Ever since the industrial revolution began about 150 years ago, human activities have added significant quantities of Green House Gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere. An increase in the levels of GHGs could lead to greater warming which in turn, could have major impact on the world’s climate, leading to accelerated climate change. Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased from 280 ppm to 379 ppm, 715 ppb to 1774 ppb and 270 ppb to 319 ppb respectively, between pre-industrial period and 2005 (IPCC, 2007)
Eleven of the last twelve years rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperatures since 1850. The updated 100 years linear for 1906-2005 is 0.74°C. Globally, average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8 mm per year over 1961 to 2003. The rate was higher over 1993 to 2003, about 3.1 mm per year (IPCC, 2007). The projected sea level rise by the end of this century is likely to be 0.18 to 0.59 meters.
This unprecedented increase is expected to have severe impact on global hydrological systems, ecosystems, sea level, crop production and related processes. The impact would be particularly severe in the tropical areas, which mainly consist of developing countries, including India.
Climate Change Scenario in India
India is a large developing country with nearly 700 million rural populations directly depended on climate sensitive sectors like (agriculture, forests and fisheries) and natural resources (such as water, biodiversity, mangroves, coastal zones, grasslands) for their subsistence and livelihoods.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its 2007 report, predicts that global temperatures will rise by 2-4.5°C by the end of this century, with a 2.7-4.3°C increase over India by the 2080s. The panel also predicated an increase in rainfall over the Indian sub-continent by 6-8 percent and that the sea level would rise by 88 centimetres by 2100.
An annual mean surface temperature rise by the end of this century, ranging from 3°C to 5°C (under A2 IPCC scenario) and 2.5°C to 4°C (under B2 IPCC scenario), with the warming more pronounced in the northern parts of India.
A 20 percent rise in all India summer monsoon rainfall and a further rise in rainfall is projected over all except Punjab, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu, which show a slight decrease.
Extreme rise in maximum and minimum temperatures is also expected and similarly extreme precipitation is also projected, particularly over the West Coast of India and West Central India.
India’s Share in Global CO2 Emissions
CO2 Emission (%)
Rest of High Income Countries
Rest of World
Europe - EMU (Economic & Monetary Union)
Rest of Europe and Central Asia
Rest of East Asia and Pacific
Rest of South Asia
The contribution of India to the cumulative global CO2 emissions is only 5 percent. Historically and at present, India’s share in carbon stock in the atmosphere is relatively very small in terms of per capita emissions.
India’s per capita carbon emissions average one-twentieth of those of the US and one-tenth of most countries in Western Europe and Japan.
Distribution of GHG Emissions from India
(a) Gas by Gas Emission Distribution
Source: India’s Initial National Communication to UNFCCC, 2004
Gas by Gas emission distribution shows that amongst other Green house gases CO2 emission is highest (65 percent).
(b) Sectoral Distribution of CO2 Equivalent Emissions.
CO2 Emission (%)
LULUCF (Land Use,Land Use Change and Forestry
Source: India’s Initial National Communication to UNFCCC, 2004
Sectoral distribution shows that the highest CO2 equivalent emission contribution is from the energy sector (61 percent) and lowest from LULUCF (1 percent).
Physical Impact & Climate Change
Climate changes characterized as global warming are leading to large-scale irreversible effects at continental and global scales. The likelihood, magnitude and timing is observed to be increasing and accelerating. Many projected consequences of global warming once thought controversial, are now being observed. Impacts of climate change is enlisted below
Heat Spells :
Extreme temperatures and hits spells have already become common over Northern India, often causing human fatalities
In 1998 alone, 650 deaths occurred in Orissa due to heat waves.
Storms / Cyclones :
India’s 7,517 km coastline will be particularly hard-hit by storm surges and sea-level rise displacing millions, flooding low-lying areas, and damaging economic assets and infrastructure. The super-cyclone of 1999 wreaked havoc in Orissa, knocking decades off its development and claiming more than 30,000 human lives.
Cyclonic Events :
The Spatial Pattern of Cyclone Incidences and the Facts (data from 1877 to 1990)
1.474 cyclones originated in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea during this period.
964 cyclones crossed the Indian coastline.
Three districts of West Bengal (174 events).
Seven districts of Orissa (422 events).
Nine districts of Andhra Pradesh (203 events).
15 districts of Tamil Nadu (100 events).
