India is now in the midst of its annual monsoon season. 80% of India’s rainfall occurs during this season and is critical to its agricultural system. However, in many places it started 3-4 weeks late. Cumulative rainfall appears to be catching up, maybe now only 18-20% below normal in many places, 40% below normal in others. Daily rainfall is now running 50 to 80% above long term averages although June had the lowest cumulative rainfall in more than 80 years. In some spots, Uttar Pradesh (UP) being one, the lower rainfall is being characterized as producing “drought conditions.” In a parochial sense, I care about UP. Our company, DWP, sells solar systems to the farmers there (see on this blog, “600 Million Points of Light…”). A late start to the rain meant easier logistics selling in the area in June. However, if this means lower plantings and shorter harvests—which it does—the farmers won’t have enough income to buy the systems later in the season. And, the price of certain foodstuffs will likely rise, further reducing spendable income. If this occurs countrywide—which is the case—it could mean demand for foodstuffs on the world market will rise as India tries to feed its people.
Maybe this is just one of those statistical events. After all, the last four seasons have produced bumper crops in India. Or maybe, those climate change folks are right. They have been saying that one manifestation of climate change could be changing weather patterns with shorter, but more intense “seasons.” Some of them pointed to Katrina a few years back as an example of what could happen. Of course, that faded when the next year proved to be a mild hurricane season in the Atlantic/Gulf region. I will bet that some of them will point to this year’s monsoon season as supporting their case. In any event, weather/climate will likely force India to add food shortages to its list of problems this year.
India is taking somewhat of a wait and see attitude on Climate Change—as are many people. If nothing else, India believes that the western world should not be asking it to reduce carbon emissions when the developed countries are the ones that have put most of the carbon into the system up to now. On one level India is right. The western world needs to take some very aggressive steps to reduce its use of carbon. On another level, all the evidence says that India will likely suffer the most of any major country if global warming does occur—and there is some evidence that some of the effects of emissions are quite local. In addition, moving countries toward energy independence and fueling (if you will pardon the expression) a new technological wave, it is possible that pro-active steps to reduce carbon emissions may actually save lives and add to economic growth. If I felt there was a significant risk to humanity from the carbon path we are on—and I do—and I could change my position geopolitically—which I also believe—I would be doing everything I possibly could as a country to be a major participant in this carbon reduction cycle. As I said in my first post on this blog, we may be 10 years away from a more universal recognition that we have a problem. We are getting some early signals. How many do we need?