GULREZ, SHAH AZHAR – With India experiencing its worst drought in 140 years, Indian farmers have taken to the streets. At a protest in Madhya Pradesh this summer, police opened fire on farmers demanding debt relief and better crop prices, killing five. In Tamil Nadu, angry growers have held similar protests and lit candles in remembrance of those killed. And at one rally in New Delhi, farmers carried human skulls, which they say belonged to farmers who have committed suicide following devastating crop losses over the past six months.
According to a recent study by Tamma A. Carleton of the University of California, Berkeley, suicides among Indian farmers have increased with the temperature, such that an increase of 1 C above the average temperature on a given day is associated with approximately 70 additional suicides, on average.
Beyond exposing failed farming policies, this year’s drought-fueled turmoil also underscores the threat that climate change poses not just to India, but to all countries. As global temperatures rise and droughts become more common, political agitation, social unrest and even violence will likely follow.
In 2008, when severe weather cut into the world’s grain supply and drove up food prices, countries ranging from Morocco to Indonesia experienced social and political upheavals. More recently, food insecurity has been used as a weapon in the wars taking place in Yemen and Syria.
According to the Center for Climate and Security, failure to address such “climate-driven risks” could lead to increased fighting over water, food, energy and land, particularly in already unstable regions. CCS identifies 12 “epicenters” where climate change might ignite or exacerbate conflicts that could engulf large populations and spill across national borders.