New Delhi: Ahead of the government’s announcement of a national action plan to address climate change, expected later this month, the science ministry said it plans to set up a separate division for climate change research.
“A separate division is often a precursor to a department and subsequently a ministry, though don’t expect something major immediately,” said a senior ministry official who didn’t want to be identified.
A separate ministry or institution often reflects the funds an issue gets and the issue’s strategic importance.
Atmospheric sciences and ocean development were research divisions of the ministry of science and technology in the 1980s, and in 2005 they became part of separate ministry—the ministry of earth sciences and ocean development.
Also, the Science and Engineering Research Council of the science ministry will hive off its main function of approving and funding research projects into an autonomous body, as reported by Mint on 5 March. It has already been cleared by the Union cabinet.
CARBON EMISSIONS AND WHERE WE STAND (Graphic)
The research on climate change, at an early stage now, is directly under the ministry.
Climate change, its impact on India and measures to adapt to its possible impacts are expected to be major thrust areas for the government. “No one ministry can uniquely address climate change. Different ministries must bring in their expertise and tackle different parts of the issue such as research, risk mitigation and international negotiations,” said science minister Kapil Sibal.
One of the major activities of the division, said another official who too did not want to be named, is developing a centre for climate change research at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, which focuses on seismic activity studies in the Himalayas.
“Climate change effects are most visible on glaciers and we have a host of reports on the receding of a host of Himalayan glaciers, including the Gangotri, and so there has a to be a comprehensive climate change-oriented study of the glaciers,” said N. Senthilraman, who teaches hydrology at the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee.
Though groups such as the intergovernmental panel on climate change forecast scenarios of rising sea levels and threats to agriculture because of rising temperature, many scientists maintain that assessing such threats is extremely complex.
“There are many factors such as aerosol-cloud interaction (the interaction between suspended particles in the atmosphere and clouds) that are poorly understood,” said B.N. Goswami, director of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune. “Small variations within these factors could significantly affect our environment scenarios, and that is why we need a lot more research to guide policy.”