By Ranjan Panda* 

The much awaited Fifth Assessment Report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is out with a host of warnings about climate’s vagaries we are going to face in the coming years.  It was released in Yokohama of Japan on Monday, March 31, 2014.

Called ‘Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, this report, prepared by the Working Group II of the IPCC lists in great detail the impacts of climate change that have already occurred and the future risks from climate change.  It also talks about measures needed to reduce these risks.  Here, in this piece, we are giving a general description of the likely impacts mostly on water resources and food security due to climate change as dealt by the said report.

( pic courtesy : irejn.org)
( pic courtesy : irejn.org)

Climate change in the 21st century is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions, intensifying competition for water among sectors, says the report.  In areas which are known as dry regions, the frequency of drought is likely to increase by the end of the 21st century.  In contrast, water resources are projected to increase at high latitudes.

Drinking water quantity and quality to be badly affected –

Drinking water supplies the world over would be affected badly as climate change would reduce the quality of raw water and conventional treatment methods are most likely to fail due to interacting factors such as increased temperature; increased sediment, nutrient and pollutant loadings from heavy rainfall; increased concentration of pollutants during droughts and disruption of treatment facilities during floods.

Ranjan Panda
Ranjan Panda

Species at risk –

A large number of both terrestrial and freshwater species face increased extinction risk due to the projected climate change during and beyond the 21st century.  This is especially as climate change interacts with other stressors, such as habitat modification, over-exploitation, pollution, and invasive species. Many species, the report says, will be unable to track suitable climates under mid- and high-range rates of climate change during the 21st century.  While some species will adapt to new climates, those that cannot adapt sufficiently fast will decrease in abundance or go extinct in part or all of their ranges.

Ecosystems at threat –

According to the report, within this century, the magnitude and rate of climate change associated with medium-to high-emission scenarios pose high risk of abrupt and irreversible regional-scale change in the composition, structure, and function of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, including wetlands.  Examples that could lead to substantial impact on climate are the boreal-tundra Arctic system and the Amazon forest. Carbon stored in the terrestrial biosphere (e.g., in peatlands, permafrost, and forests) is susceptible to loss to the atmosphere as a result of climate change, deforestation, and ecosystem degradation. Increased tree mortality and associated forest dieback is projected to occur in many regions over the 21st century, due to increased temperatures and drought. . Forest dieback poses risks for carbon storage, biodiversity, wood production, water quality, amenity, and economic activity.

Watch the Sea, it’s going to bring many woes –

Due to sea-level rise projected throughout the 21st century and beyond, coastal systems and low-lying areas will increasingly experience adverse impacts such as submergence, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion. This is almost certain.  The population and assets projected to be exposed to coastal risks as well as human pressures on coastal ecosystems will increase significantly in the coming decades due to population growth, economic development and urbanization. The relative costs of coastal adaptation vary strongly among and within regions and countries for the 21st century. Some low-lying developing countries and small island states are expected to face very high impacts that, in some cases, could have associated damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of GDP.

Marine-species redistribution and marine-biodiversity reduction in sensitive regions will challenge the sustained provision of fisheries productivity and other ecosystem services.  Species richness and fisheries catch potential are projected to increase, on average, at mid and high latitudes and decrease at tropical latitudes.

(courtesy: larvatusprodeo.net)
(courtesy: larvatusprodeo.net)

The progressive expansion of oxygen minimum zones and anoxic “dead zones” is projected to further constrain fish habitat. Climate change adds to the threats of over-fishing and other non-climatic stressors, thus complicating marine management regimes.  Ocean acidification will also pose severe problems for both fisheries and livelihoods.

Impact on food security and food production systems –

For the major crops (wheat, rice, and maize) in tropical and temperate regions, climate change without adaptation is projected to negatively impact production for local temperature increases of 2°C or more above late-20th-century levels, although individual locations may benefit. Projected impacts vary across crops and regions and adaptation scenarios, with about 10% of projections for the period 2030-2049 showing yield gains of more than 10%, and about 10% of projections showing yield losses of more than 25%, compared to the late 20th century. After 2050, the risk of more severe yield impacts increases, and depends on the level of warming.

Climate change is projected to progressively increase inter-annual variability of crop yields in many regions. These projected impacts will occur in the context of rapidly rising crop demand.  All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability (high confidence). Redistribution of marine fisheries catch potential toward higher latitudes poses risk of reduced supplies, income, and employment in tropical countries, with potential implications for food security. Global temperature increases of ~4°C or more above late-20th-century levels, combined with increasing food demand, would pose large risks to food security globally and regionally. Risks to food security are generally greater in low-latitude areas.

