Temperature Rise Above 1.5 C and Nepal

In Siberia, an anthrax outbreak is raging through the human and reindeer populations because infected corpses locked in permafrost since the last epidemic in 1941 have thawed. Nepal has been hammered by cycles of drought and flood, as withering heat parches the soil and torches glaciers in the Himalayas.  Southern and eastern Africa has been pitched into humanitarian emergencies by drought. Wildfires storm across America; coral reefs around the world are bleaching and dying. Throughout the media, these tragedies are reported as impacts of El Niño: a natural weather oscillation caused by blocks of warm water forming in the Pacific. But the figures show that it accounts for only one-fifth of the global temperature rise. Thus GHGs are meant to be the major cause of global warming or temperature rise.

Nepal is a party to the UNFCCC, a treaty, which aims to ‘stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’. Climate threats are measured by the scientist in terms of global average warming above pre-industrial levels, with 2 degrees Celsius warming often discussed as a safety “guardrail” which we should not exceed. Thus world leaders recently agreed on targets to limit climate change, in terms of warming limits compared with pre-industrial levels, targeting warming “well below 2C” as a long-term goal, and to pursue efforts to go further and hold warming to 1.5C. Instead of these efforts, our planet set for fifth successive warming year with average 1.21C temperature rises above 1850-1900 levels, a big increase on the 1.06C warming in 2015.

Nepal’s mountainous and challenging topography and socio-economic conditions, which ranks 145th on the Human Development Index, make the country highly vulnerable to climate change. Under various climate change scenarios for Nepal, mean annual temperatures are projected to increase between 1.3-3.8 degree Celsius by the 2060s and 1.8-5.8 degree Celsius by the 2090s. Annual precipitation reduction is projected to be in the range of 10 to 20 percent across the country. In the country’s Himalaya, total estimated ice reserve between 1977 and 2010 has decreased by 29 percent (129 cubic kilometers). The number of glacier lakes has increased by 11 per cent and glaciers recede on an average by 38 square kilometers per year. Hence, climate change has visible and pronounced impacts on snows and glaciers that are likely to increase the glacier lakes outburst floods.

 

Similarly, Nepal has experienced changes in temperature and mean precipitation. The country, with the exception of some isolated pockets, has become warmer. Data on temperature trends from 1975 to 2005 showed 0.060 degree Celsius rise in temperature annually whereas mean rainfall has significantly decreased on an average of 3.7 mm (-3.2 per cent) per month per decade. Nepal has suffered from increased frequency of extreme weather events such as landslides, floods, and droughts resulting to the loss of human lives as well as high social and economic costs. Agriculture is the major part of country’s economy and employs approximately about 75% of its population of 27 million. The country’s gross domestic product is $66billion, according to a 2014 estimate by the CIA. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, providing a livelihood for more than 70% of the population and accounting for a little over one-third of GDP.

Nepal is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, water-induced disasters and hydrometeorological extreme events such as droughts, storms, floods, inundation, landslides, debris flow, soil erosion and avalanche. Based on National Adaptation Program of Action 2010, out of 75 districts, 29 districts are highly vulnerable to natural hazards, 22 districts to drought, 12 districts to glacial lake outburst floods, and nine districts to flooding.

 

Nepal’s climate is influenced by the Himalayan mountain range and the South Asian monsoon (NCVST 2009). The monsoon rain is more in east and declines as it moves to the west. Temperature varies with altitude and season, Temperature and precipitations have been the major climate variability and observed changes over time. The country is the least contributors to global GHG emissions (0.025%), located in what can be considered as the most fragile ecosystems in the world. Nepalese communities exhibit some of the best examples of human-nature synergy where people, mostly rural, depend fully on natural systems for their survival. Rapidly changing climatic patterns will have effects on multiple realms including agriculture, tourism, public health, etc., but due to the closest of alliance they share with natural systems and lack of sufficient financial and economic means to combat with the associated risks, farmers in Nepal are the groups most vulnerable to effects of climate change. Lack of modern farming techniques and rainfed agri-systems puts Nepalese agriculture at the mercy of highly unpredictable weather patterns.

Studies carried out by different country based NGOs have revealed that the spring water sources of drinking water have been dried up due to the drought and increased temperature. Besides this, the country is hit by the unpredicted flood, uneven rainfall, frost, snow which directly affect the agriculture production since it is basically rain-fed. Hence the increasing temperature (>1.5C) is serious and has remarkable consequences in the vegetation, environment and the rest of the creatures.

Written by: Dharmendra Kalauni, IAAS Nepal

Photo: Climate Home Nepal is the fourth most climate vulnerable country in the world (Source: Amit Poudyal)