Report finds climate change poses threat to Indian farmers

17 October 2012

A new synthesis report (pdf) about the challenges posed by climate change in India has found that changes in temperature and rainfall will have a serious effect on already fragile farming communities. The report is part of a joint project by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests to better understand the potential impacts of climate change in India.

Rain in India

The research focused on the regions Orissa and Madhya Pradesh which are particularly vulnerable to climate change. It looked at national level socio-economic impacts of climate change on extreme weather events, water resources and agriculture.In the highly vulnerable state of Orissa, it focuses on cyclones and flooding. In Madhya Pradesh it focuses on the interaction between water resources and agriculture.

Researchers also developed practical advice on how farmers could effectively adapt to the challenges of climate change these included some no cost options. Farmers have already taken up a number of these suggestions, shifting to crops that require less water and diversifying into trade of vegetables, for example.

Technical advisor to the programme Thomas Tanner, IDS Research Fellow in the Climate Change Team, commented “This work provides crucial insights into the impacts of climate change in India. It clarifies the challenges for adapting to climate change and how meeting that challenge starts now.”

Key findings:

  • More intense monsoons. The amount of rainfall from Indian monsoons is expected to be between 8.9-18.6 per cent higher than current levels by 2080. Wind speeds associated with monsoons may also increase by up to 23 per cent by 2050.
  • Frequency of monsoons is not expected to change much, but they may shift south of their normal location.
  • More rainfall. Rainfall outside of monsoon season is expected to increase by between 11.5 - 23.4 per cent above current levels, averaged across India.
  • Temperature increases. In the 2020s, the projected warming is of the order of 0.5-1.5°C, by the 2050s, 3°C and by the 2080s, around 4°C. Warming will be greater over land than sea. The maximum warming is projected over northern parts of the Indian landmass and over the Himalayas.

Madhya Pradesh and Orissa related findings:

  • The populations of both regions are vulnerable to climate change, particularly as both have high dependency on agriculture for livelihoods.
  • By the 2080s, there is a projected increase of monsoon rainfall of up to 28 per cent over Madhya Pradesh and up to 23 per cent over Orissa. The projected temperature increases are 4.3°C over Madhya Pradesh and 4.2°C over Orissa.
  • An increase in drought events is projected by mid-century, but with fewer droughts towards the end of the century.
  • As rainfall events become heavier, flooding across both regions is expected to become more frequent by the end of the century.
  • Local changes in temperature and rainfall are expected to have significant impacts on crop production.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, wheat, irrigated rice and soy crop yields are all projected to decrease by the end of the century by 18, 3 and 25 per cent respectively, largely due to temperature increases.
  • In the same area, rain-fed rice yields are expected to increase by around 16 per cent, as increased rainfall means water is no longer a limiting factor in their growth.

Key contacts