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Causes and Effects of Climate Change in India, a Synthesis and Summary

The weather of India varies from the southernmost tip to the northernmost part of India. The degree of variation in the Effects of Climate Change in India is also greater. The nation has an altitude ranging from 0 m on the sea surface to 8,611 m in Mount Godwin Austin, the highest peak of India. It also has the third-highest mountain peak in the world, i.e. Kanchendzonga.

Interestingly, in the state of Sikkim where this mountain peak lies, there is a high variation of the altitude in the surface range of less than 100 sq. km. This is the first major cause of variation in the impact of climate change in India. However, before going through the impacts let’s explore the causes.

climate change causes and effects in India image

Causes of Climate Change in India

There are various causes and effects of Climate Change in India. However, Climate Change is a global problem. But why it is a global problem?

The burning of fossil fuel in cars sends carbon to the atmosphere, does the gas stay in India’s atmosphere only? You can’t say anything right? Or maybe air can move to Pakistan or Nepal etc. Again, from other places also people are sending the carbon to the atmosphere. Whose carbon goes to whose atmosphere? The answer to this question lies in the word Transboundary.

The cause of Climate change in India or any part of the world is Transboundary in nature. It means there is no your atmosphere or mine. It’s all global. This is how global warming happens. We send the greenhouse gases like carbon to the atmosphere, they hold more heat from the sun and the warming happens. Simple isn’t it, let’s not go to the complex technical terms. Below is the image of greenhouse effect.

Simply, understand this phenomenon as the Greenhouse effect. As per the protocol signed in Kyoto, Japan there are six most harmful gases which we need to control in order to maintain the Earth Temperature. They are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), F-gases(hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbon), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

India has a high number of Glaciers in the Himalayan-Karakoram range. They are approximately 10,000 in numbers. You should be aware of the simple fact that the temperature at which water turns to ice is 0 degree Celsius. Glaciers are mostly the icy masses. In a Small fraction above this temperature, the water starts melting and it flows towards the river, which eventually reaches the Sea.

What is there is one degree or two degree rise?

It is obvious that there will be a high melt-off. In Paris Agreement, major leaders of the world have agreed to stop the increase in temperature below 2 degrees in this century.

mountain glacier in india

So, what happens when there is an excess melt off of the ice from the Glaciers? Sea level rises right? Some of India lies within the Sea and on Coasts, they are vulnerable to the sea-level rise. But, again is the sea level rise only the problem. We shall discuss this in the Impacts/Effects of Climate Change in India.

Let’s understand more about the causes of Climate Change in India.

The population of India is around 1.3 Billion which is expected to exceed that of China in coming decades. Also, India is in the phase of development which means we shall develop more technologies, factories, cars, etc. that use greenhouse gases in the future. This implies we shall not going to stop soon. A transition from the Developing to the Developed is the probable future.

However, as per the hypothesis developed by an economist named Simon Kuznets, we can argue that economy of the country is developed to a certain point after that it decreases, and the things like emission of gases and all too decrease. However, there is a need for a balance between economy, social life, and environment. We cannot just say ignore other stuff and just focus on maintaining Earth’s temperature. This is called Sustainable Development. It is only the solution for Climate Change in India and the world.

Impacts/Effects of Climate Change in India.

The Impacts of Climate Change are more specific in nature than the causes. They can vary a lot within the state or the country or in space and time. We call it non-linear changes. It would be better to understand the major ones. Let’s look at the general list of the effects of Climate Change in India with local examples.

One: Melting of Glaciers and formation of Glacial Lakes.

As pointed earlier, India has around 10,000 glaciers. There are two seasons for the glaciers, one is called accumulation season and the other is called ablation. In the accumulation season (October-March) the snowfall creates stacks of moving snow that flows. In the ablation season (April-September), the flowing ice melts and feeds up the river. However, if there is excess melt during the ablation season there is a surplus of water. It results in the formation of the Glacial Lakes. South Lhonak Lake, Sikkim is one such example. The glacial lakes are made up of weak boundaries which we call moraine dams. These can break and the water can reach nearby areas causing floods namely Glacial Outburst Floods (GLOFs).

In India, everyone is aware of the Kedarnath floods of 2013. It killed around 5,000 people and destroyed the properties. There was an outburst in Chorabari Lake, followed by cloud bursts (heavy rain). It triggered the weak boundaries of the lake to collapse and caused the floodings. There are hundreds and thousands of more glacial lakes which makes people living downstream more vulnerable.

depiction of floods metaphor
Image for depiction.

Two: Water Scarcity especially in hilly areas.

There are excess water in the oceans and the glacial lakes but also the water never reaches the one who needs it. This is the harsh irony of modern times. In the hilly areas like Shimla, people face water scarcity because the springs are dying. In the plains too groundwater recharge has gone low because of the dry climate. During the first half of 2019, 91 major reservoirs recorded a 32% drop in their water capacity. Also, the city of Chennai had 55% less rainfall.

Three: Heat Waves.

In summer times, the places like Bihar face the problem of heatwaves. In 2018, India had the sixth hottest year on record. The heatwaves have killed many people in the country. This is one of the major impacts/effects of climate change in India.

heat abstract
Heat Depiction

Four: Agriculture.

In India, the economy majorly depends on Agriculture. There are crops that depend upon certain conditions. If the factors like weather or water availability vary, there might be a reduction in production. It directly impacts the economy of the nation. It is predicted that by 2030, rice and wheat can see about 6-10 per cent decrease in yields. Also, the Kharif crops shall be impacted more by variation in rainfall, Rabi crops by minimum temperature.

Five: Sea Level Rise.

Sea level rise is one of the major effects of climate change. As per the scientists, the sea level can rise up to 1m by 2100. This will directly impact the coastal areas and the areas nearby the sea/oceans. The islands like Lakshadweep, Andaman, and the Nicobar Islands will be highly vulnerable.

Six: Migration and impacts on the different species.

Migration is a big field of study within climate change research. It includes separate studies for each species including the home sapiens or us. There are concerns for the people in the states like Meghalaya. Due to the fear of sea-level rise, people will migrate from coasts. The state doesn’t have sufficient resources to settle so much of the population.

There are many birds that are known to us by the name passage migrants. They are the birds like a spotted flycatcher, Rufous-tailed scrub robin,  European roller, etc. These birds migrate through western India. Birds like Amur Falcons pass through India during the month of December. Also, many birds come from temperate regions, for example, the Siberian Cranes visit India in winter. What if these birds never travel to India because of the climate? There would be a rise in pests, lesser dispersal of seeds, etc.

Migrating Birds

Various plants are native to India. Let’s take the example of Rhododendron and Orchid. These two species are migrating towards different altitudes.

Seven: Drought

Many parts of the Indian state Rajasthan are vulnerable to the drought. Also, the states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have faced drought in recent years.

Eight: Negative health implications.

The implication on health due to climate change is also one of the vast areas in climate change research. On one general note, we can see a couple of examples that are applicable to India. The rise in temperature invites dangerous mosquitoes which causes Malaria and related diseases. Also, there is a negative impact of heat on the human body.


The earth needs an action, our simple contribution can help the mother nature to revive. One of the best solution for the Climate Change is planting trees. We are all aware that plant takes carbon dioxide and gives oxygen. For now we should plant more and more trees so that excess carbon is taken by the trees.

Just like the impacts of Climate Change varies within different areas. Adaptation and Mitigation measures too vary. We can discuss Adaptation and Mitigation in upcoming articles. Till then stay updated with Scientific Nation.

Kaudinya Arpan is a Glaciologist and Research Scholar focused on the use of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. He is also trained in Philosophy of Life.

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