Climate Change and India’s Forests

Sharachchandra Lele, Jagdish Krishnaswamy | 2019


Forests influence, and are impacted by, climate in multiple ways. India has pledged to sequester 2.5–3 gigatonne of carbon dioxide equivalent in its forests by 2030. As per official estimates, India already has a positive carbon sequestration rate, suggesting that little extra effort is required to achieve this target, but these estimates are debated. Prioritizing carbon sequestration can also adversely affect local livelihoods, biodiversity, and hydrological regulation functions. Moreover, the mechanisms through which the state hopes to achieve this target do not take into consideration the history of conflict and ongoing shifts in forest governance. The influence of forests on regional climate, especially rainfall, further complicates this debate. Climate change will, in turn, influence India’s forests in complex and unclear ways: a possible expansion of the moist broadleaf forests in central India and a shrinking of temperate broadleaf and alpine forests; a possible increase in productivity; and decline in some wildlife species in specific habitats.