ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Climate Change Effect: What Will India Look Like 50 Years From Now?

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

Published
Explainers
7 min read
story-hero-img
i
Aa
Aa
Small
Aa
Medium
Aa
Large
Hindi Female

Climate change is changing India. By the year 2070, over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced from their homes. Cities are expected to become unbearably hot (yes, even more than now) and borderline unlivable unless you can afford air conditioning.

The point is, whether you like it or not, climate change is affecting us all, and whether you live in Delhi's Defence Colony, Mumbai's Malad, Chennai's Chetpet, or Kolkata's Kumortuli, you're going to feel the claws of climate change in visible, tangible, and extremely uncomfortable ways.

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

Cyclone Mandous made landfall in southeast India in December 2022.

(Photo: PTI)

Even if you have air conditioning, you'll be paying astoundingly high electricity bills, because over 68 percent of India's power grid relies on hydropower and the burning of fossil fuels, which will both be significantly affected by climate change.

So, how will your home be affected by climate change in the coming decades? How will India as a whole be impacted by climate change? And what will India be like 50 years from now?

To simplify this next part, we've broken down the story into different weather and climate-related phenomena.

Climate Change Effect: What Will India Look Like 50 Years From Now?

  1. 1. Heatwaves

    Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

    India witnessed multiple heatwaves in 2022.

    (Photo: PTI)

    The 2015 Paris Agreement aims at limiting the rise in temperature to 1.5°C, but it also added that the probability of limiting this warming to under 2°C by the year 2100 is less than 5 percent.

    A 2013 World Bank Report says that we're likely to experience a 2°C warming by 2040 and a 4°C warming by 2080, if we take a "business-as-usual" approach to fighting climate change.

    Another 2021 UN report says that climate change is likely to increase temperatures in Asian cities by 1.5-2°C at the same time.

    Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

    Changes in precipitation are expected to deplete India's groundwater levels even further.

    (Photo: iStock)

    The point here is, there are different estimates of how much hotter the world will become in another 50 years, but it will undoubtedly become hotter. And here's what's likely to happen as the world becomes hotter.

    Extreme heat events are likely to rise sharply. Heatwaves that previously only occurred once every 300 years are likely to occur every three years. And the signs are already showing.

    In March 2022, both India and Pakistan experienced extreme heatwaves and the hottest March since 1901. According to the World Weather Attribution project, the likelihood of this heatwave happening, as well as its intensity and length, were 30 times higher because of climate change.

    Now, which parts of India will experience increased heating and extreme heatwaves?

    If you live in a city, you'll feel the heat even more, because city structures retain and amplify heat. Cities in northwest India are likely to witness the most drastic heating, experiencing temperatures that have never been witnessed in the region.

    If you're in a coastal city like Chennai, Mumbai, or Kolkata, you're also likely to bear the brunt of multiple fallouts of climate change.

    By 2080, the UN says, 940 million to 1.1 billion urban dwellers in South and Southeast Asia could be affected by extreme heat that lasts longer than 30 days every year.

    This brings us to the next two points – rising sea levels and flooding.

    Expand
  2. 2. Rainfall

    Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

    Vendors attempt to save their shops from Cyclone Mandous.

    (Photo: PTI)

    In the next 50 years, climate change will decrease the amount of monsoon rain, but will simultaneously increase spells of heavy rain.

    What does this mean? Approximately 40 percent of India's workforce is employed in the agriculture industry. And this industry, which contributes to 18-20 percent of India's GDP, is heavily reliant on monsoon rainfall.

    The 2013 World Bank report mentioned earlier also states that 80 percent of India's precipitation occurs during the monsoon, with most farmers relying on this monsoon rainfall for crop growth.

    But an increase in atmospheric aerosols, like particulate matter and black carbon, has led to a substantial decrease in rainfall.

    In simple terms, instead of there being space in the atmosphere for drops of precipitation to form and come down as rain, it's occupied by aerosols and other particulate matter and pollutants; so, we get no rain.

    Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

    Assam frequently witnesses flooding because of increased precipitation.

    (Image: PTI)

    Farming is also heavily reliant on temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, nutrient density, and other factors, which have been impacted by climate change. A 2001 study estimates that net revenue loss from agriculture could be as much as 9 to 25 percent if the temperature rises by 2 to 3.5°C.

    The change in temperatures also affects the growth of many crops India relies on. A 2017 study adds that farmer suicides had also steadily risen since the 80s on the back of rising temperatures and crop loss.

    The parts worst affected by this are expected to be Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka.

    Punjab, Haryana, and Western UP come a close second, with West Bengal, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh likely to benefit slightly from the warming effect.

    Expand
  3. 3. Rising Sea Levels

    Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

    Globally, the 2004 Tsunami left over 11,000 people dead.

    (Photo: PTI)

    India has over 7,500 kilometres of coastline, home to approximately 170 million people, and in the past 50 years, sea levels have risen in India by 8.5 cm.

    Many coastal states and cities in India, like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Mumbai, and Kolkata, concentrate a large number of people into smaller settlements near the coast, in huts and shanties. A lot of these structures are also built on reclaimed or low-lying land, making them prone to becoming inundated.

