CO: What the governments can do about climate change?
PR: Climate change affects a whole gamut of sectors. Climate change affects human health, it affects, animals, it affects agriculture. So, there should be a ministry for it: a ministry of climate change. There should also be more studies carried out in the topic.
And for that, in addition to policy response, we need more Human Resources.
MSc. Integrated Climate Change Adaptation is our response to climate change. An integrated five year programme, it offers electives in agriculture, veterinary and animal sciences, fisheries, forestry, biodiversity, water resources and health. The course is the first-of-its-kind in Asia.
The course is being initiated at the Kerala Agriculture University and would provide students the capability to make recommendations on future adaptation and mitigation strategies.
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on the mountain and climate related issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last two years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>