The Temporal Pattern of Cyclone Incidences
Depressions have a distinct peak in the month of August.
Storms have two distinct peaks in June and October.
Seven storms have distinct peaks in May and November
The total number of tropical cyclones seasonally follows the path of the depression.
Average Based on Facts
8.45 cyclones cross the Indian coastline per year.
5.15 depressions cross the Indian coastline on an average per year.
1.93 storms occur on an average per year.
1.35 severe storms occur on an average per year.
Climate change has had an effect on the monsoons too. India is heavily dependent on the monsoon to meet its agricultural and water needs, and also for protecting and propagating its rich biodiversity. Subtle changes have already been noted in the monsoon rain patterns by scientists at IIT, Delhi. They also warn that by the 2050s, India will experience a decline in its summer rainfall, which accounts for almost 70 per cent of the total annual rainfall and is crucial to agriculture.
Melting of glaciers causing sea level rise & flooding:
According to International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Himalayan glaciers could disappear within 50 years because of climate change, with far-reaching implications for more than a billion people in India.
The Earth’s temperature has increased by an average of 0.74°C over the past 100 years. It is believed that global warming has pushed up the temperature of the Himalayas by up to 0.6°C in the past 30 years.
An estimated 500 Million people depend on the tributaries of the glacier-fed Indus and Ganga rivers for irrigation and drinking water.
In 1999, the Indus reached record high levels because of glacial melt.
Himalayas are receding at an average rate of 10 to 15 metres per year.
As glaciers retreat, water flows are expected to be affected during the dry season, leading to fresh water scarcity in the summer months when melt waters contribute up to 75% of the river water.
In the river Ganga, one of the two biggest rivers in India, the loss of glacier melt water is expected to impact downstream water flows, causing water stress for several million people and also affect the irrigated land in the Ganga basin.
Socio - Economic Impact
In the past fifty years, there have been around 15 major droughts, due which the productivity of rain-fed crops in drought years was adversely affected.
Food security of India may be at risk in the future due to the threat of climate change leading to an increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods, thereby affecting production of small and marginal farms.
Sorghum, being a C4 plant, does not show any significant response to increase in CO2 and hence these scenarios are unlikely to affect its yield. However, if the temperature increases are higher, western India may show some negative impact on productivity due to reduced crop durations.
Enhanced levels of CO2 are projected to result in an increase in the net primary productivity (NPP) of forest ecosystems over more than 75 percent of the forest area.
Even in a relatively short span of about 50 years, most of the forest biomes in India seem to be highly vulnerable to the projected change in climate.
Biodiversity is also likely to be adversely impacted. These impacts on forests will have adverse socio-economic implications for forest dependent communities and the national economy. The impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems are likely to be long-term and irreversible.
Globally, about 1,900 Mha. Of land is affected by land degradation.
Climate Change, leading to warning and water stress could further exacerbate land degradation, leading to desertification.
Coastal Regions :
Some of the main climate related concerns in the context of Indian Coastal Zones are erosion, flooding, submergence and deterioration of Coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and salinization. In many cases, these problems are either caused by, or exacerbated by sea level rise and tropical cyclones.
The key climate related risks in the Coastal Zone include tropical cyclones, sea level rise and changes in temperature and precipitation.
A Rise in the sea level is likely to have significant implications on the Coastal population and agricultural performance of India.
A one metre rise in sea level is projected to displace approximately 7.1 million people in India and about 5.764 sq. km. of land area will be lost, along with 4,200 km of roads.
The diverse impacts, expected as a result of se level rise, include land loss and population displacement, increased flooding of low lying Coastal areas and loss of yield and employment resulting from inundation and salinization.
Damage to Coastal infrastructure, aquaculture and Coastal tourism, due to the erosion of sandy beaches is also likely.
Water Resources :
Presently, more than 45 percent of the average annual rainfall, including snowfall in the country, is wasted as natural run-off to the sea.
Climate projections developed for India for the 2050s, indicate an increase in the average temperature by 2-4°C during that period, an overall decrease in the number of rainy days by more than 15 days in western and central India and an increase by 5-10 days near the foothills of Himalaya and in North-East India. The projections also indicate an overall increase in the rainy day intensity by 1-4 mm/day except for small areas in northwest India where the rainfall intensities may decrease by 1 mm/day.
