In India, weather-related natural disasters already cause annual chaos. Two months ago, whole regions of West Bengal disappeared under water – rescue workers had to use boats to give emergency help to more than 16 million affected people.
These were the worst floods for more than 20 years. Several factors were blamed – from silted riverbeds to mismanagement of resources. But could global warming also have played a part? Journalist Nirmal Ghosh firmly believes global warming is going to cause far more chaos across India in the future.
“We’re talking about mass migrations because of changing weather. That will have implications on politics. There are states in India which are fighting court cases over water,” Mr Ghosh says.
As well as floods, India also suffers acute water shortages – earlier this year the western state of Rajasthan was struck by drought. Nirmal Ghosh says the steady shrinking of Himalayan glaciers means the entire water system is being disrupted – global warming, he says, will cause even greater extremes.
“Statistically, it is proven that the Himalayan glaciers are actually shrinking, and within 50 to 60 years they will virtually run out of producing the water levels that we are seeing now. “This will cut down drastically the water available downstream, and in agricultural economies like the plains of UP (Uttar Pradesh) and Bihar, which are poor places to begin with. This is probably going to, over a short period of time, cause tremendous social upheaval,” he says.
Not everyone agrees. Some scientists say the glaciers have been shrinking for decades and other factors are to blame. Certainly, India has a long history of extreme weather patterns – and extremes of temperature across the continent. So is it too simplistic to blame global warming just because recent floods and droughts have been acute?