Last week, I published a paper in PNAS addressing a topic that has captured the attention of media and policymakers around the world for many years – the rising suicide rate in India. ... I focus on the role of climate in this tragic phenomenon. I find that temperatures during India’s main growing season cause substantial increases in the suicide rate, amounting to around 65 additional deaths if all of India gained a degree day. I show that over 59,000 suicides can be attributed to warming trends across the country since 1980. With a range of different approaches I’ll talk about here, I argue that this effect appears to materialize through an agricultural channel in which crops are damaged, households face economic distress, and some cope by taking their own lives. It’s been a pretty disheartening subject to study for the last couple years, and I’m glad to see the findings out in the world, and now here on G-FEED.
Many people have claimed various causes for farmer suicides in India, some even backed up by research and data, but this study seems to me to be one of the most throrough, and challenging, to have materialised. This account, a guest post on the G-FEED website, explains in terms anyone can understand what the study did and did not find, and offers a useful adjunct to the myriad news stories swirling around.