As many as 99 districts, spread over 14 states, were identified by the Central Water Commission (CWC) as drought prone in the country. Most of the drought prone areas so identified are concentrated in the states of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Comparison of Change in Water Balance Components as a Percentage of Rainfall
As a proportion of Rainfall(%)
Actual ET (mm)
As a proportion of Rainfall (%)
Sources: - India’s National Communication to UNFCCC, 2004.
From the above table, one can observe that the impacts are different in different catchments. The increase in rainfall due to climate change does not result in an increase in the surface run-off as may be generally predicted. For example, in the case of Cauvery river basin, an increase of 2.7 percent has been projected in the rainfall, but the run-off is projected to reduce by about 2 percent and the evapo-transpiration to increase by about 2 percent. This may be either due to increase in temperature and /or change in rainfall distribution in time. Similarly, a reduction in the rainfall in the Narmada is likely to result in an increase in the run-off and a reduction in the evapo-transpiration that is again contrary to the usual myth. This increase in run-off may be due to intense rainfall as a consequence of climate change.
It may be observed that even though an increase in precipitation is projected for the Mahanadi, Brahmani, Ganga, Godavari and Cauvery basins for the climate change scenario, the corresponding total run-off for all these basins has not necessarily increased. For example, the Cauvery and Ganga show a decrease in the total run-off. This may be due to an increase in evapo-transpiration on account of increased temperatures or variation in the distribution of rainfall. In the remaining basins, a decrease in precipitation is projected. The resultant total run-off for the majority of the cases, except for the Narmada and Tapi, is projected to decline. The Sabarmati and Luni basins are likely to experience a decrease in precipitation and a consequent decrease in the total run-off to the tune of two – thirds of the prevailing run-off. This may lead to severe drought conditions under a future climate change scenario.
Eco-systems will be particularly vulnerable to climate change, with a study estimating that between 15 and 40 percent of species will face extinction, with 2°C of warming.
The precipitation decline and drought in most delta regions of India have resulted in the drying up of wetlands and severe degradation of ecosystems.
In some regions, the remaining natural flood plains are disappearing at an accelerating rate, primarily as a result of changes in land use and hydrological cycle.
In addition, around 30 percent of Asia’s coral reefs are likely to be lost in the next 30 years due to multiple stresses and climate change.
The higher impact will be on the Teak and Sal forests of Central and East India and the temperate biomes of the Himalayas. The impact will be lower on the evergreen rain forests of the Western Ghats and the North-East.
In the Indian scenario, the two important measures of climate change which have direct and significant impact on the biodiversity are the variation in precipitation and temperature.
The increase in precipitation can change the nature of the forest in terms of the floral species dominance, canopy cover, forest dynamics etc. It can rebuild the connections betweens fragmented ecosystems, support forest areas to encroach in to grasslands, alter trees species dominance and thereby change the forest class. Vice-versa, reduction in precipitation can support a shift towards deciduous category of forests, expansion of grasslands, lead to forest fragmentation and raise frequency of forest fires. All these can cause significant changes in faunal species distribution, demography and composition.
Direct employment supported by the Sundarbans is estimated to be in the range of 500,000 – 600,000 people for at least half of the year.
Climate models predict 2-3.5°C increase in temperature and 250-500 mm increase in precipitation in the North Eastern region (Ravindranath et. al. 2006; IPCC technical paper v).
Climate signals observed over India in the last 100 years show an increasing trend in surface temperature by 0.3°C.
Changes in the climate may affect vector-borne diseases in several ways, namely, their survival and reproduction rates, the intensity and temporal pattern of vector activity and the rates of development, survival and reproduction of pathogens within vectors.
Applying the same criteria as under the climate change conditions in the 2050s, it is projected that Malaria is likely to persist in Orissa, West Bengal and Southern parts of Assam, bordering North of West Bengal. However, It may shift from the central Indian region to the South Western coastal states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala. Also the Northen states, including Himachal Pradesh, may become Malaria prone in the future climate change regime. The duration of the transmission window is likely to widen in Northern and Western states and shorten in the Southern states.
Response / Measures :
India has undertaken numerous response measures that are contributing to the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). India’s development plans balance economic development and environmental concerns. The planning process is guided by the principles of sustainable development. Reforms in the energy and power sector have accelerated economic growth and enhanced the efficiency of energy use. These have been complemented by notable initiatives taken by the private sector.
