Spotlight Activity: The Social Cost of Climate Change in India
India is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change. It has one of the highest densities of population and economic activities in the world, with a large number of poor people who rely on natural resources for their survival and livelihoods, with high dependence on rainfall. With the country’s current population pegged at 1.4 billion and counting, it is estimated that by 2020, pressure on India’s land, water, air, soil, forests and natural resources is expected to become the highest in the world.
HSBC Report (2018) on vulnerability to the physical impacts of climate change puts India on the top of the climate related risks among 67 nations that it surveyed.
Based on the IPCC 2018 report, it is estimated if trends in climate change and land holdings in India continue at the current pace, some 600 million people, or roughly half the population in India may directly or indirectly be impacted due to climate change conditions.(https://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf)
One of the most significant ways that climate change will impact the lives of people in India will be through its agriculture sector and water resources. The water situation is getting further accentuated due to large scale urbanization and infrastructure development with India having 17% of the world population with just 4% of world water resource availability.
This year, India has seen distributed rains with a large part of the country either under floods or under drought, impacting agriculture activities of more than 700 million people with direct impact on their livelihood and sustenance.
Extreme weather events are costing India USD 9-10 billion annually and climate change is projected to impact agricultural productivity with increasing severity from 2020 to the end of the century.
In a recent submission to a parliamentary committee, the agriculture ministry stated that the productivity decrease of major crops would be marginal in the next few years but could rise to as much as 10-40% by 2100 unless farming adapts to climate change-induced changes in weather.
Health issues multiply the risks
The effect of climate distortion on the health and wellbeing of people in India is often overlooked, further weakening the nation’s human resource base. While previously unheard of, heat strokes are becoming commonplace in parts of country as summer temperatures are touching 50 degrees Celsius (122°F). There is a dearth of data on climate change inducing rise in diseases, but it shouldn’t be surprising if such a study does indeed establish a correlation between climate change and the spread of diseases, particularly communicable diseases. It is estimated that with a climate temperature that is above 1.5 Degree Celsius, more than 350 million people in India could be exposed to deadly heat stress by 2050 (https://www.nhp.gov.in/health-and-climate-change_pg).
The way forward
The Indian government has recognised that climate change is a deterrent for the country’s development aspirations. State Action Plans on Climate Change addresses the issues of sustainability of agricultural systems, energy sufficiency and efficiency, and enhanced impacts on health, among other issues. However, there is a need for more robust, holistic and transformative state plans that address wider issues such as climate induced migration and conflict. Economic forecasting along with mapping of climate change trends will aid in the planning and implementation of stronger adaptation and mitigation measures throughout the country, helping it cope with the projected effects of climate change. (http://forest.bih.nic.in/Docs/SAPCC%20Final%20Draft%2011-09-2015%20(Part%20A,%20B%20and%20C).pdf)
Status: Right Direction
India is progressing well with its policy regimes in energy, e-mobility, agriculture, green technologies, private sector participation in policy planning, special packages for ‘climate hotspots’ at the sub regional levels in place while working closing with international agencies including the UN and its affiliate systems such as the World Bank. It continues to stay committed to follow through on all international protocols and commitments it is a signatory to.
India has the full potential to follow up and through its action plans on a range of climate mitigation and adaptation policies it already has put in place, while adopting a pro-poor approach in policy execution plans. As the 7th largest world economy, India has a new found opportunity to tackle climate change issues with large potential economic opportunities for robust growth including achieving USD 5 trillion economic size by 2024 as set out by India.
India, due to its diversity, large landmass, scarce natural resources, seasonal weather variations, agriculture predominant economy and its burgeoning population, continues to be one of the nations most vulnerable to climate risk. It is estimated that India annually loses up to USD 10 billion from climate change episodes and its mainstay – agriculture – continues to be under increasing stress to develop efficient mitigation and adaptation policies. Otherwise aborigines, women, elderly, children, migrants, forest dwellers, coastal habitants, and those near sea shores will continue to suffer. The Indian government has put in place required measures and also made its commitment to fight climate change (including strengthening its NDCs by 2020) comprehensively in its recently concluded parliamentary proceedings. However, the government should be held accountable for achieving the impact of these measures.
Send Action Alert Message to:
Shri. Narendra Modi
Hon’ble Prime Minister of India
Twitter handle: @pmoindia
Linkedin: https: //in.linkedin.com/in/narendramodi
Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change
Government of India, New Delhi
Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi
Dr. Ajay Mathur
The energy Research Institute, New Delhi
FICCI, New Delhi
Group Editor, Morning India