The IPCC is an international body that assesses the state of scientific knowledge related to climate change, its impacts, and potential future risks.
This sea-level rise is attributed to two primary factors:
1. Thermal Expansion: As ocean water warms, it expands. Given the vastness of the world’s oceans, even a small increase in temperature can result in a significant rise in sea levels due to this thermal expansion.
2. Melting of Polar Ice: The melting of glaciers and polar ice sheets (Greenland and Antarctica) contributes to increased volumes of water in the oceans.
Potential impacts in India and the other countries in the Indian Ocean region:
1. Coastal Erosion and Inundation:
Both India and its neighbors have extensive coastlines. Rising sea levels will lead to increased coastal erosion, threatening habitats, agricultural lands, and infrastructure.
Many cities, including megacities like Mumbai (India) and Karachi (Pakistan), are coastal and will face challenges from inundation and increased flooding events.
2. Loss of Habitat and Biodiversity:
Coastal and marine ecosystems, such as mangroves, estuaries, and coral reefs, will be significantly affected. For example, the Sundarbans mangrove forest, shared by India and Bangladesh, will face severe impacts.
These ecosystems are not only biodiversity hotspots but also play vital roles in supporting fisheries and providing natural defenses against storms and tsunamis.
3. Salinization of Freshwater Sources:
Rising sea levels will lead to saltwater intrusion into freshwater sources, impacting both drinking water and agriculture. Countries like the Maldives and Sri Lanka, with limited freshwater sources, will be particularly vulnerable.
4. Impact on Small Island Nations:
Several island nations in the Indian Ocean, such as the Maldives, Seychelles, and Mauritius, face existential threats. Some low-lying islands could be submerged, displacing populations and erasing entire cultures and histories.
5. Socio-Economic Impacts:
Displacement of coastal communities will lead to loss of livelihoods, especially for those dependent on fisheries and agriculture.
Migration due to sea-level rise can lead to “climate refugees”, creating socio-political challenges in the region.
6. Threats to Heritage Sites:
Cultural and UNESCO heritage sites located in coastal areas, such as the ancient city of Mahabalipuram in India, could be at risk.
7. Health Impacts:
Increased flooding can lead to waterborne diseases, posing health challenges.
8. Economic Costs:
Infrastructure will need to be relocated or fortified, leading to substantial economic costs.
There will be costs associated with disaster management, relief, and rehabilitation following more frequent extreme weather events.
To address these challenges, countries in the region need to invest in adaptive strategies, including constructing sea barriers, restoring and conserving natural barriers like mangroves, implementing early warning systems, and revising coastal zone regulations to account for anticipated sea-level changes.