India minister blames climate change for deadly heatwave, weak monsoon

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's earth sciences minister has blamed climate change for a heatwave that has killed 2,500 people and for deficient monsoon rains, after the government said on Tuesday the country was headed for its first drought in six years. "Let us not fool ourselves that there is no connection between the unusual number of deaths from the ongoing heat wave and the certainty of another failed monsoon," Harsh Vardhan said. "It's not just an unusually hot summer, it is climate change," he said. The minister's comments affirm warnings from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that India will be hit by frequent freak weather patterns if the planet warms. The arrival of the June-September monsoon rains, on which nearly half of the India's farmland depends, has already been delayed by about five days, and Vardhan said there was no certainty about when the rains would arrive. India, the world's No. 3 emitter of greenhouse gases, is under growing pressure to tackle its carbon emissions after the world's top two emitters - China and the United States - last year agreed to new limits starting in 2025. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said he would not bow to foreign pressure and instead focus on increasing the country's use of renewable energy. His ministerial colleagues have said that because India's per-capita energy consumption is lower than Western countries, its economy should not be unfairly shackled by commitments to curb carbon when it needs to grow its economy to cut poverty. The U.N. is hoping countries can agree a deal to slow global warming at an upcoming climate summit in Paris in November. (Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Tommy Wilkes)