Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh may witness a temperature increase of up to 6.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century due to climate change, according to a study which warns that the glaciers in this Himalayan region could shrink by 85 per cent if the projections come true. The study, published in the journal Climatic Change on July 29, predicted the impact of future climate change in the Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh Himalaya, by the end of the twenty-first century using an ensemble of 11 models under three greenhouse gas emission scenarios.
It also highlights the changes in the distribution of the prevalent climate zones in the region.
"The study has been carried over the entire region of Jammu and Kashmir, including Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan, Aksai Chin and other regions across the Line of Control (LoC)," noted Professor Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, Dean of Research at the University of Kashmir.
"The average annual temperature is projected to increase by 4.5 degrees Celsius, 3.98 degrees Celsius, and 6.93 degrees Celsius by the end of the twenty first century under three different scenarios, respectively," Romshoo, lead author of the research, told PTI.
The temperature increase of 6.9 degrees Celsius for the Jammu and Kashmir Himalayas is way more than the projected average rise in the global and national temperatures by the end of the century.
Romshoo added that if the current emission rates of greenhouse gases are sustained, the global average temperature is likely to rise by nearly 5 degrees Celsius by the end of the twenty-first century under the worst case scenario.
Similarly, the average temperature over India is projected to rise by approximately 4.4 degrees Celsius under such a scenario, he said.
Romshoo noted that there will be significant impacts on almost every sector of the economy in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh due to this climate change driven temperature increase.
"The glaciers, the most important resource of the region, are going to shrink by around 85 per cent by the end of the century if the projections come true," the professor at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir, noted.
He explained that this would lead to significant depletion of the streamflows in the Indus basin, the waters of which are shared between several countries in South Asia.
Similarly, the impacts on agriculture, horticulture and even tourism shall significantly threaten the livelihood of the dependent population in the region, the environmentalist warned.
The researchers, including Jasia Bashir and Irfan Rashid from the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir, noted that the drivers of climate change are primarily the increasing emission rates of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gas emission is directly related to fossil fuel use, industrialisation, deforestation, air pollution, and other environmental unfriendly activities across the globe, they explained.
"Though, the mountainous regions like Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are the least industrialised, unfortunately, they are bearing the brunt of the climate change as the phenomena has global dimensions and footprint," Romshoo noted.
The projected climate change under the three emission scenarios also indicates significant changes in the distribution of prevalent climate zones.
The projected climate change under different scenarios revealed that the subtropical and temperate climatic zones would expand while the cold desert climate zone is projected to shrink significantly under all the three scenarios, the researchers noted.
"The cold desert climate zone in the Ladakh region would shrink by 22 per cent and correspondingly the subtropical and temperate zones would expand due to the projected climate change," the researchers noted in their study.
"The projected changes in the climate and climate zones by the end of the twenty-first century would have significant impacts on various sectors in the region which might lead to the redistribution and changes in the composition of vegetation, enhancement of snow depletion and glacier recession," said Romshoo.
He noted that the situation would also lead to an increase in the frequency of climate extremes, changes in streamflows, in the faunal and floral biodiversity, plant invasions, changes in agriculture and horticulture productivity.
This is in addition to the loss of hydropower generation, ecosystem services, and impacts on other key economic sectors in the region, according to the researchers.
"The vital information generated in this research would inform policymaking for framing robust strategies for adaptation and mitigation of the impacts of climate change on various socioeconomic and ecological sectors in the region," Romshoo added.