Climate Change

Just 3 of every 1,000 queries in Lok Sabha during last 2 decades on climate change: Study

Most of the MPs who asked questions were based in Maharashtra (181), Andhra Pradesh (105), Tamil Nadu (99), Uttar Pradesh (98) and Kerala (69)

By Seema Prasad
Published: Monday 25 July 2022

Only three of every 1,000 questions asked in Lok Sabha for the last 20 years pertained to climate change, said a new study by Azim Premji University.

Nearly 895 questions related to climate change were raised by 1,019 members of Parliament (MP) from 1999 through 2019, the study published July 18, 2022, noted.

“The conversation on climate change is not broad and mainstreamed, so the discussions around economic effects and lifestyle concerns do not get correlated with policy understanding at the levels of politicians,” said Aarti Khosla, director at Climate Trends, a non-profit.


A bar graph showing the number of questions asked in the Parliament during the last 20 years

                                   A bar graph showing the number of questions asked in Parliament from 1999-2019 


Climate change is a technical and research-oriented subject; politicians are unable to see how it affects decisions in their constituencies, commercially, economically and socially. This is why they have failed to pick up this issue, she added.

MPs asked most questions in 2015

The number of questions asked by MPs significantly increased with two landmark developments concerning climate change in 2007 and 2015, respectively. 

The number of questions rose to 53 in 2007 from from eight in 2006, before the formal launch of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in 2008. 

The year 2015 saw the highest number of questions (104 being asked). This was the year ‘Ministry of Environment and Forests’ was expanded and renamed as ‘Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change’. 

“In these two years, questions were not related to the NAPCC and the change in the Ministry’s name as such. The overall interest in climate change piqued with these external events,” lead author Seema Mundoli, senior lecturer at Azim Premji University’s school of development, told Down To Earth. 

Some examples from the study include:

[…] (a) whether the Government has any plan for development of high temperature tolerant varieties of wheat, maize and other crops in order to face the challenge of global warming; (b) if so, the details thereof; (c) if not, the reasons therefor; and (d) the concrete steps taken by the Government to develop high temperature tolerant varieties of crops and to educate the farmers in the matter? (Asked on August 13, 2007)

[…] (a) the details of measures taken by the Government to cut emission to zero by 2070 in the wake of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) setting stringent targets for emission cuts for the world; (b) the steps taken by the Government for reduction of farm methane and refrigerant as causing emission; (c) whether the Government has prepared any action plan and target as part of the global effort to achieve emission cuts target; (d) if so, the details thereof; and (e) the details of the Governments contribution paid/received for the Green Climate Fund? (Asked April 28, 2015)

Topics engaged

The researchers categorised the questions asked into three broad sections — impact, mitigation and adaptation. Around 38.4 per cent of the 27.6 per cent of questions talking about climate impacts were related to agriculture.

“It is not surprising that this is an area of importance for parliamentarians, whose constituencies are largely rural, with 69 per cent of India still living outside cities in areas where agriculture is of major importance,” the researchers wrote.

Another major topic discussed under climate impacts was coastal changes (28.6 per cent). Three major Indian coastal cities — Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata — are vulnerable to rising sea levels.

“Coastal sector impacts were a concern as early as 2007 and persisted into 2018,” the study said.

Health (13.4 per cent) comprised the other questions on climate impacts. “Apart from health impacts of climate change, other impacts such as mental health issues, or water stress, do not appear to figure on parliamentarians’ minds, however — despite their growing importance in the Indian scenario and globally,” the researchers said.

Most of the topics of the 23.5 per cent of the questions regarding mitigation were related to energy (43.6 per cent), agriculture (21.8 per cent) and aviation (9.1 per cent).

Only in 3.9 per cent of the parliamentarians’ questions mentioned adaptation.

“As the discourse on climate change is itself limited, you will ask questions on what is most obvious and visible, which are the impacts, that often come with shock value,” said Mundoli.

For example, floods are naturally concerned with mitigation, which is the next obvious step. But the process of adaptation is a slower, long-term process and that won’t figure in this discourse due to the knowledge gap, she explained.

Climate vulnerable states

Most of the MPs who asked questions represented Maharashtra (181), Andhra Pradesh (105), Tamil Nadu (99), Uttar Pradesh (98), and Kerala (69).

Jharkhand, Mizoram, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal are the states most vulnerable to climate change, according to a 2020 assessment. But none of the parliamentarians from these states spoke up in the Lok Sabha.

In the total assessment, two MPs from each state of Manipur, Meghalaya and Punjab asked questions related to climate.

Socio-economic vulnerability and climate injustice were not explored too. Only six parliamentarian questions mentioned marginalised groups in the 20-year-long study.

The majority of the MPs’ sources were studies, but 22 per cent relied on newspaper articles. Eight parliamentary questions quoted The Times of India, four questions quoted The Hindustan Times and three quoted The Hindu.

Therefore, Azim Premji University is in the process of designing workshops for journalists, who are interested in reporting about climate change. So far, IndiaSpend has joined as one collaborator.

“We want to teach them to interpret data, build the narrative and present an informed view, appealing not only to the public but also the locals and MLAs and MPs as well,” said Mundoli.

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