Extreme weather events put big dent in India’s economy

Extreme weather conditions meant India suffered a loss of $159 billion in income in 2021, equivalent to 5.4% of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The Climate Transparency Report 2022 said extreme heat was the main factor, with the worst-hit sectors being services, manufacturing, agriculture, and construction. It also cited flooding as a serious issue.

Extremely high temperatures led to the loss of 167 billion labour hours, a 39% increase from 1990-1999, the report said.

Employee productivity in India is projected to decline by 5% if global temperatures increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius from the 1986-2006 reference period, the report said, adding that this decline will be 2.1 times more if the global temperatures increase by 2.5 degrees Celsius, and 2.7 times if it reaches 3 degrees Celsius.

About 80% of India’s population live in regions highly vulnerable to extreme disasters like severe flooding or heat waves.

“Between 2016-2021, extreme events such as cyclones, flash floods, floods, and landslides caused damage to crops in over 36 million hectares, a $3.75 billion loss for farmers in the country”, the report said.

“The annual damage from river flooding in the country is likely to increase by around 49% at 1.5 degree Celsius of warming. The damage from cyclones will increase by 5.7%.

“Precipitation is projected to increase by 6% from the reference period of 1986-2006, at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. Under a 3 degrees Celsius warming scenario, precipitation will increase by three times the precipitation anticipated at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.”

“The rainfall pattern in India has changed in the past 30 years, impacting many economic activities such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries,” the Climate Transparency Report also said.

“Snowfall in India is expected to decrease under 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario by 13% when compared with the reference period’s snowfall levels. At 3 degrees Celsius of warming, the decrease is expected to be 2.4 times the 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario,” the report said.

Earth’s global surface temperature has increased by around 1.1 degrees Celsius compared with the average in 1850-1900, the report also highlighted.


Increasing global temperatures

Commenting on the report, Chandra Bhushan, founder-CEO of International Forum for Environment, Sustainability & Technology, said: “The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will further increase with increasing global temperatures.

“India is already losing 3-5% of its GDP due to climate change and this number could rise to as much as 10% if the warming is not limited to below 2 degrees Celsius.

He added: “While a lot is being done to improve early warning systems and provide for rescue and relief, India will need to invest more in adaptation and resilience. It will require global support in managing climatic impacts.”

Despite India’s sophisticated early warning systems for floods and cyclones, end-to-end connectivity needs to be improved and be more robust.

India has its own climate target, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and a net-zero goal. At last year’s COP26 event, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed the country would achieve its targets by 2070.

According to its website, Climate Transparency “brings together the most authoritative climate assessments and expertise of stakeholders from G20 countries. Jointly, these experts develop a credible, comprehensive and comparable picture on G20 climate performance.

“The Climate Transparency Report covers easy-to-use information on all major areas such as mitigation and climate finance and includes detailed fact sheets on all G20 countries.”

The Climate Transparency Report provides a concise overview of the key facts and figures on the state of climate performance of the G20 in a comparative stocktake.

The organization added: “The analysis covers adaptation, mitigation and finance, with 20 detailed country profiles of all G20 members and a summary of key findings. In 2022, the report especially highlights the link between the climate emergency and energy crisis.

“Developed by experts from 16 partner organizations from the majority of the G20 countries, the report informs policy makers and stimulates national debates. Thanks to comparable and concise information, the Climate Transparency Report serves as a useful reference for decision makers and actors, and also for those central for climate for whom climate is not central.”