• Lucy Brock

Developing in a Green Way: India’s Struggle with Climate Change


The discourse on climate change and who can improve the earth’s current and future conditions is often centered on the most highly developed countries. In terms of pollution this makes sense, because more developed countries generally produce more carbon emissions due to their higher consumption of energy sources, namely coal or oil (Safi). However the actual consequences of climate change usually affect developing countries, and often in unexpected ways.

Geographically, developing countries are at a disadvantage when it comes to the more immediate effects of climate change. As many developing countries are close to the equator, they are at a higher risk for natural disasters (Singleton). Paying off insurance claims and rebuilding infrastructure after these events can be extraordinarily costly, forcing developing nations to get loans from allied nations (UNFCCC). According to a study done by the Centre for Climate Finance and Investment at Imperial College Business School, twenty developing countries most vulnerable to climate change have already paid an additional 53-82 billion CAD in investment payments due to natural disasters, including floods, droughts, and severe weather (Singleton). In the next ten years, these countries are expected to have a debt increase of another 222 billion CAD (UNFCCC). Most of this debt has been brought on by governments shelling out money to citizens who have taken out insurance policies that protect against crop failure, which is often a result of rising temperatures. With rising global temperatures and an increase in natural disasters, governments have been losing significant amounts of money from these insurance plans, and are forced to borrow from other countries (Safi). This borrowed money, however, has very high interest rates, which only ends up increasing the debt of these developing nations (UNFCCC).

Sometimes the consequences of climate change go beyond the immediate effects rising temperatures have on the planet. In 2016, the Indian government put up 2.2 billion CAD in an insurance scheme, where farmers would pay premiums as little as 1.5% on the value of their crops (Safi). While this insurance plan ended up being very costly for the government, it was deemed necessary due to a rash of suicides among farmers in India. Many said these suicides were because of debts the farmers owed the bank, which they were unable to pay off due to crop failure that was a result of a warming climate (Safi). This financial strain, which appears to be a result of climate change for Indian farmers, seems to be the main cause for this increase in suicides. In the past three decades, there have been around 60,000 reported suicides for Indian farmers, and climate change is said to have been a trigger for this increase of deaths (Safi). A study from the University of California, Berkeley, found that an increase of 1° C on a given day meant an average increase of 67 suicides, while an increase of 5° C produced an increase of 335 suicides (Safi). To support the claim that this is truly in relation to climate change, the study found that temperature increases that occurred outside the growing season had no effect on the rate of suicides--the conclusion being that these increases in temperature are mostly affecting the agricultural industry (Safi). Another supporting fact found was that an increase of rainfall by just 1 cm was correlated to a 7 percent decrease in suicide rates (Safi). Indeed increased rainfall was found to be so beneficial to the land, and suicide rates would decrease for two years after an increase in rainfall (Safi). Furthermore, these mostly correlative studies have not gone unnoticed by Indian citizens, both within and outside the agricultural community. By May of 2017, after massive droughts in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, there had already been 852 farmer suicides that year (Safi). In the months to come, citizens began piling skulls and bones, supposedly those of farmers, at a site Jantar Mantar, in Delhi, just within walking distance of the Indian parliament (Safi). Protesters again claimed that the reason these farmers were killing themselves was due to debts they were unable to pay off (Safi).

The disastrous effects of rising global temperatures are not about to disappear; its long-term effects are not evenly distributed, and finding solutions is difficult. In India, an increasing number of heat waves expected in the coming decades could be classified as posing “extreme danger” to three-fourths of India’s population (Carrington). In order to mitigate these rising temperatures, it is important for India to develop its energy sources in the most environmentally-friendly way possible. Currently India’s carbon emissions are tiny compared to its populous, but are increasing at dangerous rates (Carrington). In 2016, India’s emissions rose by 5%, and as India comprises 16% of the world’s population, any increase at all in emissions can be very damaging for the world as a whole (Carrington). One small sign of hope is that costs for green energy plants are becoming much cheaper, and as of 2016, solar and wind power are cheaper than coal (Carrington). The Indian government has already pledged that no new coal-fired power stations will be needed in the next decade (Carrington). Ajay Mathur, the head of the Energy and Resources Institute, an influential Delhi-based think-tank, tells us “As [existing] coal plants retire they will be replaced by renewables, because that’s what makes economic sense” (Carrington). Globally the best thing we can do is attempt to further drive down costs for green energy. Charles Donovan, director of the Centre for Climate Finance and Investment, says, “Investments in climate adaptation can not only reduce social, ecological and economic harm, but can buffer against fiscal impairments. But to be effective, these investments need to be made now” (UNFCCC). The investments made now to help developing countries adapt to climate change will ultimately drive down the amount they’re borrowing from us in the future. Specifically in India, if the country were able to pay off more of its debts, it could potentially give even more lenient loans to its farmers to help with their suicide problem. Beyond this, as India develops (hopefully in a green way), more jobs will open up in different industries and farmers with crop failure might be able to find work elsewhere. It is fiscally beneficial to everyone to both drive down rates of clean energy and decrease interest rates on loans taken out by developing countries. If we don’t help these countries develop in a green way now, then there is a very poor outlook for the future of our planet and people.

Bibliography

Carrington, Damian, and Michael Safi. “How India's Battle with Climate Change Could Determine All of Our Fates.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 6 Nov. 2017, www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/06/how-indias-battle-with-climate-change-could-determine-all-of-our-fates.

“Climate Change Is Driving Debt for Developing Countries.” UNFCCC, 3 July 2018, unfccc.int/news/climate-change-is-driving-debt-for-developing-countries.

"File:(1) Agriculture and rural farms of India.jpg." Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. 27 Oct 2017, 07:38 UTC. 26 Nov 2018, <https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:(1)_Agriculture_and_rural_farms_of_India.jpg&oldid=264717358>.

Safi, Michael. “Suicides of Nearly 60,000 Indian Farmers Linked to Climate Change, Study Claims.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 31 July 2017, www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/31/suicides-of-nearly-60000-indian-farmers-linked-to-climate-change-study-claims.

Singleton, Laura. “Developing Countries Face Rising Payments Due to Climate Change, Says Report | Imperial News | Imperial College London.” Imperial College London - Resisting Insect Attack, 2 July 2018, www.imperial.ac.uk/news/187011/developing-countries-face-rising-payments-climate/.


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