Earth's weather and climate are governed by non-linear processes, and hence complex and need large amount of data for predictions. In order to support science-based risk management decisions, as well as investments in early warning systems, the information, apart from on earth system processes, required on exposures and vulnerabilities of the population and assets (e.g., agricultural production, infrastructure and homes, etc), and socio-economic data that quantifies exposure and vulnerability (for instance casualties, construction damages, crop yield reduction and water shortages).
Such data qualifies as big data and we need innovative ways to harness information to produce useful insight into predictions and impacts on society. The new techniques of collecting and analyzing large amount of data will help us to understand relationship between science of climate change, and its impacts on society. The challenge is how we can use such data. The scientific and societal importance of big data as well as degree to which big data can become sources of environmental and economic value has to be ascertained.
The science of predictions is at the core of big data through artificial intelligence or machine learning. Big data is only not to train computers to think like human but essentially applying algorithms to huge quantity of data to infer probabilities of likely event to happen. Such systems improve themselves over time by continuously recognizing signals and patterns of likely impacts. It will provide quantitative dimensions to socio-economic impacts.
It is expected that climate change and its impact related data are in countless servers across the globe. It is possible that we lose accuracy at micro-level but gain an insight at macro level. We will be able to discover patterns and correlations that will provide valuable insights. We would be able to know what is happening. Every single data sets do have some intrinsic, hidden value, we need to discover same.
Big data will provide not only solution to addressing climate change but allow us better prepared to harness technology to improve quality of life. It will help to quantify all earth system processes and understand them better. Big data relies on all information available, it allows us to look at details. We can test new hypotheses at many levels of granularity. Satellite data collected over last 50 years and in future are likely to be the main source of information on the climate system. They may be less precise than single accurate measurement but provide more comprehensive picture and of greater value. The infusion of advanced spatial and locational technology tools will allow impact assessment of extreme weather phenomena using high resolution forecasts for critical locations and reconstruct climate conditions and spatial mapping for critical past events and develop risk management strategies using early warning systems, to reduce casualties. Medium and long-term sectoral planning (such as land zoning, infrastructure development, water resource management, agricultural planning) will facilitate to reduce economic losses and weather-indexed insurance and risk financing mechanisms, to build livelihood resilience.
India has been on forefront as far as mitigation efforts are concerned. India has committed to be a 2 degree compliant and is right on track for fulfilling commitments of the Paris agreements. India is a developing country and still its annual emissions are 0.5 tons per capita, well below global average of 1.3 tons. In terms of cumulative emissions, India's contribution is only 4 % for almost 1300 million population of the world. Compared to that, the EU having population of about 450 million, was responsible for 20 % of global emission.
The developed nations (excluding Russia) have practically not reduced their emissions. The pressure on more to the developing nations to curtail coal mining and coal-based power generation.
In India, Coal-based thermal power plants provide 72 % of electricity during 2019-20, and will continue to depend upon coal to provide energy security for years to come. The retrofitting by Flue Gas Desulfurisers (FGD) is not a practical solution as (i) the Indian coal is very low in sulphur, (ii) the requirement of limestone and water will add additional energy requirements. So what we need is a transition plan. It has been suggested to retire more than 25 years plants (~8000 MW) and generate power from High Efficiency, Low emissions (HELE) thermal and nuclear plants. By 2030, it is expected that India, will have only about 200 GW of coal based power generation.
The challenge to generate 70-80 % (650-750 GW) through renewable energy depends critically on technology development including improvement in efficiency of conversion of energy from its source to electricity, managing electricity grids as well as advances in storage technologies. The technology development in climate change mitigation has registered significant fall, after the Copenhegan Accord signaled the end of legally binding commitments to emission reduction by the developed countries. This is a major drawback and technology development need to be strengthened.
We know now that reducing carbon emissions alone may not be sufficient to curb global warming. We need to develop carbon negative technologies to remove large amounts of CO2 from atmosphere. We need a strategy by the middle of the century to move from net positive to net negative CO2 emissions.
Bio energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is one of the most promising technologies. Biofuels have been around for sometime, using sugarcane and corn to inedible cellulose and non-food crops. The latest biofuels derived from microbes that can live on wastelands and generate engine-ready chemicals, are worth pursuing.
Researchers have been looking for ways to convert carbon dioxide into methanol in a single step using energy efficient processes. This approach is very effective from chemistry point of view but very expensive (Courtemanche et al. 2013).
Efforts to reduce costs are undergoing.
Can we tinker the Earths climate? There are many schemes have devised to from whitening of clouds, sun-shades to fertilising ocean, covering deserts with shining Mylar, even sending swarm of mirrors to space. It is not clear whether such schemes can really fix climate or even feasible.