Book Review: India in a Warming World: Integrating Climate Change and Development

Navroz K Dubash, ed. 2019.  Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0- 19-949873-4, 576 pp, Rs. 1995 (Hardbound)


by Dr. Ajmal Khan       12 July 2020


If you think that climate change is only melting of glaciers in the Polar Regions, decreasing number of exotic polar bears, wild fires in Australia or Amazons, sea level rise and hurricanes in the US, we are in denial! The average temperature in India has raised drastically, we are witnessing more frequent heatwaves here, our monsoon pattern is changing and that is also changing the agriculture productivity, so the economy and whole range of social relations, the events of floods and droughts have increased. In short, we live in the middle of major impacts caused by the global warming and climate change. However, we lack clarity on many of these in India, hence we lack clarity on how to plan and prepare. India is a country that is deeply vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, this vulnerability will also be felt unequally given the socio-economic and other inequalities that persist within. India in a warming world; Integrating Climate Change and Development is a new addition to the fast growing debates from the multidisciplinary knowledge base on climate change in India. Building on the existing literature on climate change in India, this volume edited by Navroz K. Dubash is a comprehensive entry point to climate change debates in India covering science, diplomacy, politics, policy, sectoral debates and more.

The book is divided into five important sections, the first section deals with climate change impacts followed by the international debates and negotiations. The following three sections are on politics, policy, climate change and development. Chapters in the sections are contributed by a wide range of authors including climate scientists, diplomates and other academics in India who have been working on climate change for some time. The book opens with a remarkable chapter by the Climate Scientist J. Srinivasan on how the climate has changed and that is likely to alter India’s monsoons, vulnerability to cyclones and heat waves. He shows with clarity that there are clear evidences from the historical records that India’s climate has changed and this change is likely to accelerate. Followed by this, the chapter by Achuta Rao and Otto establishes the connections of changes in India with the larger global climate change while flagging the importance of science based knowledge on climate change in India.

The second section is on the international negotiation and debates on climate change contributed by Sunita Narain, Tejal Kanitkar and T. Jayaram, Sandeep Sengupta, Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, Shsyam Saran, Ashok Lavasa, D. Raghunandan, Lavanya Rajmani, Ajay Mathur and Anunabha Ghosh the political and the policy behind the climate change negotiation so far. This section also has the vivid first-hand accounts of India’s leading climate negotiators at Rio de Janeiro, Copenhagen and Paris. This section reflects uneven nature of the negotiations and the biased frameworks towards the developed world playing between equality and equality principles on the basis of current emissions and the historical emissions of each countries.

A major part of the rest of the book is largely collection of essays on politics of climate change in the national level and the role of many stakeholders like civil society, business corporations, labour organisations and media etc. and the debate on climate change and development in India. The volume shows that, to address the challenges of climate change in India, it’s important that we carefully understand the linkages between climate change and development outcomes in both mitigation and adaptation realms, and we are getting better at brining development and climate change together (Dubash 2019). However, it’s up to the Indian policy elites, society, academics, media, business, and civil society, among others to enhance this and ensure improved response on climate change. The last part of the volume discuss the development policy and climate change extensively. However, the book has not been able to adequately capture the felt impacts among the different communities, regions and various sections of people as India is one of the biggest unequal societies in the world. Though In this, the chapter by Nagaraj Avde’s chapter narratives from below address some of the concerns, the concerns, especially of Dalits, Tribals, coastal communities, farmers, forest dwellers, migrant workers and women have not sufficiently captured and, the impacts on these communities who are more vulnerable.

The observations made by Carleton (Carleton 2017) about the connection of farmers suicides in India to climate change, the limited insights we have about the impacts of climate change on fisher folks and those who are depended on natural resources for their livelihood(IPCC 2017) migrant workers (Shanta et al 2016) and lack of insights available from what is going on in the tribal regions of India are crucial in thinking about the climate change in India, the volume has not been able to address these adequately. Hence, the insights from this collection won’t be sufficient for adaptation policy or preparedness for these most vulnerable communities. Apart from this, the state of the Indian economy and its vulnerability to the climate change is crucial for a weather based economy like India, this could have been engaged sufficiently in the book.

The book indeed is an invaluable resource for journalist, academics, policy community, researchers and anyone interested about the climate change in India. However, this book, as one of the new addition to the knowledge base on climate change in India lack the impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable sections in the country. This remain the fundamental challenge to India with the higher levels socio-economic and other inequalities coupled with geological and atmospheric vulnerabilities.



Dubash, N. K. (Ed.). (2019). India in a warming world: Integrating climate change and development. Oxford University Press.

Carleton, T. A. (2017). Crop-damaging temperatures increase suicide rates in India. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences114(33), 8746-8751.

Santha, S. D., Jaswal, S., Sasidevan, D., Khan, A., Datta, K., & Kuruvilla, A. (2016). Climate variability, livelihoods and social inequities: The vulnerability of migrant workers in Indian cities. International Area Studies Review19(1), 76-89.

Mbow, H. O. P., Reisinger, A., Canadell, J., & O’Brien, P. (2017). Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems (SR2). Ginevra, IPCC.



Dr. Ajmal Khan is affiliated to the Department of Environmental Studies, Ashoka University, Sonipat, India.

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