Rising temperatures drive up farmer suicides in India: US study
According research report from the University of California, US, climate change may have led to over 59,000 farmer suicides over the last 30 years in India.
The study was carried out using data for all States and Union Territories. It tested the link between climate change, crop yields and suicide by comparing the number of suicides across India between 1967 and 2013 with crop yield and climate data. Data on suicides were collected from the National Crime Records Bureau.
Key Highlights of Study
The increase in temperature during the cropping season reduces crop yields, resulting in increased suicides. Even a 1°C increase in temperature above 20° C in a single day during the crop growing season results in about 70 suicides on average. Similar increase in temperature during other seasons did not result in a rise in suicides.
Crop losses due to heat damage causes additional burden on farming households leading to suicides. Moreover, increase in rainfall by 1 cm during the growing season decreases about 0.8 deaths per 100,000, thus lowering the suicide rate by 7% on average.
The effect of climate variation has revealed that past growing season temperature strongly influences suicide rates in the following years up to five years. For instance, abundant rainfall during one growing season leads to dip in the suicide rates for the next two or three years. Drought does not have any effect on suicide rates.
South India, which is generally hotter, has higher farmer suicide rates. States where the yields are more affected by high temperatures are also the States which report higher suicide rates. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have severe suicide rates in responses to temperature and crop yield is also more negatively affected by higher temperature.
Limitations of Study
The study has not looked at other factors that could have contributed to suicides. It did not find any adaptive behaviour to prevent suicides in response to climate change.