India more vulnerable to climate change: NIE report

Ritu Jha-

The United States has named India as one ‘country of concern,’ along with 10 others, that the American intelligence community believes will bear the brunt of global warming, enduring intensifying and more frequent heat waves and droughts, and water and power scarcity.
The first-ever National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report, “Climate Change and International Responses Increasing Challenges to US National Security Through 2040,” was released October 21 by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees 16 intelligence agencies.

The current pace of transition to low- or zero-emission clean energy sources is not fast enough to avoid temperatures rising above the Paris goal of 1.5˚C. Global energy demand is expected to increase by more than 18 percent by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) modeling of current policies, with fossil fuel use also growing and continuing to account for only a modestly smaller share of supply even though solar, wind, and other clean sources will grow more quickly, particularly after 2030.
To achieve the 1.5˚C goal through shifts in energy, coal use would need to decline, oil use would need to fall immediately rather than plateau in the 2030s, and natural gas consumption would have to peak this decade, according to the IEA.

The report, however, states that China and India will play critical roles in determining the trajectory of temperature rise. They are the first and fourth-largest emitters, respectively, and both are growing their total and per capita emissions, whereas the United States and EU — as the second- and third-largest — are reducing their emissions. Both China and India are incorporating more renewable and low-carbon energy sources, but several factors will limit their displacement of coal. They need to modernize their grids, have sunk costs that make it relatively cheaper to use coal compared with other energy sources, want to minimize reliance on fuel imports for national security reasons, and are trying to appease domestic constituencies who rely on the coal industry for jobs.

According to the report, India almost certainly will increase its emissions as it develops economically. Indian officials have not committed to a net-zero target date, and have instead called on countries with larger economies to reduce emissions.

It said the cooperative breakthrough of the Paris Agreement may be short-lived as countries struggle to reduce their emissions and blame others for not doing enough. The Paris Agreement allows countries to self-report emissions data, which means that increased transparency, monitoring, and consistency in reporting will be necessary to accurately measure and assess which countries are meeting their commitments.
According to the report, “The longstanding diplomatic divide between expected contributions from developed versus developing countries will persist. Most developing countries almost certainly will continue to submit conditional targets, arguing that developed countries must provide substantial financial assistance — as called for in the Paris Agreement — technology transfers, and aid in capacity building for them to reach their NDC goals.
“Developing countries will continue to press for more money to mitigate and adapt to climate change, arguing that developed countries’ failure to mobilize $100 billion a year starting in 2020 has hampered their ability to take serious action.” The report said the intelligence community had identified 11 countries and two regions of concern facing the most serious threat from climate change.
Five of the 11 countries are in South and East Asia — Afghanistan, Burma, India, Pakistan, and North Korea; four are in Central America and the Caribbean — Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua; with Colombia and Iraq rounding out the list. Climate change is also likely to increase the risk of instability in central Africa and small island states in the Pacific, which clustered together form two of the most vulnerable areas in the world.

The report said the intelligence community assessed that these countries are likely to face warming temperatures, more extreme weather, and disruption to ocean patterns that will threaten their energy, food, water, and health security.

It said there is a need for investments in adaptation technologies to manage water stress and reduce a potential driver of migration could create expanded markets for advanced technologies, such as water storage and reuse systems. The UN’s Global Commission on Adaptation calculates that a $1.8 trillion investment by 2030 in early warning systems, resilient infrastructure, dry land agricultural crop production, mangroves, and water resource management, would yield more than $7 trillion of benefits in avoided costs from climate change effects.