CHENNAI: A recent research paper by a Californian research created ripples as it claimed a whopping 59,000 suicides in India over last 30 years are linked to climate change. But the agricultural academics here have said the study was based on incorrect assumptions and wrong interpretations of data.
“The paper uses state-level data on suicides, data that includes both urban and rural suicides. How can urban suicides be included in an analysis of agricultural suicides?,” questioned a joint statement by three academics.
The academics who issued the statement are Professor Madhura Swaminathan, chairperson, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, Professor Jayaraman and Assistant Professor Kamal Kumar Murari, both belonging to the School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
The research paper by Tamma A Carleton, who belongs to the University of California, Berkeley, was given a wide coverage in the media as it implied that an increase of temperature by 1°C can lead to 70 farmer suicides every day.
But the academics have said the claims of the study are “baseless” and “marked by several serious errors”.
The four main reasons are that the study incorrectly uses suicide data, wrongly identifies extreme temperatures for crop production, wrongly identifies only kharif as the relevant agricultural season to consider extreme temperatures and wrongly identifies the relevant crops.
“The paper also sets aside the fact that the suicide data, taken from the National Crime Records Bureau, has separated farmer suicides from those of other occupational categories only after 1995 and the inconsistency in data prior to that year. “Suicide data are gathered from police records and so there is likely to be under-reporting,” the statement pointed out, rapping the research paper by the foreign academic.