Unchecked climate change will dent India’s GDP by 2.8 per cent and depress the living standards of nearly half the population by 2050, with people living in the severe “hotspot” districts of central India, particularly Vidarbha, staring at the prospect of an over 10 per cent dip in economic consumption.
These are the findings of a first-of-its-kind World Bank study that quantifies the economic impacts of rising temperatures and changes in rainfall in different parts of the country due to global warming.
The study, South Asia’s Hotspots, released on Thursday, projects a 2 per cent fall in the country’s GDP — in terms of per capita consumption expenditures — even if the 2015 Paris Agreement goals of containing global warming to 2 degrees C is achieved.
A 2.8 per cent drop in GDP, as projected in the business-as-usual scenario, will cost India $1.1 trillion by 2050. The loss in the severe hotspot districts, with an average 9.8 per cent drop in consumption, will amount to over $400 billion, the study says. What is a climate hotspot?
It’s a location where gradual changes in average temperature and rainfall patterns will have negative impacts on living standards in future
The report finds that inland regions are at far higher risk of economic losses due to rising temperatures than coastal or hilly areas, with the maximum impact likely to be felt in central and north India. Among states, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are projected to witness over 9 per cent dip in living standards by 2050 in the “carbon-intensive” or business-as-usual scenario.
The Vidarbha region, a ground-zero of farm distress in the country, is projected to be in the centre of climate-related misery as well. Seven of the 10 major “hotspot” districts mentioned in the report, are in Vidarbha. In each of these districts, unchecked climate change could led to over 11 per cent dip in living standards by 2050.
“Temperature rise is a slow-moving disaster that’s not talked about much,” said economist Muthukumara Mani, the lead author of the study. “A lot of focus of climate change studies is on extreme events so people tend to ignore these gradual changes happening for the last 50-60 years.”
The effects of temperature rise could be substantial, with implications for agricultural productivity, health, migration and other factors, says the report. By 2050, annual average temperatures in India are estimated to increase 1-2 degrees C under the climate-sensitive scenario (where action is taken to curb emissions) and 1.5-3 degrees C under the carbon-intensive scenario. The study analysed climate data in combination with household surveys to arrive at how changes in average weather are likely to affect living standards. It found that nearly 600 million people in India today live at places that will become moderate or severe hotspots by 2050 under the unchecked climate-change scenario.
“Our methodology has been extensively peer-reviewed, both inside and outside the World Bank. We are very confident of the robustness of the analysis,” Mani said.
The study has drawn up hotspot maps of India, 2050, based on both the carbon-intensive and climate-sensitive scenarios. The carbon-intensive scenario shows far more severe hotspots, places likely to see an over 8 per cent dip in living standards, underlining the huge economic losses India stands to avoid if the world takes action on GHGs.
“Our work points the way for policymakers. They can choose to invest in areas that are more impacted by warming and make best use of their resources for climate change,” explained Mani.