Last week, the Climate Impact Lab’s Tamma Carleton published a paper in PNAS that shows that over 59,000 suicides can be attributed to warming trends across the country since 1980. This effect appears to materialize through an agricultural channel in…
Crop-damaging temperatures increase suicide rates in India
Tamma A. Carleton, Crop-damaging temperatures increase suicide rates in India, PNAS, August 15, 2017. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1701354114.
More than three quarters of the world’s suicides occur in developing countries, yet little is known about the drivers of suicidal behavior in poor populations. I study India, where one fifth of global suicides occur and suicide rates have doubled since 1980. Using nationally comprehensive panel data over 47 years, I demonstrate that fluctuations in climate, particularly temperature, significantly influence suicide rates. For temperatures above 20 °C, a 1 °C increase in a single day’s temperature causes approximately 70 suicides, on average. This effect occurs only during India’s agricultural growing season, when heat also lowers crop yields. I find no evidence that acclimatization, rising incomes, or other unobserved drivers of adaptation are occurring. I estimate that warming over the last 30 years is responsible for 59,300 suicides in India, accounting for 6.8% of the total upward trend. These results deliver large-scale quantitative evidence linking climate and agricultural income to self-harm in a developing country.
An estimated 59,300 farmers in India have taken their lives in similarly overt ways since 1980. The correlation between suicide rates and rising temperatures was long suspected but never uncovered in large-scale data until research released in July 2017. Lab’s…
Hotter temperatures are forcing families in southern India to decide: Try to survive here, or leave? Featuring work from Impact Lab member Tamma Carleton.