The Odisha connection –

Even though we have written this article by way of general description without touching on any specifics of the negative impacts climate change will have on India or Odisha, the trends show that Odisha will continue to be a hot bed of such impacts.  A general assessment of the report tells us that droughts and desertification, water scarcity, reduced fish diversity and production, food insecurity, degradation in water quality, cost of adapting to sea level rise and other disasters, etc. will increase further making the state further vulnerable.  Odisha has to reinvent its design of development and reduce mining, deforestation and craze for coal fired power plants to prevent such a possibility.


* Ranjan Panda is the Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha, INDIA Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Waterkeeper Alliance, New York


  1. The following note was submitted to Prime Minister of India on 4-4-2014:

    A note on “IPCC’s WG-II AR5 with reference to India”
    — the issue is not global warming but the issue is Climate change & good governance —

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
    Formerly Chief Technical Advisor – WMO/UN & Expert – FAO/UN
    Fellow, Andhra Pradesh Akademy of Sciences
    Convenor, Forum for a Sustainable Environment
    [email protected]

    Summary & Conclusions: The Earth’s climate is dynamic and always changing through a natural cycle. What we are experiencing now is part of this system. We expect from this pattern, that areas of India that are under southwest monsoon influence will have to bear the burden of frequent droughts after 2016 for a period of three decades.

    In this period we expect higher temperatures. The areas with northeast monsoon influence, this period will be six decades. The frequency of occurrence of floods in rivers follows this pattern. This is nothing to do with global warming. We are destroying water resources and agriculture with the new technologies that meet the greed of few MNCs.

    In IPCC scenario we are not looking at the evil “pollution” but worried more on anthropogenic greenhouse gases as it is easy way to save MNCs. IPCC is looking at number of people supporting their view point. In science number of people has no meaning. It has to be validated from ground realities. Here the quantity over rides the quality.

    The agriculture issues dealt in the present IPCC report are nothing new. They were discussed since early 90s and also outlined by World Bank in its 2013 report. In fact these issues were discussed elaborately in terms of models, risks & adaptations to climate change in my books relating to global issues in 1993, Indian issues in 2002 and practical issues in 2011.

    One-third of the production is going as waste and thus the equivalent of natural resources and investments are going as waste. Large share of river flow join seas and oceans. Here politics play the vital role and not the global warming. With the industrialization, the developmental activities moved to coastal zones. This affected severely the coastline that used to protect from weather disasters and thus affecting the livelihood of millions of people.

    Pollution is affecting the life in the coastal waters. The major culprit is the air, water, soil & food pollution that needs immediate action plan and not the pseudo global warming. We must not forget the fact that climate change is not the de-facto global warming. They are quite different. When we discuss the issues of climate change, this must be kept in mind.

    IPCC versus Global Warming versus Climate Change: Is IPCC using global warming synonymous to climate change? The so-called impacts on nature relate to global warming or climate change? Global warming is a trend in temperature and climate change is a trend and rhythmic variations, in which extremes form part, in temperature and rainfall. During drought years the temperature and evaporation goes up and during flood years the temperature and evaporation goes down.

    My studies in early 80s showed that cube root of precipitation follows the global solar radiation and evaporation. Because of this interrelation between rainfall and temperature, the rhythmic variation present opposite patterns. My studies in late 80s showed that Indian southwest monsoon precipitation and thus the global temperature followed a 60-year cycle.

    WMO released a press note on extreme weather events of 2013 on the occasion of World Meteorological Day (23-3-2014) in which it observed droughts and warming conditions in Southern Hemisphere Nations. My studies of early 1980s on the rhythmic variations in precipitation data series of stations in Southern Hemisphere Nations and projections showed below the average precipitation during 2013.

    Though in the Southern Hemisphere nations presented cycles of different periods in the precipitation data series [52 to 66 years], coincidentally majority of them showed below the average pattern during 2013. The higher temperature regime in Southern Hemisphere Nations could be attributed to the dry weather prevailing in 2013. This is not part of global warming but it is a part of climate change – natural variation. These influence the water resources availability and thus agriculture.

