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Climate Change to Affect 600 Million Indians: World Bank

Unchecked global climate change could dent India’s value by 2.8% and depress the living standards of nearly half the population by 2050, with individuals living within the severe “hotspot” districts of Central India, notably Vidarbha, observing the prospect of over a 10% 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 patterns in several corners of the country due to global warming. The study, South Asia’s Hotspots, published on Thursday, has predicted a 2% fall in the country’s GDP–in terms of per capita consumption expenditures–notwithstanding whether the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of containing global warming to 2℃ is achieved.

A 2.8% decline in the GDP, as projected within the business-as-usual situation, could cost India a loss of $1.1 trillion by the year 2050. The loss within the severe hotspot districts can amount to over $400 billion, the study says.

The report finds that inland regions are at a much higher risk of economic losses than coastal or rough areas because of rising temperatures, with the most impact seemingly to be felt in Central and Northern India. Among states, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are projected to witness a dip of over 11% in living standards by 2050, within the “carbon-intensive” situation.

The Vidarbha region, a ground-zero of farmer’s distress within India, is projected to be the center of climate-related misery. Seven of the ten major “hotspot” districts mentioned within the report, are situated in Vidarbha. In every one of those districts, unbridled global climate change could lead to over 11% dip in living standards as well.

“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.”

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The effects of temperature rise can be substantial, with implications for agricultural productivity, health, migration, and different factors, says the report. By 2050, annual average temperatures in India are predicted to increase by
1-2℃ despite action being taken to curb emissions, and approximately 1.5-3℃ under the carbon-intensive situation.

The study analyzed climate data along with surveys of households to understand how changes in average weather will seemingly have an effect on living standards. The study found that just about 600 million individuals in India nowadays live at places that may become moderate or severe hotspots by 2050 under circumstances of an unchecked climate-change situation.

The study has come up with hotspot maps for India for the year 2050, based on both the carbon-intensive and
climate-sensitive situations. The carbon-intensive situation shows much more severe hotspots.

“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.