Home to more than 1.3 billion people, India accounts for nearly 18% of the global population, but uses only 6% of the world’s primary energy consumption (IEA, 2021). For example, the per capita energy consumption in India is 0.6 tonnes of oil equivalent, which is only one-third of the global average (IEA, 2021). However, because of its large population, India was the third largest national emitter in 2020 (behind China and the United States), emitting 2.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide (Crippa et al, 2021).

India is among the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Climate change has already begun to alter growing seasons in India (Mani et al., 2018), and with almost 50% of Indians working in agriculture and other climate sensitive sectors (Chand & Singh, 2022), the damage to productivity and health is significant (Mani et al., 2018). From 1901–2018, India’s average temperature rose 0.7°C. During the summer monsoon season, India is experiencing both more frequent dry spells and more intense wet spells (Krishnan et al., 2020). Across all of Asia, including India, climate change will cause water shortages, which could affect more than a billion people by the 2050s (Krishnan et al., 2020).

India’s population is also vulnerable to sea level rise, with up to 310 million people inhabiting low elevation coastal zones. About 30% of India’s population, approximately 363 million people, are poor, and 1.77 million people are homeless (Government of India, 2016). Many Indians live in “hotspots,” where changes in climate negatively affect living standards. These hotspots are growing as climate change worsens, and it is projected that by 2050, 148.3 million people in India will be living in severe hotspots (Mani et al., 2018). Additionally, more than 80 percent of India’s population lives in districts highly vulnerable to extreme weather events (Mohanty & Wadhawan, 2021).

India has long been a key player in international climate negotiations and has begun implementing a diverse portfolio of policies nationally and within individual states to improve energy efficiency, develop clean energy sources, and prepare for the impacts of a changing climate. About 33 States and Union Territories have also announced state-level action plans to address climate change.

In 2015, India submitted its first climate action plan with the aim of reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030, generating 40% of its power from renewable energy sources, and increasing forest cover. The updated National Action Plan on Climate Change commits to reducing emissions intensity by 45% by 2030, compared to 2005, and to achieve 50% of cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030 (PIB, 2022, Government of India, 2022). India has increased its solar capacity rapidly, ranking fifth for installed solar capacity in the 2020 Human Development Report, and plans to expand to 450 GW renewable energy capacity by 2030 (IEA, 2021). India has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070.

However, to meet its 2070 emissions target, India will need an estimated $10.1 trillion in investments (ASPI, 2022). In the face of rapid urbanization and economic growth, India’s actions to deal with energy and climate challenges will be key to a global clean energy transition. Even if India implements its nationally determined commitments under the Paris Agreement, it is expected to see a further 50% rise in its carbon dioxide emissions by 2040 (IEA, 2021). The majority of India’s emissions are to come from infrastructure, buildings, and vehicles that do not currently exist, presenting a huge opportunity for change in the trajectory of emissions.

To support economic development and build low-carbon infrastructure, India needs to invest 1.5 times or more than advanced economies as a share of GDP today (MGI, 2022). Without international support, financing this additional investment would likely result in a 2% decline in total household consumption (ASPI, 2022). In India, about 5 million jobs in the fossil-fuel sector would be lost. While 12 million new jobs would be created in the renewable energy industry, upskilling India’s future workforce remains a challenge. Initiatives like “Skill India” are expected to provide training in sectors including sustainable development for 400 million people by 2022 (Government of India, 2016). India has also set aside $55.6 million for the National Adaptation Fund to support the adaptation of climate-sensitive sectors like forestry (Government of India, 2016).

An effective national strategy, however, must take into account the climate change and energy-related beliefs, attitudes, policy preferences, and behaviors of the Indian people, who will play a vital role in the success or failure of this strategy through their decisions and behavior as citizens, consumers, and communities. Building public acceptance, support, and demand for new policies to both limit the severity of global warming and prepare for the impacts of a changing climate will require education and communication strategies based on a clear understanding of what Indians already know, believe, and support, as well as what they currently misunderstand, disbelieve, or oppose.

In an effort to help establish a baseline understanding of public responses to these issues in India, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication first conducted a national survey in 2011 to investigate the state of public climate change awareness, beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behaviors, as well as public observations of changes in local weather and climate patterns and self-reported vulnerability to extreme weather events. This new report provides the results from a second nationally representative survey conducted in 2021-2022 on the same themes, including many of the same questions, enabling us to track changes in public responses in India over time.

Climate change and Indian society are both highly complex and no single study can do service to their full richness and diversity. Nonetheless, this study takes an in-depth and rigorous look at some of the key dimensions of these issues in India. This research is intended to contribute to both scientific and public understanding and dialogue about these issues and provide useful information for the Indian climate change community.

This report provides the topline survey results. A second report is forthcoming which will segment the survey respondents into distinct audiences that would benefit from tailored climate change education and communication.



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