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Humankind responsible for climate change
Published on 7 Jan. 2010 10:27 PM IST
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India’s top farm scientist M.S. Swaminathan holds humankind solely responsible for global warming causing climatic changes. “Global warming is anthropogenic (man-made) and not caused by nature. Man is solely responsible for whatever is happening in the earth’s atmosphere,” Swaminathan, considered father of India’s first green revolution, told IANS in an interview on the margins of the 97th Indian Science Congress (ISC2010) here Thursday. “Burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas over the last two centuries for industrial production, transportation and heating, largely by the developed countries, has led to increase in the concentration of green house gases (GHGs), mainly carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere and warming of the earth by a degree,” the noted scientist said. The cataclysmic climatic changes being witnessed are a result of the GHG emissions, affecting farm output, causing frequent droughts and floods and a gradual rise in the sea level. “With 20 tonnes per capita, the US emits 25 times more GHGs than India, which is ranked fourth in the list of world’s top 15 polluting countries. It is followed by other developed countries and China,” Swaminathan, a lawmaker in Indian Parliament (Rajya Sabha), pointed out. Noting that low carbon intensity economy was the way ahead to reduce GHG emission, Swaminathan said green technologies would help in restoring the delicate balance in the earth’s atmosphere. In the Indian context, the noted scientist said climate change would impact food and water security, as grains such as wheat are climate sensitive while rice is climate resistant. “In the absence of scientific data, we may have to study the impact of climate change area by area for evolving measures to protect crops. Similarly, we need to study what effect climate change will have on milk production, as there is no data on how it will impact cattle,” Swaminathan averred. Advocating a twin strategy to ensure food and water security, Swaminathan said through anticipatory research the country could mitigate hardships arising out of adverse impact of climate change by collecting data and preparing action plans. Similarly, by involving local people in the rural and urban areas, participatory research can be undertaken through traditional methods of farming and preservation of water bodies. “The 127 agro-climate zones across the country should be converted into research and development (R&D) centres for training people in facing climate risks such as droughts and floods, sea erosion and melting of the Himalayan glaciers,” Swaminathan asserted. Noting that food riots had already broken out in 57 nations the world over last year, the rice expert said grain production had to be drastically stepped up to bridge the demand-supply gap in the country and sustain the public distribution system. “China’s annual food grain production is 500 million tonnes as against 220 million tonnes per annum in India. To secure food for all, we have to double the production by 2025 when our population is projected to be around 1.3 billion from 1.1 billion currently,” the octogenarian scientist reiterated. Regretting that the government was yet to act on the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers’ report prepared under his chairmanship, Swaminathan said it would be difficult to usher in the second green revolution in the country without drastic changes in the farm sector from land to market or mouth. “Hunger is rising and far more widespread than is believed. The situation has turned worse with food inflation remaining high. Where do the poor go and what will they eat when basic items such as pulses, wheat, rice, sugar, potatoes and onions are beyond their reach?” he questioned. Referring to three other challenges - nutrition deficiency, water and energy scarcity and preservation of biodiversity, Swaminathan said if measures were not initiated now, the country would have climate refugees migrating from regions with adverse climate. “A rise in sea level as noticed in the last five years will force people in the coastal areas to shift to the interiors, putting pressure on scarce land and other resources,” the eminent scientist prophesied.

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