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Adaptation to Climate Change and 1.5 degree in South Asia

Posted by NYCA Blogger on August 13, 2016


Mr. Rajendra Panta, BSc.Ag 3rd year, Lamjung Campus

CaptureClimate is usually defined as the “average weather” in a place. It includes patterns of temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind and seasons. Climate patterns play a fundamental role in shaping natural ecosystems, and the human economies and cultures that depend on them. But the climate we’ve come to expect is not what it used to be, because the past is no longer a reliable predictor of the future. Our climate is rapidly changing with disruptive impacts, and that change is progressing faster than any seen in the last 2,000 years.

Climate change according to World Bank is any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity (Ahmed et al.2009) which is slightly different to that of UNFCCC (United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change) which describes it as ‘a change of climate which is attributed directly to human activity that alters the composition of global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable period of time’(UNFCCC 1992:3). According to both above mentioned definition humans will be directly affected and this could be the defining ‘human development’ challenge of our time (Ahmed et al. 2009). Climate change is and will impact, more severely to the marginalized and poor people and community (Shrestha 2009, Rai and Gurung 2005) even though it can be too early to blame it all on climate change factor for such changes.

Climate change is no longer an issue for the distant future. Climate change is already taking place and the South Asian countries, particularly the poorest people are at most risk. The impacts of higher temperature, more variable precipitation, more extreme weather events and sea level rise are felt in South Asia and will continue to intensify in coming years. These changes are already having major impacts on the economic performance of South Asian countries and livelihoods of millions of poor people.

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Consequences of climate change in South Asia

  • Environmental hazard

   The first country to be affected by severe climate change is Bangladesh. Its sea level, temperature and evaporation are increasing and the changes in precipitation and cross boundary river flows are already beginning to cause drainage congestion. Bangladesh only contributes 0.1% of the world’s emissions yet it has 2.4% of the world’s population. In contrast, the US makes up about 5% of the world’s population, yet they produce approximately 25% of the pollution that causes global warming.

  • Economic hazard

   The Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research has reported that, if the predictions relating to global warming made by IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) come to fruition, climate related factors could cause India’s GDP to decline by up to 9% contributing to this would be shifting growing seasons for major crops such as rice production of which could fall by 40%. About 7 million people are projected to be displaced due to other factors, submersion of parts of Mumbai and Chennai, if global temperature were to rise by a mere 3 degree celcius. Villagers in India’s North Eastern State of Meghalaya are also concerned that rising sea levels will submerge neighbouring low lying Bangladesh, resulting in an influx of refugees into Meghalaya which has few resources to handle such a situation.

  • Water scarcity

  Severe water shortages or insufficient access to safe water resources is called water scarcity. Out of all of Earth’s water (which covers about 70% of the planet) only 3% is fresh water and about 2/3 of that is inaccessible to us, being frozen in glaciers. Already, approximately 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, another 2.7 billion suffer from water scarcity for at least one month out of the year and 2.4 billion people lack adequate sanitation which leads to the spread of diseases like cholera and typhoid fever. Water scarcity will continue to be a problem globally due to increase in demands for water, changes in water supplies due to climate change and poor management of water resources.

  • Others
  • The corresponding sea level rise at the end of 21st century relative to the end of the 20th century ranges from 0.18 to 0.59 m. Temperature rises on the Tibetan Plateau, which are causing Himalayan glaciers to retreat. It has been predicted that the historical city of Thatta and Badin, in Sindh, Pakistan would be swallowed by the sea by 2025, as the sea is already encroaching 80 acres of land there, daily.
  • Regarding the local temperature rises, the IPCC figure projected for the mean annual increase in temperature by the end of the century in South Asia is 3 degree celcius with the min-max range as 2.7 to 4.7 degree celcius. The mean value for Tibet would be higher with mean increase of 3.8 degree celcius and min-max figures of 2.6 and 6.1 degree celcius respectively which implies harsher warming conditions for the Himalayas watersheds.
  • As per the IPCC, depending upon global average surface warming will result in temperature increases world wide at the end of 21st century relative to the end of the 20th century ranges from 6 to 4 degree celcius.
  • A study showed a 16% decrease in snow-cover area in the Himalayas from 1990 to 2001 (Menon et al. 2010). There is a prediction that the snow cover of the Himalayan region will decrease by 43-81% by 2010 if the annual mean temperature at higher elevation increases by 1 to 6 degree celcius as predicted by the IPCC (Bohner and Lekhmul 2005)
  • Studies indicate a substantial decrease in the total area of glaciers accompanied by an accelerated fragmentation of glaciers in Bhutan and Nepal. Glacial depletion in Nepal was measured for 21 glaciers (measured in 2008).(Bajracharya et al. 2011)
  • Mosquitoes that once only populated in Terai region are now able to survive in mid and high hills.

Climate Change and women in South Asia

As revealed by various empirical studies, climate change disproportionately impacts women thus increasing the need for women to bear a greater burden of the impacts of climate change. As women carry out a large proportion of farm work and are responsible for ensuring household food security due to their culturally defined role and domestic responsibility, they will have difficulty in dealing with the impacts of climate change and thus will suffer more burden and stress. We the South Asian countries are called as third world by the so called first world. We are sequestrating their carbon and making them liveable in free and fresh air. The main occupation remained agriculture to us so our women had to suffer a lot regarding this. They have to travel hours in search of drinking water and this will lead us to spend time in unmannered style. In many cases, women also receive low wages then men even in the same type of farm work, especially in rural areas. Such gender discrimination restricts women to household chores or domestic non-cash economy where production has also been insufficient to ensure food security. For an example: about 60% farm households in Nepal cannot produce sufficient food for more than six months. Accordingly, if food production declines further due to change in climate (which is expected), women stress and vulnerability will also increase.

