The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune will set up the country’s first research centre to exclusively study the possible effects of global warming on India, according to senior officials at the ministry of earth sciences.
“The main objective... will be to collect data and run them through supercomputers to generate reliable forecasts for possible changes in the rainfall and temperature over India,” said a senior scientist at the institute, requesting anonymity.
Once operational, the centre will provide an India-focused analysis of the impact of climate change. Currently, such assessments are based on information provided by the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is broadbased and does not produce too much India-specific data, making impact assessment of climate change a difficult proposition.
Tentatively called the Centre for Climate Change Research, the new facility is expected to be functional by late 2008, and will collaborate with meteorologists and climate scientists across India and abroad.
While the ministry of earth sciences, headed by Kapil Sibal, is spearheading the project, officials at the institute are working on drafting an institutional structure for the centre that will define functional responsibilities.
The scientist said that a proposal is likely to come up before the Union cabinet by early November, which, among other things, will also define the institution’s funding.
While several countries have already taken steps to combat global warming, by capping pollution levels, India is yet to adopt a stand. It was only in May that it set up two high-powered expert groups to look into the impact, and consequent action plans for mitigating the risk of global warming posed to the country.
Paucity of scientific data, on the risk that global warming poses to India, is one of the main grievances that this center will address.
“When the United States takes a stand refusing to adhere to greenhouse gas emission cuts, it has tonnes of scientific data to back up its assertion,” said R. Sukumar, professor, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
Sukumar, who is a member of one of the Centre-appointed expert groups to look into the impact of climate change over India, added he expected the new centre to play a vital role in generating regional forecast of changes in climate patterns over India.
“Right now, there is hardly any reliable data on the basis of which we can judge the impact of global warming and climate change on India,” he added.
One of these expert groups, chaired by R. Chidambaram, principal scientific adviser to the Government of India, is, as reported in Mint on 27 July, expected to meet on 6 August to discuss the country’s vulnerability to climate change, identify the research areas to assess the impact of human-induced climate change and suggest measures to mitigate it. The meeting of the expert group is the second one after it was set up in May at the behest of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Its members are convinced of the need to base policy decisions on research, but the committee has run into issues related to the lack of access to scientific data, according to another committee member.
While P.S. Goel, secretary, ministry of earth sciences, did confirm setting up of a research centre to study climate change over India, he didn’t specify whether the 6 August meeting would discuss the research centre.
The centre will largely concentrate on studying the effect of global warming on monsoon patterns in India over the next few decades.
However, people in the ministry say that the centre will also be a nodal institute for other centres in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Glaciology, which have all independently produced reports on the possible effects of global warming on India’s forests, river basins and glaciers.
But Madhavan Rajeevan, director of the Indian Meteorological Department’s national climate centre, doesn’t seem too upbeat about the scope of the proposed new centre. He notes that no weather model exists to accurately capture India’s monsoon patterns, because of which resulting forecasts will be prone to a fair amount of inaccuracy.
“However, I think that such an institute would spur research which might throw up better insight into India’s weather patterns.”