Editorials, Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

Climate change can push 45 mn Indians into poverty

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

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.


‘poverty’ (its features being high population growth, low growth, and high poverty and inequality) and  ‘prosperity’ (low population growth, high GDP growth, and low poverty and inequality)

Three ways in which climate-change drives poverty

1-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.


2-Warming of 2-3 degrees Celsius could increase the number of people at risk from malaria by 5% and diarrhoea by 10% [around the world]. Increase in temperatures could also see a loss in labour productivity of 1-3 %.  People in poor countries have little access to financial assistance–either in terms of loans or insurance. They also pay “more than 50% [of their budget] in out-of-pocket [health] expenses


3- increasing occurrence and intensity of natural hazards such as droughts, river flooding and higher temperatures. These natural hazards affect the economically vulnerable relatively more than the rich. The things they own, such as housing or livestock, are more exposed to such hazards. These assets, built up over decades, could vanish in an instant.


What governments can do?

use of more climate-resistant and to counter the drop in agricultural productivity;

introducing practices such as polyculture (combating pest resistance by growing multiple crops in the same field) and improving awareness of these practices among farmers

improve transport so that farmers have better market access.

improve protective infrastructure such as dykes and drainage systems to protect against floods and also introduce early warning systems

granting people property rights so that they have an incentive to make their houses stronger and more resilient.

Government assistance should be: prompt (if support is delayed, families could try to sell off what they own to survive), scalable (the effort involved must be responsive to the severity of the shock) and targeted (to ensure that, even among the vulnerable, the program covers those who need help most first).

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