With youth taking the center stage in activism for climate change on 15 March 2019, mobilizing a record number of students across the world (1.5 million students, from 2,000 places in 125 countries), it seems opportune to highlight why actions of such massive scale is a necessity now more than ever. With Sri Lanka being identified as one of the major hotspots (according to a report by the World Bank, a hotspot is a location where changes in average weather affects the living standards negatively), and some 4 million people in the country being projected to be severely affected by 2020, it’s imperative to know exactly how and how disastrous the consequences of this threat will be.
Our agriculture sector, which consists of domestic and export sub-sectors, contributes to our economy in the forms of income, employment, foreign exchange, food and raw material along with the stimulation of the growth of the economy through its links to all the other sectors. In numbers, the agriculture sector, makes up nearly 7% of the contribution to the GDP, absorbs nearly 30% of the country’s labour force, is the livelihood to 70% of the rural population, utilizes 43% of the total land area of the country, provides nearly 80% of domestic food requirement and thus remains as the cornerstone of the Lankan economy. Climate change and the resultant erratic rain patterns, and extreme swings between droughts and rainfall, directly affects agricultural productivity, heavily. Simply put, the unreliability of their livelihood and thereby the limited water and food sources becomes a battle between life and death.
Sri Lanka, as a lower middle-income country has been seeing growth at a steady rate of 5.8% since 2010. The island is already operating on a temperature above the optimal level, and that coupled with the increasing temperatures, will negatively affect the consumption expenditures. Based on this, the standard of living is projected to decline by a massive 7% in Sri Lanka. Apart from the usual implications of extreme heat and rain on worker productivity and cultivation seasons, the long-term effects that climate change and the rising temperatures will have on the communities, and thereby the economy is yet to be comprehensively understood and tackled. And that’s one of the gravest of concerns, that Sri Lanka is wholly unprepared for.