Impact of global warming on India’s agriculture productivity

By Pamkhuila Shaiza on August 8, 2015

Global warming is understood as the rise in average global temperature, with thisrisebeing attested by various evidences over the past 150 years (Fulekar, Pathak, & Kale, 2013). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that climatic changes caused by global warming is affecting almost all aspects in the world like agriculture, energy, coastal structures and rainwater harvesting, among others (Mendelsohn, Dinar, & Sanghi, 2001). The impact of this change in temperature is global and many country-centric or region-centric studies have been conducted over the years to study the phenomenon. With regard to agriculture, global warming mainly affects its production by altering the agro-ecological zones, which intensifies drought or flood or causes precipitation and temperature variance (Rajeevan, 2013).There are several acclaimed researchers who assert that agriculture in developing countries will face bigger repercussions and lose more from the impact of global warming as compared to the developed countries (Cline, 2007; Sahai, 2010). The fact is temperature in most developing countries is at a lower altitude and further global warming will only reduce their agricultural productivity, ‘as much as 40%’ as a result of the lower elevation (Sahai, 2010). Developing countries have also lesser capacity to cope with such changes and to come up with methods and tools to combat global warming in order to improve agricultural productivity remains unlikely at present. In addition to this predicament, agriculture constitutes a larger fraction of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as compared to the developed countries, making them more vulnerable to loss in a larger proportion (Cline, 2007; Sanghi, Mendelsohn, & Dinar, 1998).

How rise in temperature will affect crops in India?

Developing countries like India lie in tropical and sub-tropical zones and practice various cropping patterns in different climatic zones, which will be adversely affected by global warming. Over the past 25 years, notable changes in climate have been observed in northern India during the rabi cropping season, where there is change in temperature of 1°C or more, affecting agricultural production in return (Prasada, Rao, & Rao, 2010). Wheat-growing regions in Punjab and Haryana have experienced temperature rise as high as 2.3 – 4.5°C, affecting the regional production of this major crop (Prasada et al., 2010). Studies by Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) show that every rise in 1°C reduces wheat production in India by 4-5 million tons (Jiang, 2012). Other crops such as rice are also experiencing severe loss in productivity owing to climate change. Global warming has also initiated an unpredictable weather system, where semi-arid regions in Western India are experiencing unusual rainfall. Areas like Chattishgarh have been receiving lesser amount of rainfall and untimely rainfall in the last few years (Prasada et al., 2010). This has affected the rice crop in the region. Changes in temperature and rise in Greenhouse Gases are also leading to frequent cyclonic activities in the coastal areas of Gujarat and Maharashtra, destroying standing crops, and also causing inundation and salinisation (Prasada et al., 2010).  Areas like Rajasthan are experiencing decline in pearl millet and Madhya Pradesh is likely to experience decrease in soybean production if temperature and carbon dioxide increase together in the atmosphere at the same time. Global warming has also led to change in soil (changing the moisture content), frequent drought and floods and rise in weeds and pests, thus affecting agricultural production. In terms of soil and change in fertility, historical evidence along with present regional statistics and scientific fertility experiment shows that regions like the Indo-Gangetic plain (once the most fertile region) have shown significant decline in its rice yields in the past few years (Agarwal & Sivakumar, 2010).

Impact of global warming on the quality of produce

Since the Indian population is increasingly becoming dependent on wheat and rice, Greenhouse Gases impact on these crops’ production will definitely affect the food security of the nation. Hunger and poverty will loom larger than it is expected with such complicated climatic changes in the near future. Thus, global warming and change in climate and its impact on agricultural productivity is a serious concern for India, which is mitigating the risks through ‘food security’ for every household(Agarwal & Sivakumar, 2010; Deevi & Biswas, 2011; Prasada et al., 2010). The impact of global warming on agricultural productivity by 2080s’ has been predicted to undergo many changes as shown in Table I. Food crops have not been affected in terms of yield and quantity, but global warming has also been found to affect the quality of food crops.  For instance, the nutritional value of cereals has been detected as undergoing deterioration (Agarwal & Sivakumar, 2010), which in turn affects the nutritional security of the country. Cereal constitutes one of the primary diet, and the increasing carbon dioxide concentration and rise in temperature plays no justice for such crops. When the rise in temperature causes increase in pests and weeds, usage of pesticides and insecticides increases, which leads to change in soil, yield and quality of the crop. Cold waves are also expected to rise due to melting of ice, which will affect the production quality of guava, eggplants, tomato, potato, etc. Most importantly, the decrease in food productivity, quality of food and rise in poverty has led to increasing farmer suicides in India. In a report released by the National Crime Records Bureau and others, it is recorded that Maharashtra has the worst record for farmer suicides (National Crime Records Bureau, 2012; Tiwary, 2014). From 1995-1999, Maharashtra saw 10,000 farmers committing suicide, with as much as 3786 suicides in 2012 alone.

Table I: Impact of Global Warming by 2080s on Indian Agricultural Productivity Source: (Cline, 2007, p. 50).

Region PresentClimate Implied Constant K for other variables Future Climate

Change in Log

Present Change
Net Revenue Output
Northeast 2.1006 9.3625 -0.3408 -2.441 -91.3 -60.9
Northwest -23678 4.8941 -4.3992 2.031 -86.9 -57.9
Southeast -4.5516 2.7103 -51900 -0.633 -46.9 -31.3
Southwest -4.3051 2.9568 -5.1085 -0.803 -55.2 -36.8

Agriculture- climate sensitive models

With increasing concentration of Greenhouse Gases, the situation of Indian agricultural productivity does not see positive results in current and the near future scenario, unless the country adopts effective methods and measure to combat the increasing Greenhouse Gases. A comprehensive and critical evaluation of the impact of global warming on agriculture is required in order to determine how changes in climate affect agricultural productivity, and how it can be redressed.Some agriculture-climate sensitive models have been proposed by some scholars over the years, among which the frequently quoted model by various economists, agriculturists and other scholars’ alike, is the Ricardian model on ‘cross-sectional technique’ (Ricardo, 1821, pp. 55-75). This cross-sectional technique looks into how there exist and empirical relationship between ‘land values and climate’. The method’s analysis is that ‘land values’ which is determined by soil, geographical location and climate ultimately reflects the long term productivity of the land. Ricardian models indicate that agricultural productivity experiences improvement when the weather moves from cold to warm, and the productivity deteriorates when it moves from warm to hot, thus attesting the negative impact of global warming. By contextualizing this model, people can work towards improving the climatic condition, which will in turn increase the soil productivity.The ‘Mendelsohn-Dinar-Sanghi model’ which attributes technology as bringing climatic change and majorly affecting the agricultural productivity, can also be noted by using more environmental friendly technologies.


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