Climate change linked to 59,000 suicides in India over last 30 years

A study by a UC-Berkeley scholar came barely a week after it was reported that Centre had diverted $25 billion from clean energy fund to the new GST regime

Photo by Rajanish Kakade/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Rajanish Kakade/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Dhairya Maheshwari

A new study has found a direct link between suicides in India and climate change, blaming erratic weather pattern for 59,000 suicides, mostly agriculture-related, in the country over the last thirty years.

“Warming a single day by 1 degree Celsius during India’s agricultural growing season leads to roughly 65 suicides across the country, whenever that day’s temperature is above 20 degrees Celsius,” the study by Tamma Carleton, a researcher from University of California, Berkeley, said.

Warming a day by 5 degrees Celsius has five times that effect, the research, the findings of which were carried in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, added.

“Heat drives crop loss, which can cause ripple effects throughout the Indian economy as poor harvests drive up food prices, shrink agricultural jobs and draw on household savings. During these times, it appears that a staggering number of people, often male heads of household, turn to suicide, Carleton, a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, argued in her study.

The critical study came barely a week after a news report on highlighted that Centre had diverted funds to the tune $25 billion, otherwise earmarked for a clean energy fund, to make up for financial losses that states would suffer in implementing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) reform. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier this year committed that India would “go above and beyond” the Paris Climate Agreement in tackling climate change.

The UC Berkeley research shed light on the magnitude of the problem India may be confronted with if Centre didn’t focussed enough on climate change.

Already, seven per cent of nearly 130,000 suicides that India has witnessed every year since 1980 have been blamed on global warming. Nearly 15 per cent of suicides in the world take place in India, the study found

The American study noted that “warming had been linked to human activity.”

“It was both shocking and heart-breaking to see that thousands of people face such bleak conditions that they are driven to harm themselves,” Carleton says.

An article on Berkeley News informed that Carleton had tested gone through National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data on reported suicides in 32 Indian states between years 1967 and 2013.

The study warns that estimates of “temperature-linked suicides” in India were too low due to underreporting and, until 2014, a legislation that made attempted suicide a criminal offense.

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