Photo:PTI
Photo:PTI

Climate change may aggravate rural poverty

Climate change could worsen India' performance on social indices and hinder the achievement of the sustainable development goals.

Climate change hurts everyone but India’s poor are particularly vulnerable. Last year’s Economic Survey highlighted how climate change adversely affects agriculture productivity and farm incomes.

And a new study by K.N. Ninan from the Centre for Economics, Environment and Society published in the Economic and Political Weekly takes the analysis further by showing how climate change will aggravate rural poverty in the future. Using data from the household consumer spending surveys conducted by the National Sample Survey Office, he estimates that climate change will not only increase the population living under poverty but also aggravate the conditions of those living in poverty.

According to Ninan, the extent of rural poverty is a function of agricultural productivity and food prices. Agricultural production determines farm incomes, while food prices determine a huge part of the consumption basket of the poor. Climate change, through rising temperatures and increasing precipitation, affects both these factors: decreasing agricultural productivity and increasing food prices. In addition, climate change increases population pressures on land and other environmental resources.

All this, Ninan suggests, will drag rural incomes back to below the poverty line. Ominously, he argues that climate change threatens to erode the gains made by India in rural poverty reduction since the reforms in 1991. Further, climate change could worsen India’ performance on social indices and hinder the achievement of the sustainable development goals. To prevent this, the author calls for the government to implement better social safety nets and to strengthen the adaptive capacity of the rural poor. He suggests that farming systems in India ought to be made more resilient, through better cropping practices and suitable technologies.

Also read: Climate change and rural poverty levels in India

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