(EnergyAsia, June 12, Friday) — The Indian monsoon, the lifeline of the subcontinent, will be significantly affected by climate change, according to a Greenpeace report.

It said the stability and predictability of the monsoons are critical to India’s economy, society and ecology, and changes in the monsoon will have far-reaching impacts.

The report, ‘Monsoon Wager’, is a compilation of current climate science on the Indian monsoon, and concludes that climate change could bring about significant changes to the intensity, geographic distribution and inter-seasonal breaks in the monsoon, which would have enormous social consequences.

Mumbai and Thane are listed among the cities in South Asia most vulnerable to flooding, storm surges and sea-level rise.

“The lives of millions of Indians – farmers, city dwellers and even those trading on the Mumbai Sensex – depend on the monsoon. India cannot allow the delicate balance of the monsoon to be thrown awry; we cannot afford to adapt if the monsoons are impacted, we simply have to stop that from happening,” said Vinuta Gopal, Greenpeace India Climate & Energy campaigner.

The predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its 4th Assessment Report suggest that warming is likely to be above the global average for South Asia, with an increase in summer precipitation and an increase in the frequency of intense precipitation in some parts.

More extreme rainfall and winds may result from tropical cyclones. Rainfall will increase by some 20% overall in the summer monsoon, but it will not be spread evenly across the country.

“The longer the climate negotiators delay, the greater the threat to India’s one billion inhabitants will be. Either heads of state agree a new treaty at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December of this year or the foundation of Indian civilisation will be in peril,” said Mr Gopal.

If the current negotiation text, including President Obama’s target of bringing the US emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020, becomes the final deal, global temperature will more than likely rise 3°C.

A rise of 3° by the end of the century could have, among other things, the following impacts:

• 1.2 billion to 3 billion people suffering from water shortage;

• Increasing desertification in southern Europe and more heat waves as in the summer of 2003

• Stronger cyclones and hurricanes, like cyclone Aila last month and Hurricane Katrina in 2005

• Increased global sea-level rise which could threaten major urban centres like New York, Shanghai, and Hamburg 

• 125 million displaced people in South Asia.

Greenpeace has called on Dr Singh to put India’s climate policy on track, and other world leaders to put their negotiators back on track.

The green lobby group said that the negotiations for a Copenhagen treaty have been slow and inadequate, and with only six months to go before the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, time is running out.