In the last few years, several measures relating to environmental issues have been introduced. They have targeted a significant increase in the capacity of renewable energy installations, improving the air quality in major cities (the world’s largest fleet of vehicles fuelled by compressed natural gas has been introduced in New Delhi) and enhancing afforestation. Other similar measures have been implemented by committing additional resources and realigning new investments, thus steering economic development onto a climate-friendly path.
Sectoral Initiatives :
Coal is, and will remain, the mainstay of commercial energy production in India in the near future. To ensure more efficient use of coal, the following measures have been taken:
Rationalization of coal use.
Participation of private sector encouraged
Reforms in pricing.
Technology upgradation involving coal-washing, improvements in combustion technology and the recovery of coal-bed methane.
To promote fuel efficiency and conservation, the following measures have been undertaken:
Reduction of gas-flaring.
Installation of waste heat recovery systems.
Substitution of diesel with natural gas.
Establishment of PCRA (Petroleum Conservation Research Association) to increase awareness and develop fuel-efficient equipment.
This source of energy is the preferred substitute for coal and oil.
In the residential sector, gas has replaced coal and kerosene.
CNG is being introduced as an alternative to petrol and diesel in the transport sector.
Major investments have been made in developing infrastructure for long distance and local distribution.
The share of gas in the power sector has increased from 2 to 8 percent.
Renewable Energy :
India has an active programme to promote the use of renewable energy. Some salient features of the current renewable situation are given source-wise.
The government’s policy objective is to exploit the huge potential in India’s North-East. At present, about 25 percent of the total installed capacity is accounted for by hydro. The total installed capacity of small hydropower projects is 1,423 MW.
Solar Energy :
Photovoltaic (PV) systems based on solar energy have been put to a variety of uses in rural electrification, railway signaling, microwave repeaters, power to border outposts and TV transmission and reception.
Grid-connected PV power plants with an aggregate capacity of 1900 KWp (Kilowatt peak) have been set up for demand-side management or tail-end voltage support.
A 140 MW Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) plant is being set up, based on solar thermal technology and liquified natural gas.
Solar lanterns, home and street-lighting systems, standalone power pants, and pumping systems are being promoted. So far, 9, 20,000 SPV systems, with an aggregate capacity of 82 MWp (Megawatt peak), have been installed in the country.
Wind Energy :
India is among the five leading nations in wind power generation. The installed capacity is 1,507 MW, and generators of capacity 250-600 KW are manufactured here.
Around 95 percent of installed wind power capacity is in the private sector. State-of-the-art wind power systems are also being manufactured in the country. In fact, wind turbine equipment is also being exported to other developing and developed countries.
Biomass power generation plants of a total capacity of about 358 MW have been installed and gasification systems of a total capacity of 42.8 MW have been set up for decentralized energy application.
In rural areas, over 3.2 million biogas plants and 33 million improved stoves have been installed.
Projects with an aggregate capacity of about 15 MW have been completed using energy recovered from urban, municipal and industrial waste.
Energy Efficiency and Conservation :
India is alive to the importance of improving the efficiency of energy usage and conservation measures. A Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has been set up to put into operation, conservation measures such as energy standards, labeling of equipment/appliances, building energy codes, and energy audits.
A major initiative has been the upgradation of vehicular emission norms. A norm called the “Bharat 2000”, similar to Euro-I norms was implemented throughout the country on 1 April, 2000 for categories of vehicles manufactured in India. Emission standards (Bharat Stage –II) for motor cars and passenger vehicles came into force in the National Capital Region (NCR) on 1st April, 2000 and has been extended to Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Apart from reducing pollution locally, these norms result in increased energy efficiency and therefore, reduced GHG emissions.
Awareness and training programmes have been undertaken to educate drivers.
The commercial manufacture of battery operated vehicles has begun in India. This will promote low/no carbon emitting vehicles.
In Delhi, large-scale switch has taken place from petrol and diesel to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) with over 50,000 vehicles having already been converted.
This sector has made significant advances in the conservation of energy. Government policies, campaigns by associations of industry and strategic decisions by firms have all contributed to sizeable improvements in the intensity of energy use in industries.
The major energy-consuming sectors are steel, cement, caustic soda, brick, aluminum and electric power generation. Measures to improve energy efficiency include:
Promotion of fuel-efficient practices and equipment.