    IPCC, states that “Global Warming” is the increase in the average temperature of global surface air and oceans since about 1950, and to continuing increases in those temperatures. In the last 17 years there is no such increase in global temperature. IPCC [AR4 – 2007] states that “confirms that global warming is now unequivocal and states with more than 90% certainty that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activity very likely has been the primary cause of rising temperatures worldwide since 1950”. IPCC [AR5 – 2013] changed 90% and very likely to 95-100% and extremely likely.

    It also states that “Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes.

    It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together”.

    All this means that around 50% of the trend in global average temperature starting from 1950 is termed as global warming. The rest is not associated with global phenomenon but primarily associated with local and regional changes in association with ecological changes – land use and land cover changes –.

    Though they contribute to global temperature in averaging process but their impact is confined to local and regional issues only. Here heat-island effect may be over emphasized in the averaging due to dense network of met stations and less emphasized cold-island effect due to sparse network of met stations. The disparity is growing with growth of population-urbanization and wet-land agriculture — these are associated with changes in land use and land cover. Because of this, the Southern Hemisphere temperature is lower than that of Northern Hemisphere. Because of this the NASA satellite data showed no increasing trend in global average temperature – this was later removed from the internet & I included this in my book.

    Very recently British Royal Society and US National Academy of Sciences brought out an overview “Climate change: Evidence & causes”. The report included a figure of annual march of global temperature anomaly along with 10-year, 30-year & 60- year moving average patterns using 1850 to 2010 data series.

    WMO presented a manual on “Climate change” in 1966; and in this manual presented moving average technique as one of the technique to separate trend from rhythmic/systematic variations. Here, the 60-year moving average pattern showed the trend after eliminating 60-year rhythmic variation. The trend showed less than 0.5 oC raise during 1950 to 2010. After correcting this figure for overestimation and underestimation factors discussed above, is expected to be less than 0.5 oC. As per AR5 summary, around 50% of this [far less than 0.25 oC] is contributed by anthropogenic greenhouse gases, which is termed as global warming. This is insignificant to impact nature.

    Thus, by 2100, global warming component is expected to rise by less than 0.5 degree Celsius!!!

    Impact on agriculture & related issues: Deccan Chronicle, a daily News paper from Hyderabad dated 20th June 2013 presented a report “World Bank releases report, paints grim picture of future – Global warming to dry up rivers, inundate cities”. It observed that India’s monsoon will become highly unpredictable if the world’s average temperature rises by 2oC in the next two-three decades.

    Below this article presented my observations also. Indian agriculture scientists in the same tone and tenor forecasted using El Nino saying that it is destroying agriculture, production is coming down by around 20%, severe losses to dry-land agriculture, affecting northeast monsoon, etc.

    By looking at yield levels versus El Nino intensity [1–weak, 2–medium and 3–strong], there is no correlation; and yet they deduced such strange conclusions. In fact the yield is a function of chemical inputs, which I published more than a decade back. Also, reports after reports were published saying that production is less than the demand and thus price rise and affecting food security.

    At the same time FAO report presents that globally 30% of what is produced is going as waste. This is 40-50% in India. That means to that extent the natural resources & finances used are going as waste. In India, the main reasons for such losses are lack of storage facilities, and timely transport facilities.

    All these are nothing to do with global warming but it relates to poor governance and business manipulations.

    Political effect: In India, though planned to link-rivers to improve the quality of life in rainfed areas, vote bank politics creating more problems under the disguise of interstate disputes on water sharing on one side and World Bank on the other side. Even Prime Minister, the President & the highest court in India is colluding with the ruling junta on this issue.

    World Bank and its PR groups are working against building dams in India. Now they say climate change as a culprit.

    Unfortunately, climate change is a part of dam development. Rainfall variations were taken in to account while building dams. In the case of Andhra Pradesh UPA [this will be the same with NDA government or any other government] government is playing vote bank political game with Polavaram project under the disguise of state bifurcation. This project should have been completed by this time. In the case of Krishna River water sharing UPA government appointed a tribunal consisting of three judges of their choice to favor Karnataka & Maharashtra at the cost of Andhra Pradesh.

    At present Andhra Pradesh is getting allocated water [by the first tribunal] in 75% of the years. The new tribunal as vote bank package through technical fraud, proposed new allocations. Andhra Pradesh will be getting the allocated water in only 25% of the years. These are nothing to do with global warming but it relates to governance – political effect. This will affect the water availability and agriculture.

