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Climate Change Studies in Indian Agriculture

A discussion of the existing literature on the effect of climate change on Indian agriculture, covering three strands of assessment - impact, vulnerability and adaptation.

COMMENTARYEconomic & Political Weekly november 17, 200713Climate Change Studies in Indian AgricultureK S Kavi KumarA discussion of the existing literature on the effect of climate change on Indian agriculture, covering three strands of assessment – impact, vulnerability and adaptation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) in its fourth assessment report observed that, “warming of climate system is now un-equivocal, as is now evident from observa-tions of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global sea level” [Solomon et al 2007]. In India, several studies have shown that while tempera-ture has shown a marked rise over the last century, rainfall has shown no significant trend. However at the regional level, rain-fall has exhibited an increasing or decreas-ing trend in the last century. Agriculture being a climate-sensitive sector that provides livelihood for 60 per cent of India’s population, there have been a large number of studies over the past decade that have tried to assess the impacts due to climate variability and change. The relevant research questions in the context of climate change and Indian agriculture include: (a) Is Indian agriculture likely to get adversely affected by climate change? If so, what is the extent of impact? (b) How does one characterise the vulnerability of a farmer to climate change? Which regions are relatively more vulnerable to climate change? (c) How does one assess the effectiveness of adaptation options in ameliorating the present and future vulnerability?This brief note reviews the existing lite-rature in these three strands of research and sketches the emerging research directions.Impact AssessmentMall et al (2006) provide an excellent review of climate change impact studies on Indian agriculture mainly from the physical impacts perspective. The available evidence shows a significant drop in the yields of important cereal crops like rice and wheat under climate change conditions. However, the biophysical impact on some of the important crops like sugar cane, cotton and sunflower have not yet been studied adequately. The economic impact of climate change on agriculture has been studied extensi-vely the world over and it continues to be a hotly debated research problem. There are two broad approaches for assessing the economic impact – the agronomic- economic and the Ricardian. In the first, the physical impacts (in the form of yield changes and/or area changes) are introduced into an economic model exogenously as Hicks neutral technical changes.First ApproachIn the Indian context, Kumar and Parikh (2001a) have estimated the macro level impact of climate change using such an approach. They have showed that under doubled carbon dioxide concentration levels, in the latter half of 21st century,the gross domestic product (GDP)would decline by 1.4 to 3 percentage points due to climate change. More significantly, they have also estimated an increase in the proportion of populationinthe bottom income groups of the society in both rural and urban India under climate change conditions. Second ApproachSince the scope for incorporating adapta-tion into the agronomic-economic ap-proach is rather limited, an alternative ap-proach was proposed by Mendeloshn, Nordhaus and Shaw in their classic 1994 paper. This approach, called the Ricardian approach, is similar to the Hedonic pricing approach of environmental valuation. The approach is based on the argument that, “by examining two agricultural areas that are similar in all respects except that one has a climate on average (say) 3oC warmer than the other, one would be able to infer the willingness to pay in agriculture to avoid a 3oC temperature rise” [Kolstad 2000]. While all possible adaptations are accounted for in the impact estimation, the constant relative prices assumption could lead to biases in the results of this approach. For India, Kumar and Parikh (2001b) have used a variant of this approach and that a 2oC temperature rise and 7 per cent increase in rainfall would lead to an almost 8 per cent loss in farm level net revenue. K S Kavi Kumar (kavi@mse.ac.in) is professor, Madras School of Economics, Chennai.
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COMMENTARYnovember 17, 2007 Economic & Political Weekly16vulnerability to climate change poses, the IPCCdescribed in its third assessment re-port vulnerability as, “a function of the character, magnitude and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity and its adaptive capacity” [Mc-Carthy et al 2001]. Operationalising this definition continues to be a difficult exer-cise with several empirical studies adopt-ing an indicator-based approach to measure vulnerability to climate change.In the Indian context, O’Brien et al (2004b) have used district level data on several indicators to assess the exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity compo-nents of vulnerability. The study has considered vulnerability to globalisation intandem with climate change to define what they term as “double expo-sure”. Brenkert and Malone (2004), on theotherhand, use a variant of IPCC defi-nition to arrive at the state level suscepti-bility indices in India. Kumar and Thol-kappian (2005) use the IPCC definition to assess vulnerability of coastal districts of India to climate extremes and the sea level rise. While these studies do not exclusively focus on agriculture, it remains one of the dominant factors characterising the vul-nerability of a region. Given the significant advances made in the field of measurement of vulnerability to poverty, there appears to be some scope for learning in the measurement of vulner-ability to climate change [see Dercon 2005 for a brief summary of vulnerability to poverty literature]. However, the two fields appear to describe different notions as one talks about vulnerability to an outcome (poverty), whereas the other deals with vulnerability to an input (climate change). Kumar et al (2007) argue that despite such semantic differences, there is still scope for mutual learning between the two fields. PovertyIn order to take forward the empirical analyses on vulnerability in the climate change context and benefit from the ad-vances made in the vulnerability to poverty literature, the outcome of concern must be more clearly identified. Vulnerability topoverty is usually estimated as the prob-ability-weighted average of some (convex) function of outcome in several possible states of the future. For the sake of illus-tration, consider a farmer’s vulnerability with regard to poor wheat yield caused by potential changes in temperature. The re-presentative farmer’s vulnerability can be meaningfully expressed by either of the two statements: (i) vulnerability to poor wheat yield due to temperature change, or (ii) vulnerability to temperature change with reference to poor wheat yield. While in poverty literature, non-consid-eration of external stimulus causing vul-nerability enables simple projection of the outcome of concern in several states of the future, the vulnerability metrics in climate change should first establish a link be-tween the outcome of concern and the stimulus in question. That is, in the present example, the analyst must identify how the yield of wheat changes due to tempera-ture changes. In other words, the sensitiv-ity of the entity must be assessed. Luers et al (2003) and Luers (2005) illustrate a Institute of Rural Management AnandIRMA RequiresAcademic Associates IRMA is a premier, national level institute, engaged in teaching, training, research and consultancy in rural management. For those aspiring to academic careers, and seeking to enhance their research and teaching experience, IRMA invites applications for the position of Academic Associate in the following areas:(1) Economics; (2) Organisation Behaviour; (3) Marketing Management; (4) Finance and Accounting; (5) Production & Operations Management; (6) General Management; (7) IT & Systems; and (8) Social Sciences. Academic Associates will work closely with faculty members at IRMA to fulfil their academic commitments.Qualification and ExperienceCandidates should have completed Postgraduation (with a minimum of 55%), or acquired the appropriate professional qualifications in any of the areas described above. Remuneration and Tenure Selected candidates will be paid a consolidated remuneration of Rs. 15,000/- per month. 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