This is due to women’s limited range of coping mechanism if some problem in food supply occurs.

 Capture

Source : IPCC

Scenario of climate change in Nepal

Nepal is experiencing incremental climate change impacts, including rapid temperature rise, extreme and irregular precipitation events and increase in the frequency of floods, landslides and droughts resulting in huge losses of life and property (FAO,2014; Karki et al. 2011, NAPA, 2010; NCVST, 2009). Changes in Nepal’s climate system are already noticeable. The average annual temperature rise between 1961 and 2005 has been at approximately 0.05 degree celcius per year (FAO,2014). The average increase in temperature in Nepal is higher and more rapid than the average global increase. Within Nepal, temperature in the High Himalayas are increasing at a faster rate  than those in the Terai plains (NCVST,2009; Sudmeier-Rieux et al. 2012). Also monsoon and pre-monsoon rainfalls are increasing and winter showers are decreasing with marked regional variations (FAO,2014; Gautam et al. 2013; Karki et al. 2011; Shrestha et al. 2012; Duke Univ. WWF,2011).

1.5 degree

Since 2009 over a hundred small island developing states, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and many others from South Asia have been calling for limiting global temperature rise to below 1.5 degree celcius above pre-industrial levels. Placing the 1.5 degree celcius limit alongside the legally binding goal to hold global temperature ‘well below 2 degree celcius above pre-industrial levels’ in the new Paris Agreement on 17th December  2015 was a major victory for the poor and vulnerable countries and island nations who came to Paris saying they wanted the world to act now.

In terms of the pathways for keeping  warming below 1.5 degree celcius by 2100, a meta analysis of the IPCC scenario shows that in order to keep warming below 2 degree celcius with high probability and to bring temperature back to 1.5 degree celcius by the end of the century,  emissions would need to be zero as early as 2045 and no later than 2065 with negative emissions thereafter. Total green house gases emission would reach zero as  early as 2060 and no later than 2080 with negative emissions thereafter. In the very long term, a warming limit of 1.5 degree celcius requires total green house gases concentration plus the effects of aerosols to be below a level of 400 ppm  eq. At present we can be confident of holding warming below 2 degree celcius with aggressive mitigation action. If delayed by another decade we will be locked up into the impacts at 2 degree celcius or above.

Thus, it is clear that while the challenges are high, keeping warming below 1.5 degree celcius by the end of the century is still feasible. However, with every decade lost, these challenges rise and will at some point become insurmountable with warming locked into 2 degree celcius and above. The best time to act for this was a decade before but next best time is to act now.

Adaptation practices implied

We South Asian are mostly agrarian nation. So people here are adapting their own style of agriculture. To resilient the adverse climatic impacts farmers have develop their own tactics to cope climatic hazards using their traditional knowledge and experiences. The main problems encountered by farmers are related to the impacts of climatic change; mainly floods, droughts, change in ambient temperature and precipitation patterns.

The following are the main practices adopted by farmer:-

  • To cope with a changing climate, farmers are beginning to substitute rice crop in khet land (irrigated) with crops that are less water demanding, such as wheat and finger millet.
  • Prioritizing the use of organic manure rather than chemical fertilizers.
  • By taking advantage of warming and rising of temperature in higher altitude people started growing green vegetables.
  • Adapting through technological innovations.
  • Use of indigenous knowledge of environmental clues to help forecast flash floods.
  • Preference to small animals like goats because of lack of feed and fodder.
  • Following harsh coping strategy (by most vulnerable) like skipping meals, consuming less, consuming seed stock, sale of assets (such as livestock) and migration in search for work.
  • Using time honoured adaptation strategies such as depending on horticultural crops when cereal crops fail due to floods and droughts.
  • Changing cropping pattern as per climatic adjustments.
  • Relying on community organizations as user groups and building water harvesting and distribution structures.
  • Growing desire for storing rain water through rain water harvesting system and using ponds for collecting water.
  • Using caste specific old skills like tailoring, pot making, basket weaving and other cottage industries.
  • Last but not least afforestation is being practised.

   And also I found that , in order to make every water droplet count to its fullest people are adapting locking system in a tap in my locality. This simple trick can also be useful to reduce problem of water scarcity in a long run. In order to acclimatize with severe climate change people are found being habituated of growing trees either for fodder or timber purpose that would ultimately bind soil and retard erosion.

Capture

Source: IPCC

References:

  1. Simpson, M.C., Gössling, S., Scott, D., Hall,C.M. and Gladin, E. (2008) Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Tourism Sector: Frameworks, Tools and Practices.UNEP, University of Oxford, UNWTO, WMO:Paris, France.
  2. Fidel Devkota, « Climate Change and its socio-cultural impact in the Himalayan region of Nepal – A Visual Documentation  », Anthrovision [Online], 1.2 | 2013, Online since 01 August 2013, connection on 31 July 2016. URL : http://anthrovision.revues.org/589 ; DOI : 10.4000/anthrovision.589
  3. World Bank (2009a).South Asia Climate Change Strategy. Draft report,27 January 2009, http://siteresources, worldbank.org/SOUTHASIAEXT/Resources/Publications/448813-1231439344179/5726136-1232505590830/1SARCCS January192009.pdf
  4. GoN,2011. National Framework on Local Adaptation Plans for Action. Government of Nepal, Ministry of Environment,Singhdurbar.
  5. MoSTE(2015). Indigenous and Local Knowledge and Practices for Climate Resilience in Nepal, Mainstreaming Climate Change Risk Management in Development, Ministry of Science,Technology and Environment(MoSTE), Kathmandu,Nepal.
  6. IPCC, 2007: Summary for Policymakers. In: Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M.Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. (Hereafter abbreviated to IPCC AR4 – WG1 – SPM) Table SPM-3, page 13.

 

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