Rising temperatures and changing monsoon rainfall patterns associated with climate change could shave off 2.8 per cent of India’s GDP and depress the living standards of nearly half its population by 2050 if it’s business as usual, said a World Bank report released on Thursday.

The worst hit would be people in 10 districts in Central India (including some in the impoverished Vidharbha region of Maharashtra), which have been identified as severe “hotspots” by the report, said World Bank lead economist Muthukumar Mani, who contributed to the study.

While studies in the past have estimated an adverse impact of extreme weather events such as floods and droughts as well as a sea-level rise, this is the first time the undesirable outcomes of gradual changes in weather have been tabulated for the region, Mani said.

According to the report, the hotspots are defined as locations where changes in average temperature and precipitation negatively affect living standards.

The locations where the loss of living standards is more than 8 per cent have been classified as severe hotspots; those between 4 per cent and 8 per cent have been categorised as moderate ones.

‘Severe hotspots’

Hotspots are not only places that experience higher temperatures, but also reflect the local population’s socio-economic capacity to cope with the climatic changes, the World Bank official said.

As many as 148 million Indians live in these severe hotspots and the loss of living standards for a number of them is as high as 12 per cent in the carbon-intensive scenario. Another 441 million Indians inhabit moderate hotspots where the average change in living standards is slated to be 5.6 per cent.

According to the report, seven of the 10 severe hotspot districts are in the Vidharbha region of Maharashtra. The rest are in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. In these severe hotspots, the GDP loss could be as high as 9.8 per cent as against the national average of 2.8 per cent. The report estimated the overall loss in national GDP in actual terms could be $1,178 billion.

Mani, however, said the projections are based on the worst-case scenario and that policy interventions can bring in substantial improvement. “Enhancing the educational attainment of inhabitants, reducing water stress and improving opportunities in the non-agricultural sector could bring in remarkable improvement,” he added.