Replacement of old and inefficient boilers and other oil-operated equipment.
Fuel switching and technology upgradation.
In the cement industry, specific energy intensities declined from 900 kcal/kg thermal energy to 800 kcal/kg and 120 KWh/tonne electrical energy to 90 KWh/tonne with a shift from low capacity energy inefficient wet plants to high capacity energy efficient dry process during the 1980s. New Indian plants are among those with the lowest power consumption internationally.
In the fertilizer industry, the overall specific energy consumption and capacity utilization of ammonia plants have improved from 14.8 Gcal/mt and 63 percent respectively, for the year 1979-80 to 10.9 Gcal/mt and 90 percent respectively, during 1996-97.
Some efforts to mitigate climate change in the agricultural sector have also been undertaken.
Standardization of fuel-efficient pump sets and rectification of existing pump sets.
Rationalization of power tariffs.
Better cultivation practices which will help in reducing N2O emissions.
Power sector :
India has a diverse mix of power generation technologies with coal dominating and a significant contribution by large hydro.
Reforms in the power sector and targeted technology improvements have helped to enhance the combustion efficiency of conventional coal technology, leading to conservation of coal and savings in emissions.
Power sector reforms include regulatory restructuring, corporatization, privatization and unbundling of state owned utilities. The 1998 Regulatory Commissions Act empowers commissions to rationalize electricity tariffs and promote environmentally benign policies.
Corporatization is altering state electricity boards from state ownership and administration to business-like corporations, as defined by the Indian Company Act, 1956.
The Indian Electricity Act of 1910 and the Electricity Act of 1948 have been amended to permit private participation in the generation and distribution of power.
Privatization in transmission has been encouraged by the recognition of exclusive transmission companies.
National Action Plan on Climate Change:
India released its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) on 30th June, 2008 to outline its strategy to meet the challenge of climate change. The National Action Plan advocates a strategy that promotes, firstly, the adaptation to climate change and secondly, further enhancement of the ecological sustainability of India’s development path. It includes various National Missions.
National Solar Mission aims at increasing the share of solar energy in the total energy mix through development of new solar technologies, while attempting to expand the scope of other renewable and non fossil options such as nuclear energy, wing energy and biomass.
National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency comprises four new initiatives, namely- a market based mechanism for trading in certified energy savings in energy intensive large industries and facilities, accelerating the shift to energy efficient appliances in designated sectors, demand side management programmes in all sectors by capturing future energy savings and developing fiscal instruments to promote energy efficiency.
National Mission for sustainable Habitat attempts to promote energy efficiency in buildings, management of solid waste and nodal shift to public transport including transport options based on biodiesel & hydrogen.
National Water Mission has as its objective, the conservation of water, minimizing wastage & ensuring more equitable distribution both across & within states.
National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem is aimed at evolving management measures for sustaining & safeguarding the Himalayan glacier & mountain ecosystem.
National Mission for a Green India focuses on enhancing ecosystem services & carbon sinks through afforestation on degraded forest land, in line with the National Policy of expanding the forest & tree cover to 33% of the total land area of the country.
National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture would develop strategies to make Indian agriculture more resilient to climate change, with new varieties of thermal resistant crops, credit & Insurance mechanisms & improving productivity of rainfed agriculture.
National mission on strategic Knowledge for climate change is intended to identify the challenges of, & the response to, climate change through research & technology development & ensure funding of high quality & focused research into various aspects of climate change.
Other Initiatives :
Apart from the eight National Mission, the National Action Plan also envisages other initiatives aimed at enhancing mitigation and adaptation. These include.
Research and development in the area of ultra super critical boilers in coal-based thermal plants
Integrated gasification combined-cycle technology to make coal based power generation efficient
Setting up more combined cycle natural gas plants.
Promotion of nuclear energy through adoption of fast breeder and thorium based thermal reactor technology in nuclear power generation.
Adoption of high-voltage AC and high-voltage DC transmission to reduce technical losses during transmission and distribution.
Setting up small and large scale hydro power projects.
Promotion of renewable energy technologies such as biomass combustion and gasification based power generation.
Enhancement in the regulatory/ tariff regimes to help mainstream renewable based sources in the national power system.
Promotion of renewable energy technologies for transportation and industrial fuels.