    In such areas, people are highly exposed to extreme weather events, such as rising sea levels, storms, and flooding.

    And this is a cause for concern, because the sea-level rise is projected to be approximately 100-115 cm in a 4°C world and 60-80 cm in a 2°C world by the end of the 21st century (up from 1986-2005), according to the 2013 Potsdam Institute study.

    India's coastal cities also being closer to the equator are also doubly prone to suffering the effects of climate change.

    For example, a 2022 report by the Greater Chennai Corporation found that over a 100 metres of Chennai's coast will be lost to a 7 cm rise in sea levels in the next seven years alone.

    Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

    The Sundarbans are quickly sinking because of rising sea levels.

    (Photo: iStock)

    Chennai isn't the only city with a large coastal population; elsewhere in Kolkata, Kochi, and Mumbai, hundreds of thousands of poor households are located in low-lying areas or wetlands that are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and tidal surges.

    Expand
  4. 4. Floods

    Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

    2022 has witnessed several extreme weather events, including heatwaves, floods, and cyclones.

    (Photo: PTI)

    According to a 2009 study, India is likely to experience an increase in rainfall across all parts of the country except Punjab, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu, which will show a slight decrease in rainfall.

    What does this mean? Well, the chance of "extreme precipitation events" like floods will keep rising. We will also face a 10 percent increase in monsoon intensity and a 15 percent increase in the unpredictability of monsoon precipitation, if things continue as they are.

    In simple words, these changes imply that an extreme wet monsoon that currently has a chance of occurring only once in 100 years is projected to occur every 10 years by the end of the century.

    Simultaneously, rising temperatures are exacerbating glacial melt, i.e., the melting of glaciers. This increases the chances of rivers like the Brahmaputra, the Indus, and the Ganges, which are all glacier-fed, overflowing and flooding.

    Events of this scale have already begun, with the 2010 and the 2022 floods in Pakistan being an example. On our own home turf, the National Disaster Management Agency has warned that India is highly vulnerable to floods, with more than 40 million hectares of India's total 329 million hectares (mha), being flood-prone.

    Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

    Vendors try to save their shops from Cyclone Mandous.

    (Photo: PTI)

    Expand
  5. 5. Droughts

    Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

    A farmer at a dry lake in Chhattisgarh.

    (Photo: iStock)

    Another consequence of climate change that will hit India particularly hard is drought.

    For context, only about 35 percent of agricultural land in India is irrigated. The remaining two-thirds relies entirely on rainfall to stay alive. This means over two-thirds of India's agriculture is at the mercy of the weather.

    Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

    Droughts are expected to intensify in many parts of India in the next 50 years.

    (Photo: iStock)

    According to the IPCC, Asian countries are likely to experience an increase of 5-20 percent in drought conditions by the end of the century. This will be amplified by severe water scarcity in the Indus and the Ganges.

    In fact, droughts often correlate with heat waves, with increased hot and dry days occurring more frequently.

    Droughts also lead to famines and widespread food security issues. But diving into the impact of these changes is what we'll be doing in part 2, i.e., the conclusion to this story. Stay tuned for more on this.

    (Our on-ground climate journalism needs your insights, ideas, and financial support - as we cover the biggest crisis of our times. Become a member so we can bring more such stories to light.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Heatwaves

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

India witnessed multiple heatwaves in 2022.

(Photo: PTI)

The 2015 Paris Agreement aims at limiting the rise in temperature to 1.5°C, but it also added that the probability of limiting this warming to under 2°C by the year 2100 is less than 5 percent.

A 2013 World Bank Report says that we're likely to experience a 2°C warming by 2040 and a 4°C warming by 2080, if we take a "business-as-usual" approach to fighting climate change.

Another 2021 UN report says that climate change is likely to increase temperatures in Asian cities by 1.5-2°C at the same time.

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

Changes in precipitation are expected to deplete India's groundwater levels even further.

(Photo: iStock)

The point here is, there are different estimates of how much hotter the world will become in another 50 years, but it will undoubtedly become hotter. And here's what's likely to happen as the world becomes hotter.

Extreme heat events are likely to rise sharply. Heatwaves that previously only occurred once every 300 years are likely to occur every three years. And the signs are already showing.

In March 2022, both India and Pakistan experienced extreme heatwaves and the hottest March since 1901. According to the World Weather Attribution project, the likelihood of this heatwave happening, as well as its intensity and length, were 30 times higher because of climate change.

Now, which parts of India will experience increased heating and extreme heatwaves?

If you live in a city, you'll feel the heat even more, because city structures retain and amplify heat. Cities in northwest India are likely to witness the most drastic heating, experiencing temperatures that have never been witnessed in the region.

If you're in a coastal city like Chennai, Mumbai, or Kolkata, you're also likely to bear the brunt of multiple fallouts of climate change.

By 2080, the UN says, 940 million to 1.1 billion urban dwellers in South and Southeast Asia could be affected by extreme heat that lasts longer than 30 days every year.

This brings us to the next two points – rising sea levels and flooding.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Rainfall

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

Vendors attempt to save their shops from Cyclone Mandous.

