A paper from the United States claimed to find a significant correlation between extreme temperatures and farmer suicides. These wrong conclusions have unfortunately received wide coverage in the Indian media. This note from Prof. T. Jayaraman, School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, Prof. Madhura Swaminathan, Economic Analysis Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Bengaluru and Prof. Kamal Murari, School of Habitat Studies, TISS, Mumbai points out clearly why the paper is flawed and what the errors are.
A recent paper, published by the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences of the United States) and authored by Tamma A. Carleton, titled “Climate Change and Agricultural Suicides in India” claims that “temperature during India’s main agricultural growing season has a strong positive effect on annual suicide rates.” Using state-level data for 1967 to 2013, the author suggests that an increase in 1°C temperature in a single day can cause 70 suicides. It also claimed that the evidence leads to the conclusion that it is the damage to crops by extreme temperatures that leads to economic hardship and suicide.
Regrettably, the paper has received widespread uncritical coverage in the Indian media.
We consider these claims to be baseless. These claims are a consequence of the uncritical use of data, bad assumptions, flawed analysis and unacceptable neglect of the existing literature on global warming and Indian agriculture as well as farmer suicides. Taking the conclusions of the paper at face value would lead, we strongly believe, to dangerously incorrect policy measures. Such conclusions also divert from the study of the real challenges that global warming, and extreme temperatures in particular, poses for Indian agriculture.
See the full Press Note here.