A farmer sits on a dried-up patch of land in the southern Indian state of Karnataka in May 2015. (Jagadeesh Nv/European Pressphoto Agency)
“Every year, thousands of Indian farmers commit suicide. Now one researcher thinks it may have something to do with climate change.
Tamma Carleton, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, compared almost five decades worth of suicide and climate data and concluded that temperature variations in India may have “a strong influence” on suicide rates during the growing season.
In her study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Carleton estimates that more than 59,000 farmer suicides over the past 30 years can be linked to global warming.
Carleton’s findings are particularly worrisome and come just two months after the Trump administration pulled out of the Paris climate accord, which was adopted by 196 countries, including the United States under the Obama administration in December 2015. As part of the agreement, world leaders committed to holding the average global temperature rise to “well below” two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. After President Trump pulled out of the accord, many countries, including India and China, said they would continue to honor their commitments under the accord.”
“. . . . High temperatures in the growing season reduce crop yields, putting economic pressure on India’s farmers, she writes. “These crop losses may also permeate throughout the economy, causing both farming and nonfarming populations to face distress as food prices rise and agricultural labor demand falls.”
Rainfall in the growing season, too, is important, Carleton suggests. More rain means higher yields, she writes, noting: “Suicide rates fall as growing season rainfall increases.”
According to the World Health Organization, India accounts for the highest number of suicidesin the world. A staggering 133,623 people took their own lives in 2015, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau. More than 12,000 of those were farmers and agricultural laborers, almost one-tenth of the total.
According to Indian authorities, bankruptcy and indebtedness or farming-related issues are cited as the major causes of suicide among farmers in India.”