(Photo: PTI)

In the next 50 years, climate change will decrease the amount of monsoon rain, but will simultaneously increase spells of heavy rain.

What does this mean? Approximately 40 percent of India's workforce is employed in the agriculture industry. And this industry, which contributes to 18-20 percent of India's GDP, is heavily reliant on monsoon rainfall.

The 2013 World Bank report mentioned earlier also states that 80 percent of India's precipitation occurs during the monsoon, with most farmers relying on this monsoon rainfall for crop growth.

But an increase in atmospheric aerosols, like particulate matter and black carbon, has led to a substantial decrease in rainfall.

In simple terms, instead of there being space in the atmosphere for drops of precipitation to form and come down as rain, it's occupied by aerosols and other particulate matter and pollutants; so, we get no rain.

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

Assam frequently witnesses flooding because of increased precipitation.

(Image: PTI)

Farming is also heavily reliant on temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, nutrient density, and other factors, which have been impacted by climate change. A 2001 study estimates that net revenue loss from agriculture could be as much as 9 to 25 percent if the temperature rises by 2 to 3.5°C.

The change in temperatures also affects the growth of many crops India relies on. A 2017 study adds that farmer suicides had also steadily risen since the 80s on the back of rising temperatures and crop loss.

The parts worst affected by this are expected to be Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka.

Punjab, Haryana, and Western UP come a close second, with West Bengal, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh likely to benefit slightly from the warming effect.

0

Rising Sea Levels

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

Globally, the 2004 Tsunami left over 11,000 people dead.

(Photo: PTI)

India has over 7,500 kilometres of coastline, home to approximately 170 million people, and in the past 50 years, sea levels have risen in India by 8.5 cm.

Many coastal states and cities in India, like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Mumbai, and Kolkata, concentrate a large number of people into smaller settlements near the coast, in huts and shanties. A lot of these structures are also built on reclaimed or low-lying land, making them prone to becoming inundated.

In such areas, people are highly exposed to extreme weather events, such as rising sea levels, storms, and flooding.

And this is a cause for concern, because the sea-level rise is projected to be approximately 100-115 cm in a 4°C world and 60-80 cm in a 2°C world by the end of the 21st century (up from 1986-2005), according to the 2013 Potsdam Institute study.

India's coastal cities also being closer to the equator are also doubly prone to suffering the effects of climate change.

For example, a 2022 report by the Greater Chennai Corporation found that over a 100 metres of Chennai's coast will be lost to a 7 cm rise in sea levels in the next seven years alone.

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

The Sundarbans are quickly sinking because of rising sea levels.

(Photo: iStock)

Chennai isn't the only city with a large coastal population; elsewhere in Kolkata, Kochi, and Mumbai, hundreds of thousands of poor households are located in low-lying areas or wetlands that are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and tidal surges.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Floods

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

2022 has witnessed several extreme weather events, including heatwaves, floods, and cyclones.

(Photo: PTI)

According to a 2009 study, India is likely to experience an increase in rainfall across all parts of the country except Punjab, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu, which will show a slight decrease in rainfall.

What does this mean? Well, the chance of "extreme precipitation events" like floods will keep rising. We will also face a 10 percent increase in monsoon intensity and a 15 percent increase in the unpredictability of monsoon precipitation, if things continue as they are.

In simple words, these changes imply that an extreme wet monsoon that currently has a chance of occurring only once in 100 years is projected to occur every 10 years by the end of the century.

Simultaneously, rising temperatures are exacerbating glacial melt, i.e., the melting of glaciers. This increases the chances of rivers like the Brahmaputra, the Indus, and the Ganges, which are all glacier-fed, overflowing and flooding.

Events of this scale have already begun, with the 2010 and the 2022 floods in Pakistan being an example. On our own home turf, the National Disaster Management Agency has warned that India is highly vulnerable to floods, with more than 40 million hectares of India's total 329 million hectares (mha), being flood-prone.

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

Vendors try to save their shops from Cyclone Mandous.

(Photo: PTI)

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Droughts

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

A farmer at a dry lake in Chhattisgarh.

(Photo: iStock)

Another consequence of climate change that will hit India particularly hard is drought.

For context, only about 35 percent of agricultural land in India is irrigated. The remaining two-thirds relies entirely on rainfall to stay alive. This means over two-thirds of India's agriculture is at the mercy of the weather.

Over 170 million Indians living along India's coasts may be displaced by the year 2070 because of climate change.

Droughts are expected to intensify in many parts of India in the next 50 years.

(Photo: iStock)

According to the IPCC, Asian countries are likely to experience an increase of 5-20 percent in drought conditions by the end of the century. This will be amplified by severe water scarcity in the Indus and the Ganges.

In fact, droughts often correlate with heat waves, with increased hot and dry days occurring more frequently.

Droughts also lead to famines and widespread food security issues. But diving into the impact of these changes is what we'll be doing in part 2, i.e., the conclusion to this story. Stay tuned for more on this.

(Our on-ground climate journalism needs your insights, ideas, and financial support - as we cover the biggest crisis of our times. Become a member so we can bring more such stories to light.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from explainers

Topics:  Climate Change   Floods   Drought 

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More
×
×