    IPCC’s WG-II AR5: It is the second of three assessment reports that assesses the impacts of climate change, adaptation and vulnerability of human and natural systems, runs around as highlighted by UN climate change secretariat in Bonn “The IPCC report makes clear that people around the world are already suffering from climate change, as it directly affects their livelihoods, reducing crops, destroying homes and raising food prices, and that this will accelerate if climate change is left unchecked – it implies global warming and not climate change –. It provides a detailed assessment of regional aspects, which give a much clearer understanding of climate impacts in different regions.”

    Touching the human conflict aspects, the secretariat said, “Among other things, the report warns that climate change increases the risk of armed conflict around the world because it worsens poverty and economic shocks. Therefore, climate change is already becoming a determining factor in the national security policies of states.”

    All these hypothetical statements are made with political interests; and have nothing to do climate change. We have seen some of these in the above sections. Let me present important paras from three chapters:

    Chapter-3: Fresh water resources — under the executive summary of key risks at the global scale, IPCC observed “So far there are no widespread observations of changes in flood magnitude and frequency due to anthropogenic climate changes but projects imply variations in the frequency of floods (medium agreement, limited evidence). Flood hazards are projected to increase in parts of south, southeast and northeast Asia, tropical Africa, and South America (medium agreement, limited evidence).

    Since the mid-20th Century, socio-economic losses from flooding have increased mainly due to greater exposure and vulnerability (high confidence). Global flood risks will increase in the future partly due to climate change (medium agreement, limited evidence. There is little or no observational evidence yet that soil erosion and sediment loads have been altered significantly due to changing climate (medium agreement, limited evidence).

    However, increases in heavy rainfall and temperatures are projected to change soil erosion and sediment yields, although the extent of these changes is highly uncertain and depends on rainfall seasonality, and land cover, and soil management practices.

    Chapter-7: Food security and production systems — Though crop production relates to the fresh water resources, under executive summary of this chapter, IPCC observed “The effects of climate change on crop production are evident in several regions of the world (high confidence). All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability (high confidence).

    Chapter-24: Asia – under executive summary, IPCC observed “Warming trends and increasing temperature extremes have been observed across most of the Asian regions over the past century (high confidence). Increasing numbers of warm days and decreasing numbers of cold days have been observed, with the warming trend continuing into the new millennium. Precipitation trends including extremes are characterized by strong variability, with both increasing and decreasing trends observed in different parts and seasons of Asia.

    This is exactly what I was advocating (high confidence) since long wherein the observed changes in nature are mainly associated with physical impacts due to human action and natural variations; and not with the anthropogenic global warming. Also, so far the increase of anthropogenic global warming is insignificant to influence nature and weather systems. We are working in a climate system that showed high seasonal and annual variations. We can see this from Climate Normal books. We need to make better and efficient use of the available resources. We must choose technologies that will not destroy our natural resources. We must look at pollution and not at anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

    Concluding remarks: Unfortunately, IPCC and other agencies are attributing all ills of the society to global warming, a phenomenon that is insignificant to influence nature. The issues that are raised under water resources and agriculture by IPCC are nothing to do with global warming but they are primarily related to poor governance and human physical impacts on nature. We must adapt to natural variations in climate. This is what our forefathers did. We need to control pollution [air, water, land & food] and reduce the wastage in food and water resources through better management. We must use local technologies that help in this direction.

    You can find discussions on the issues discussed above in the following books:

    Reddy, S. J. (1993) Agroclimatic/Agrometeorological Techniques: As applicable to dry-land agriculture in developing countries. http://www.scribd.com/Google Books, [Book Review appeared in Agric. For. Meteorol., 67:325-327, 1994], 205p.
    Reddy, S. J. (2000) Andhra Pradesh Agriculture: Scenario of last four decades. Hyderabad, India, 104p.
    Reddy, S. J. (2002) Dry-land agriculture in India: An agroclimatological and agrometeorological perspective. BS Publ. Hyderabad, India, 429p.
    Reddy, S. J. (2007) Agriculture & Environment. Hyderabad, India, 112p.
    Reddy, S.J. (2008) Climate change: Myths & Realities. http://www.scribd.com/Google books, 176p.
    Reddy, S. J. (2011) “Green” Green Revolution: Agriculture in the perspective of climate change. http://www.scribd.com/Google books, 160p.
    Gupta, R.K. & Reddy, S. J. (Eds.) (1999) Advanced technologies in meteorology. Tata McGraw-Hill Publ. Comp. Ltd., New Delhi, India, 549p.
    WMO (World Meteorological Organization) (1966) Climate change. Tech. Note No. 79, prepared by J. M. Mitchell et al., Genewa, Switzerland.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

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