Climate Vulnerability Index

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Context:

  • Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) has released its first district-level climate vulnerability assessment or Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI).

Relevance:

 

  • G.S III> Environmental Pollution & Degradation> Global Warming
Climate Vulnerability Index

Aim: 

  • To map critical vulnerabilities; plan strategies to enhance resilience, and aid adaptation by climate-proofing communities, economies and infrastructure.

About:

  • This study is a first-of-its-kind micro-level vulnerability assessment that maps the climate vulnerability of districts in India. The study evaluates exposure at the micro-level, assessing sensitivity through Spatio-temporal analysis and analysing adaptive capacity by evaluating socio-economic and governance mechanisms. 
  • The Index computes the vulnerability score of each district by taking into consideration all three components of the vulnerability function: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity.

How is the Climate Vulnerability Index assessed?

  • The CVI maps exposure (that is whether the district is prone to extreme weather events), sensitivity (the likelihood of an impact on the district by the weather event), and adaptive capacity (what the response or coping mechanism of the district is).
  • It helps map critical vulnerabilities and plan strategies to enhance resilience and adapt by climate-proofing communities, economies and infrastructure.
  • Instead of looking at climate extremes in isolation, the study looks at the combined risk of hydro-met disasters, which is floods, cyclones and droughts, and their impact.
  • The study does not take into consideration other natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Need for a Climate Vulnerability Index

  • According to Germanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index 2021 findings, India is the seventh-most vulnerable country with respect to climate extremes.
  • Extreme weather events have been increasing in the country such as supercyclone Amphan in the Bay of Bengal.
  • The Indian monsoon lasted a month longer than usual in the year 2019, with surplus rains causing major hardship. The rain was 110% of normal, which is the most since 1994.
  • The floods caused by heavy rains were responsible for 1800 deaths and led to the displacement of 1.8 million people.
  • Recent events such as the landslides and floods in Uttarakhand and Kerala have also increased.
  • The Himalayan glaciers, the coastlines, and the deserts in India have been severely affected by global warming.
  • Further, the IPCC states that every degree rise in temperature will lead to a 3% increase in precipitation, causing the increased intensification of cyclones and floods.
  • Given the serious threats posed by climate change, an assessment of regional vulnerability is essential to design & implement policies for mitigation. 
Key Findings
  • According to CVI, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Bihar are most vulnerable to extreme climate events such as floods, droughts and cyclones in India.
  • While 27 Indian states and union territories are vulnerable to extreme climate events, 463 districts out of 640 are vulnerable to extreme weather events.
  • Dhemaji and Nagaon in Assam, Khammam in Telangana, Gajapati in Odisha, Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh, Sangli in Maharashtra, and Chennai in Tamil Nadu are among India’s most climate-vulnerable districts.
  • More than 80% of Indians live in districts vulnerable to climate risks – that is 17 of 20 people in India are vulnerable to climate risks, out of which every five Indians live in areas that are extremely vulnerable.
  • More than 45% of these districts have undergone “unsustainable landscape and infrastructure changes’’.
  • 183 hotspot districts are highly vulnerable to more than one extreme climate event.
  • 60% of Indian districts have medium to low adaptive capacity in handling extreme weather events – these districts don’t have robust plans in place to mitigate the impact.

Floods

  • The north-eastern zone – including Assam, Manipur, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh – is only highly exposed to extreme flood events. However, the southern and central zones, including states such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh, are exposed to compounded flood events, i.e., flood & drought.

Drought

  • Droughts in India are categorised into three subtypes: i) meteorological, ii) hydrological, and iii) agricultural.
  • The zone-wise analysis of drought hotspot districts shows that India’s southern and central zones are highly exposed to extreme drought events.
  • Further, the eastern and western zones are more exposed to extreme drought events than the north and north-eastern zones.
  • The states with maximum exposure to extreme drought events are Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu South and central are most vulnerable to extreme droughts.
  • 59 and 41% of the total districts in the eastern and western states, respectively, are highly vulnerable to extreme cyclones.

Cyclone:

  • Traditionally, the east coast has been more exposed to cyclones. Since the 2000s, however, the west coast is experiencing extreme cyclone events with increasing frequency and intensity.
  • The intensification of these extreme events can be attributed to changes in landscape attributes that contribute to micro-climatic changes and the cyclogenesis process.

Which are the best performing states and why?

  • Assam and Andhra Pradesh are the most vulnerable to extreme weather events.
  • Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal are the least vulnerable. The reason why these states have performed better is that they have stepped up their climate action plans as well as preparedness to handle an extreme weather event.

What has compounded the impact of weather events?

  • Apart from the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events which have increased in the country, the report finds that “land disruptions’’ have increased the impact of these events.
  • Land disruptions primarily point to anthropogenic activity including change of land use, increased construction, reclaiming of land for development – resulting in the disappearance of forests, wetlands, mangroves and other such habitats.
  • These ecosystems have traditionally acted as natural buffers against such extreme weather, reducing the impact. With their disappearance, the impact of the weather events have increased and are being felt more across the country.

Recommendations

  • Develop a high-resolution Climate Risk Atlas (CRA) to map critical vulnerabilities at the district level and better identify, assess, and project chronic and acute risks such as extreme climate events, heat and water stress, crop loss, vector-borne diseases and biodiversity collapse.
  • A CRA can also support coastal monitoring and forecasting, which are indispensable given the rapid intensification of cyclones and other extreme events.
  • Establish a centralised climate-risk commission to coordinate the environmental de-risking mission.
  • Undertake climate-sensitivity-led landscape restoration focused on rehabilitating, restoring, and reintegrating natural ecosystems as part of the developmental process.
  • Integrate climate risk profiling with infrastructure planning to increase adaptive capacity.



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