Climate change can push 45 million Indians into poverty

Climate change can push 45 million Indians into poverty

Climate change could negate India’s economic progress by causing a drop in crop yields, more diseases and more natural disasters, says a World Bank report.

Climate change can push 45 million Indians into poverty

Climate change could effectively negate India’s economic progress, pushing 45 million Indians into extreme poverty over the next 15 years, according to a World Bank report published last month.

In the absence of climate change, the World Bank report sees 189 million Indians living in poverty (i.e. on less than $1.9 or Rs 127 a day) by 2030. Climate change could push that number to as high as 234 million.

There were 263 million Indians living in poverty in 2011, according to recent World Bank estimates using a revised $1.9-a-day poverty line.

The situation where 45 million become poor because of climate change is just one of the scenarios described in the World Bank report “Shock waves: Managing the impacts of climate change on poverty“.

The unfolding dilemma for Narendra Modi

Some of the Bank’s suggestions to hold back the predicted tide of fresh poverty appear to run counter to the economic policies of Narendra Modi’s government. For instance, even as the government reins in health funding–as IndiaSpend reported earlier this year–with lesser money for states even after devolution, the report suggests greater investment in health infrastructure.

This includes more subsidised healthcare, health insurance and systems to warn about emerging health crises. A recent move in India to revamp a health insurance scheme for the poor, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, is a step in the right direction.

Other suggestions – to make assistance prompt, scalable and targeted – are in line with the government’s move to reform India’s vast subsidy programme.

“We published this report…to remind everybody…that the climate change challenge is not only about the environment and the climate,” said Julie Rozenberg, co-author and World Bank economist. “It is also about the future of poor and vulnerable people and our ability to eradicate poverty. And for countries like India, failing to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases could threaten prosperity and the future of millions of people.”

Four scenarios for India and the world

Poverty and climate change affect each other in various ways, and given the uncertainty about how things might play out over the next 15 years, the report has built four scenarios of how India, and the world, could look like in 2030.

These scenarios are different combinations of a) low-impact and b) high-impact climate change and of socio-economic pathways described by the report as a) ‘poverty’ (its features being high population growth, low GDP growth, and high poverty and inequality) and b) ‘prosperity’ (low population growth, high GDP growth, and low poverty and inequality).


Source: World Bank
Three ways in which climate-change drives poverty

There are three main factors triggered by climate change that could drive people into poverty: a drop in crop yields, natural hazards, poor health and labour productivity.


Source: World Bank
THE FIRST FACTOR: Climate change could see crop yields dropping (the worst-case scenario has global crop yield dropping by 5% by 2030) because of which food becomes costlier. People then end up spending less on other things or cutting down on how much food they have.

The recent examples are the food price spikes that pushed 100 million in 2008 and 44 million in 2010-11 into poverty around the world.

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