It’s 2021, and climate change is more accurate than ever. Temperatures are rising, glaciers are melting, and quite a few cities may be underwater soon. And it’s not getting better – even in the most optimistic scenario, where global greenhouse gas emissions begin to decline right now and are slashed to net-zero by 2050, global temperature will still peak above the 1.5-degree threshold before falling.
Cycles of floods caused by heavy bursts of rainfall and a rise in droughts due to increased evaporation are potentially what India’s climate future will look like as the world barrels towards breaching the 1.5 degree Celsius ceiling for global warming by 2040, a UN report has said.
Already, India’s financial capital Mumbai is witnessing heavy rainfall days unprecedented in decades that last month left the city flooded and extracted its toll on human lives.
On the other side, in West Bengal, following unprecedented devastation after two cyclones, Cyclone Amphan and Cyclone Yaas, residents of two islands in the Sundarbans — Ghoramara and Mousuni —were moved away to safety by the West Bengal government as tidal waters and rainfall pose a grave risk to their lives. At the same time, much of their property has already been claimed by the sea in July 2021. Man and animal have cohabited these islands, but climate change has put a question mark on Sundarbans’ existence, which incidentally also features on the Unesco World Heritage List.
According to a climate threat assessment report released by the Centre last year, the Bay of Bengal area where the Sundarbans lies is one of the most climatically vulnerable zones in India, with an increase in sea levels and flooding presenting the most significant risk. An analysis of data between 1891 and 2018 showed that the Bay of Bengal region was struck by 41 severe cyclonic storms and 21 cyclonic storms during the given period. All these events had occurred in May.
A new study from Climate Central, a nonprofit research group, shows that roughly 50 major coastal cities will have to immediately start “unprecedented” adaptation measures to prevent rising seas from swallowing them. On its new Coastal Risk Screening Tool, where the projections show which cities are at risk to be below sea levels up to 2150, even the closest depiction of 2030 paints a dangerous picture for some Indian cities – especially in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, and West Bengal.
According to the website, the Coastal Risk Screening Tool is “an interactive map showing areas threatened by sea-level rise and coastal flooding. Combining the most advanced global model of coastal elevations with the latest projections for future flood levels.” From the map itself with the marker on 2030. Here’s a look at what it looks like for the year 2030.
Here’s a closer look at the areas which will be below tide level by 2030:
This map shows how parts of Mumbai, almost the entirety of Navi Mumbai, the coastal areas of Sunderbans, and the surrounding areas of West Bengal’s capital, Kolkata, along with Cuttack in Odisha, may be below tide-level in 2030. 2030 is in just nine years from now — and the future is imminent if sea levels don’t stop rising. According to the map data, the area surrounding Kochi and other coastal cities is too high for Kerala, too, the threat of being below tide-level.
For the year 2120, almost a hundred years from now, the situation looks even worse, with nearly every coastal surrounding city of India marked in red and destined to be below the tide level.
Making an ambitious pledge at the Glasgow climate summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India will reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. While delivering the national address as a ‘representative’ of developing nations, PM Modi outlined a five-point plan or ‘Panchamrit’ to fight the devastating effects of global warming and climate change.
‘Net zero’ emission refers to a scenario where the amount of greenhouse gases produced is the same as the amount removed from the atmosphere by employing strategies like planting trees and deploying advanced technologies to capture carbon dioxide. China has said it would reach that goal in 2060, and the US and the EU aim for 2050.