Europe Triggers Drought In India

The April 21 meeting between European Union (EU) Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi was an important one, as it took place after researchers at Imperial College London revealed that pollution from Europe caused a drought in the South Asian country.
Describing the drought as one of India’s worst ever natural disasters, researchers said that it affected more than 13 million people in different parts of the country. Apostolos Voulgarakis of Climate Change and the Environment’s (ICL) Grantham Institute said that the north-western parts of India experienced a staggering 40% drop in rainfall in the last 16 years due to emissions from main industrial areas in northern hemisphere. The lead researcher claimed that Europe’s emissions alone caused reductions of up to 10% in the north-western and south-western parts of India. According to Voulgarakis, emissions in one part of the world can have a significant effect on another part, even if the affected part remains free from any pollution. “East Asia is contributing more because (of an effect) because it’s closer, but there is an effect from Europe and also the US,” he added.
Researchers further explained that sulphur dioxide, produced mainly by coal-fired power plants, causes various harmful effects, such as acid rain, heart and lung diseases, and damage to plant growth. It is a fact that sulphate aerosols have a cooling effect on the atmosphere because it reflects sunlight back into space. But, they also increase air pollution levels and cause drought. The study shows how emissions from the northern hemisphere can change the relative rate of warming in the south.
Imperial College researchers are of the opinion that emissions of sulphur dioxide in Europe had affected the rainfall in India in 2000. Droughts in India have continued as the world has got warmer, despite a fall in European sulphur dioxide emissions by around 74% between 1990 and 2011.
Although the main purpose of Mogherini-Swaraj meeting was to discuss outstanding bilateral issues ahead of India-EU Summit scheduled for later this year, the Indian minister raised the issue of climate change and urged Mogherini to seriously consider the report prepared by the Imperial College researchers. She also hinted that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could raise the issue during his meeting with European leaders.
According to Swaraj, it is unfortunate that India is facing pressure to speed up its plans for cutting greenhouse gases used in refrigerators, air conditioning and aerosols when pollution in Europe causes drought in the country. As far as the issue of climate change is concerned, the minister made clear that India is not acting under pressure. She informed the visiting EU official that India’s decision on voluntary reduction of carbon emission intensity was made only to facilitate and promote a successful outcome at Copenhagen. Swaraj once again assured Mogherini that India would cut down its carbon emission intensity by 20-25% by the end of 2020, saying that Europe (too) should respect the Kyoto Protocol.

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