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1.5°C Adaptation: It’s High Time!

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August 12, 2016

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–Subash Chapagain.

Almost every year during the monsoon season, floods, landslides and erosions areoften reported to have affected the livelihoods of thousands of people across Nepal. This monsoon only, nearly 80 people have been killed in similar calamities; and as always, the nation has suffered a huge loss in agricultural productivity owing to these environmental abruptions.It is a well-known fact that Nepal lies in an earthquake-prone region in the globe, of which we already have had sad experiences. Besides, other disasters of hydro-meteorological origin like hailstorms, intense rain, droughts, cold and heat waves are among the regular phenomena across the country.  Instances as such are deemed to critically hamper the national economy and growth, owing to larger than 30% share that agriculture holds of the annual GDP.

According to a recent research carried by a group of international scientists, including MrDibashShrestha fromNepalAcademy of Science and Technology (NAST), the stream flow rate and snow amount in Nepal Himalayas is forecasted to suffer a gradual decline in coming decades, with ill consequences for power production, irrigation and food security. The studyis due to be published this September in the Science of Total Environment and it has buttressed the existing theories that show a high risk poised for Nepal’s agriculture, biodiversity and water resources, if the annual temperature keeps on rising at present rate which at maximum can be up to 0.04°C (Practical Action,2009).

Apart from these findings, similar otherstudies have suggested a mixed ramification, of climatic and anthropogenic tree-line shifts to higher altitudes that has eventually threatened the habitat of species that dwell the Himalayan region.  Results have indicated that about 30% of snow leopard habitat in the Himalayas may be lost due to a shifting tree-line and consequent shrinking of the alpine zone. (Forrest, et.al. 2012) Our agro-ecosystem and biodiversity is at threat, and these alarming discoveries point in that direction.

As it is evident from various national and international findings that these erratic environmental happenings are repercussions of growing global temperature and climate change, Nepal being located at one of the most environmentally vulnerable region, needs to work without any delay towards increasing resilience and adaptation to these changes. As a member nation of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Nepal should take lead and show commitment for collective effort to minimize the global temperature rise and mitigate the associated effects of climate change while empowering communities to adapt.Now that Nepal has also signed on the Paris Agreement as an admittance to COP21(Conference of Parties), we are a part of an universal agreement whose main aim is to keep a global temperature in this century below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further less to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.The 1.5 degree Celsius limit, if maintained effectively, would be significantly safer defense line against the worst impacts of a changing climate. The agreement takes into account the “best available science, equity, sustainable development, the need to ensure food security and the availability of means of implementation, by ensuring deep reductions in global greenhouse gas [net] emissions.”

South Asianpopulations in large parts depend on the stability of the monsoon, which provides water resources for most of the agricultural production in the region. Disturbances to the monsoon system and risingpeak temperatures put water and food resources at severe risk. According to the report prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics in 2013, models developed based on the observations have projected severe problems of heat extremes, drought, sea-level rise, flooding, river run-off, water availability, and crop yield decline in the future even under the 2 Degree Celcius cap.

Amidst such an overwhelming scenario, nations like Nepal need to take lead, advocate and implement financially and technically pragmatic policies to maintain the temperature rise below 1.5 Degree Celcius, while ensuring efficient adaptive actions.The scientific findings presented by IPCC on its fifth assessment show that low emission scenarios are both physically and economically feasible, and that warming can be held well below 2 Degree Celcius above pre-industrial era, and return to below 1.5 degree Celcius by 2100. This attainable goal, however, exacts a great deal of serious attention from all stake-holders including individuals, communities, institutions, and international leadership.

On the face of changing climate and global temperature rise, National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) was endorsed by the Government of Nepal in 2010 for assessing the climate vulnerability, and systematically respond to the issues of adaptions by developing adaptive measures. NAPA’s sister LAPA(Local Adaptation Programme of Action)Framework designed in 2011supports the operationalization of the policy objectives outlined in the NAPA. LAPA aims to integrate adaptation measures with local development, and also involve communities in capacity building and public participation for agricultural and environmental issues. LAPA aims to prioritise, formulate and integrate adaptation plans into local developmental processes using Village Development Communities (VDC’s) and Municipalities as the bottom most units of operation. Though these action plans are one of the most comprehensive ones till date in Nepal, they must incorporate further the provisions of keeping up with the IPCC’s 1.5 degree goal.

