Climate Vulnerability

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Nepal is endowed with immense natural resources such as snow-capped mountains, rivers, fertile lands, minerals and biodiversity. But these positive attributes can hardly hide the vulnerabilities and risks the Himalayan nation faces frequently. It is basically an agrarian nation with majority people relying on the subsistence agriculture for their livelihood. Although the country’s industrial base is weak, it is now reeling from the consequences of climate change caused by temperature rise.  Many studies have shown that Nepal is experiencing the rising temperature over the years. The country has observed the increase as high as the average 0.4 degrees Celsius per decade. It has been witnessing rainfall taking place faster than the global average. In Nepal, more than half of heat-trapping gas is generated through agriculture followed by the fossil fuel, forestry, industrial processes and waste. Owing to the fragile geography, the country always suffers from floods, landslides and other natural calamities exacerbated by climate change. Now Nepal ranks fourth in terms of vulnerability to climate change.

Climate change has reduced agriculture outputs, dried up water sources and damaged forests and biodiversity across the country. Considerable lives and properties are lost due to floods and landslides annually. Likewise, houses, roads, bridges and other vital infrastructures worth billions of rupees are destroyed. As substantiated by scientific studies, the threat of climate change has increased in Nepal. A news report published in this daily on Wednesday reveals some disturbing facts regarding the negative impacts of climate change. The study “Recent Warming and its Risk Assessment on Ecological and Societal Implications in Nepal,” published recently states that the eastern part of Nepal is more sensitive to climatic change and is warming faster than the central and western regions. 

The finding is based on the data received from 76 meteorological stations across the country from 1970 to 2016. The study has adopted both integrated statistical and theoretical tools to detect the warming trends and their ecological and social impacts. All physiographic regions witnessed the increased warming but the lower hills have higher warming rate than the upper hills and mountains. An interesting fact is that rising temperature has been recorded in winter season in all regions except the Terai belt. The regions endure the ecological impact accordingly. The lower hills, upper hills, and the mountains have been affected more than the Terai and the Siwaliks. These regions have experienced 0.15, 0.26, 0.68, and 0.57C temperature per decade, respectively. However, since the report does not cover the east-west and south-north temperatures gradients, additional studies are needed to gauge the level of temperatures precisely. 

According to the report, higher rates of warming have been recorded in lower hills than the upper hills and mountains, triggering changes in water resources. The rising temperature has negative implications for different regions. Snow-and-glacier-dominated regions are largely prone to climate change. Glaciers are retreating rapidly in the Himalayas and the equilibrium line altitude (ELA) has been shifting upward. It is impacting formation, growth, and likely outburst of glacial lakes, with detrimental repercussions for river hydrology, agriculture, biodiversity and health. In high and middle mountains, there is a trend among local people to abandon agriculture and shift to other occupations due to the increasing number of pests and invasive species. The study is indeed a wake-up call for our policymakers who must focus on measures to minimise and tackle the impacts of climate change.   

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