A significant link between India’s growing cases of suicide and increasing climate temperatures has been found by a newly-published study, raising concerns on the grave consequences of climate change.
The study, conducted by Tamma A. Carleton of the University of California, Berkeley, estimated that warming in the last 30 years was responsible for 59,300 suicides among farmers in India.
Reviewing 47 years of suicide records and climate data, Carleton found that high temperatures increased suicide rates, specifically in the country’s agricultural growing season when the heat lowered crop yields.
“While some aspects of climate impacts are relatively easy to observe and measure, such as crop yields or national GDP, other key indicators of human well being are much harder to quantify.”
The study appears to be among the few that aimed to quantify the association between climate change and suicide rates in India. In particular, it found that for a day above 20°C (68°F), an increase of 1°C causes an average of 67 suicides.
“Suicide is a heartbreaking indicator of human hardship, and the finding that this phenomenon is affected by a changing climate implies that it is essential to quantify its effect and consider this relationship as we build climate policy for the future,” Carleton added.
Carleton stressed that climate change, however, must not be the only absolute cause of the spike in suicide rates. There are other considerations worth looking at, such as healthcare access and religious practices.
Still, the finding easily warrants attention, considering that South Asia, where India is geographically a part of, is expected to have temperatures that exceed habitable levels by 2100, according to another recent study
by Eun-Soon Im, Jeremy S. Pal and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Loyola Marymount University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, respectively.
“With the disruption to the agricultural production, it doesn’t need to be the heat wave itself that kills people. Production will go down, so potentially everyone will suffer.”
If anything, these studies must be instrumental in India’s policy-making so that it can safeguard the future of its population. The country alone has, unfortunately, accounted for nearly 30%
of global suicide rates, so we could only wish for the better.