From sensitization about climate change to devising concrete research and development plans, LAPA can only meet its goals if it takes into consideration the importance of developing a feeling of ownership among the communities and individuals approached. These plans of action should also encompass scientific measures for crop improvement, plant diseases and epidemic control, and public health as well. For example, technological innovations to minimize climate risks such as plant breeding and biotechnology to enhance drought and pest/disease resistance, and improved management of irrigation infrastructure;  improvement in integrated management of natural resources and production systems such as watershed management, conservation agriculture, diversification of cropping systems, crop and pasture rotation, forest conservation and sustainable use, adjustment of planting dates, strengthening the disaster risk management actions are some of the advancements for LAPA as suggested  by the Environmental and Climate Change Assessment report prepared for International  Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD’s Country Strategic Opportunities Programme. Once transcribed from research scale into the field, the outcomes of such scientific processeshold a crucial advantage that can continue for generations to come.

Since we have of two of the largest emitters in our proximity, Nepal’s role can be influential one in connecting these nations for action. Apart from moderating and creating an international dialogue for stressing the importance of reducing green-house emission, Nepal should constantly revise, amend and implement its own existing environmental policies as per necessity. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) measures need to be strictly followed, and focus should be on replacing fossil fuels with alternative resources like solar power and bio-energy. Since hydropower is anticipated to be pivotal for national economy in coming decades, a proper analysis and spontaneous improvisation should be planned in regard to the probable changes in the water bodies likely to occur due to climate change. This will help the country predict and avoid possible infrastructural and economic loss. In addition, newest concepts of green roofs, vertical farming and agro-eco-tourism programmes can be launched throughout the country that would manifest our commitment towards creating a cleaner, greener earth.

Climate change is a highly nuanced topic, and it indeed is a herculean job to keep the temperature rise below 1.5 degree rise, but it is already getting late. The undeniable aftereffects of a warmer earth have already been showing up, and if we are to adapt sustainably, we need to start early. Afterall, the poorest communities are the hardest-hit. The sooner we act, the better we can adapt.

References:

  • South Asia Desk, SciDev.Net. “Waterflow Decrease in Nepal Himalayas”, 24 July 2016. <http://www.scidev.net/south-asia/climate-change/news/water-flows-decreasing-in-nepal-himalayas.html.>
  • Soncini et al., “Future hydrological regimes and glacier cover in the Everest region: The case study of the upper DudhKoshi basin”, Science of Total Environment, 2016
  • Jansen, Malcolm A. “ Environmental and Climate Change Assessment”, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Nepal, 2013-2018
  • Schaeffer et al. “Feasibility of limiting warming to 1.5 and 2°C”, Climate Analytics, 30 Nov. 2015.
  • Schellnhuber, Hans J, et al. “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience”, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, World Bank, 2013
  • Sharma, Ravi and Ranjitkar, Gautam. “Water resources of Nepal in the context of climate change.” Water and Energy Commission Secretariat, Government of Nepal, 2011
  • National Adaptation Programme of Action to Climate Change. Minsitry of Environment (2010). Kathmandu, Nepal
  • GoN, 2011. National Framework on Local Adaptation Plans for Action. Government of Nepal, Ministry of Science Technology and Environment, Singha Durbar.
  •  Forrest, J.L et al, “Conservation and climate change: Assessing the vulnerability of snow leopard habitat to treeline shift in the Himalaya”, Biological Conservation, 2012. 129-135
  • Schickhoff et al. “Do Himalayan treelines respond to recent climate change? An evaluation of sensitivity indicators” Earth System Dynamics, 2015. 245-265
  • Worland, Justin. “Paris Agreement Signing Comes at Critical Juncture for the Planet”, Time 22 April2016. <http://time.com/4303329/earth-day-paris-agreement-climate-change/>

 

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