Friday, October 2, 2009

India's Ongoing Drought

An article by the Wall Street Journal yesterday looks at the severe drought which is currently affecting millions in India.  The monsoon season, which countless farmers and families rely on for survival, arrived late and supplied poor rainfall.  65% of farmers rely on these monsoons for their agricultural needs.  Any shortfall in rain directly hurts India's economy, where agriculture accounts for roughly 17% of its GDP.  Of even more concern is the growing lack of food.  Reduced output and rising prices have threatened the food security of almost 700 million Indians.  In August, the finance minister of India, Pranab Mukherjee, announced they would begin importing food to offset shortages.

These changes to India's weather patterns came as no surprise to many scientists, and were actually predicted. A Purdue University research study early this year concluded that ongoing climate change could precipitate weakened and delayed monsoon seasons in South Asia.  As quoted from a ScienceDaily article back in March, the research group,

"Found that climate change could influence monsoon dynamics and cause less summer precipitation, a delay in the start of monsoon season and longer breaks between the rainy periods.  Noah Diffenbaugh, whose research group led the study, said the summer monsoon affects water resources, agriculture, economics, ecosystems and human health throughout South Asia.  "Almost half of the world's population lives in areas affected by these monsoons, and even slight deviations from the normal monsoon pattern can have great impact," said Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and interim director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center."

As I mentioned in my previous post on food security and climate change, there is a wealth of information, analysis, and evidence that climate change is vastly affecting agriculture.  There needs to be some sort of international consensus that the way forward is not to ignore these warnings.  Let's be mindful of the numbers - only one weak monsoon season has already led to 700 million people facing hunger.  Can we afford to see these numbers grow and grow?

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