As the threat of climate change slowly becomes a reality, poor women will be the largest social group to feel the heat.

Though the impact, in the form of severe droughts, heavy rains and flooding, is not limited to any particular group, what causes more concern is the additional burden it brings upon poor women in rural areas. The issue for them could start with longer trudges in search of water, something that eventually could impact their health.

The impact on poor, rural women was highlighted by Nagraj Adve of India Climate Justice Network, a collective of social movements, trade unions and like-minded individuals, at a panel discussion on climate change here on Saturday.

Loss of species, he added, was going to be accentuated by climate change. Most people think only in terms of what climate change could do to humans but ignore the possibility that thousands of other species would be wiped out. Setting up of coal-fired power plants along the coast such as the 4,000 MW facility planned in Cheyyur could only hasten the process.

The panel discussion on ‘Climate change and Tamil Nadu’s electricity change – challenges and opportunities for an environmentally sustainable and social acceptable plan,’ was organised by the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Indian Institute of Policy Planning and Chennai Solidarity Group.

Pointing out that climate change has started intersecting into various aspects of day-to-day life, Mr. Adve said the latest report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may lead to a sense of complacency. There is a distinct likelihood of people not attaching importance to climate change as they did in the past. (The Hindu had on September 5 carried an exclusive report on the soon-to-be-released report of IPCC. The report said the rate of warming has slowed down and carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere may not be as potent in causing global temperature increases as believed earlier.)

Detailing the key issues in the electricity scenario in Tamil Nadu, environmental economist and associate professor, Madras School of Economics, R. Hema, said free power to farmers was not an issue as much as the decision of the State government to avoid metering such consumption.

It led to misuse of the subsidy, thefts leading to the farmers being blamed for the flaws in the system. Nityanand Jayaraman of Chennai Solidarity Group, and K.S. Sundaram of Indian Institute of Policy Planning also spoke.