Massive landslide and flood aftermath near Jure, Sindhupalchok. Washed-off houses by Bhote Koshi River. (File Photo 2014 by Priti Thapa)
In December 2021, Netflix released the satirical science fiction “Don’t Look Up,” which narrates the story of two scientists who discover a world-destroying comet headed toward earth. The movie highlights how the Government, political parties, and society are ignorant of scientific evidence. Further, the panic and desperation of the scientist are also well presented in the movie. Moreover, the director has chosen a sarcastic way to remind us of the ongoing climate change and global warming.
In 2022, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) was held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, bringing the world’s leaders, scientists, and different parties together to accelerate action toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The main goal of these conferences (COP26-27) is to accelerating action towards reducing carbon emissions, keeping global temperatures within 1.5 degrees, and ending the “suicidal war on nature” that is fueling the climate crisis, driving species to extinction, and destroying ecosystems as outlined in the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Despite this effort, global carbon emissions continue to rise, and surface air temperatures remain rising. Some countries have begun to shift towards clean energy, but many are still subsidizing oil and coal production. Scientists have warned that if these warming trends continue, mountain glaciers will vanish, and coastal areas will be submerged within a few centuries.
Coming to reality, most Asian regions are facing the impact of ongoing global warming, and Nepal is no exception. For example, the frequency of extreme precipitation (both high and low intensity related) and temperature have been increasing in recent years. Frequent floods, landslides, coldwaves, and heatwave events in Nepal are the new normal.
In the previous monsoon (2021), a massive natural disaster struck Nepal, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The unusual monsoon season began in June, and in just one week, more than 300 mm of rainfall was recorded in the central and western parts of the country. This excessive rainfall caused severe erosion of glacial deposits and overtopping of a moraine lake, leading to the temporary damming and sudden release of water, resulting in a massive flood in the Melamchi River, causing significant damage to the riverbank local markets of Melamchi.
It also destroyed several bridges, agricultural land, and many infrastructures. The headworks of the $800 million Melamchi Khanepani project was buried under a 10-meter layer of rocks and debris. Monsoon disasters also caused several life, properties, and thousands of hectares of agricultural land damaged in other parts of the country, especially the mountain districts such as Gorkha, Manang, and Mustang, in the same year.
The disaster continued even after the monsoon season. Extreme rainfall across central and western Nepal killed several lives and damaged the road, bridges, and other infrastructures. The impact of this extreme was very severe; because the rains were unseasonal, thousands of hectares of paddy crops that would typically have been safe at that time of year were flooded and destroyed, displacing thousands of farmers and decimating agricultural production in the area.
It’s important to note that such extreme precipitation-related floods and landslides are common in global land areas, but in dry seasons high precipitation in Nepal is unprecedented. This has caused widespread devastation and displacement, leaving thousands of people without homes or livelihoods. The resettlement and rebuilding efforts in these areas by the Government and other aid organizations are still ongoing.
Climate change is not only affecting precipitation patterns but also increasing the frequency and intensity of heat and cold waves. These extreme weather events not only threaten human lives but also contribute to rising air pollution levels. Elevated air pollution has a detrimental effect on living beings and can lead to an increase in cardiac diseases. These examples only scratch the surface of the impact that climate change is having on human life, ecosystems, water cycles, and socio-economic conditions in Nepal. The effects are expected to become even more severe in the coming years.
Climate change is affecting Nepal in multiple ways, from the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events to the health of living beings and the economic conditions. It’s important for Nepal to take the necessary steps to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change to protect society and the environment.
Although extremes can cause damage, like in the mentioned movie, we faced a massive loss in rice production by heavy rain in October 2021. The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), Government of Nepal has forecasted that there would be rain in a few days; we just believed that it is a sunny day, how it could be rain; consequently, rain occurred, and farmers lost most of their rice production in Central and western Nepal. Moreover, whole scenarios make us believe in science or scientific evidence more carefully. The inter-discipline research activity in Nepal has been growing recently with interesting findings; however, most of the research findings in Nepal are ignored by the government and societal structures; on the other hand, a large number of populations are less able to follow the research recommendation.
The recent scientific study by Shankar Sharma et al. (2020) has projected that drought frequency is likely to increase in the early future (2020–2060), and decrease in the late future (2061–2100) under all emission scenarios (low-high emission scenarios). This evidence-based information can be helpful for the preparation of long-term policy and the implementation of adaptation strategies to counter imminent climate-related threats and losses.
We live in a society where everyone knows the problem’s solution, but no one comes in front to take action, and believe single action cannot change the situation. Global warming poses an existential threat to humanity; however, we are simultaneously expanding fossil fuel production and accelerating global deforestation. Even though the number of internet users is increasing fast, we are not interested in the factual evidence and climate news and developing hazardous tech solutions, believing humanity can survive on Mars.
Climate change is having a severe impact on our Himalayas and our socio-economy. While we cannot stop or prevent climate-related disasters, but we can take steps to minimize the losses they cause. Thus, we must think wisely and act carefully when it comes to climate and weather issues. One way to prepare for future events is to enhance research on weather phenomena and their potential impact. We must also build more accurate forecasting schemes for early preparedness. Additionally, it is important to educate the public about the current scenarios and the possible future consequences of climate change. Furthermore, it is essential that youth, researchers, and scientists come together to apply their expertise to political advocacy. This is a crucial starting point for creating a better future. In order to minimize the damage caused by climate change, we must take a multi-faceted approach that includes research, education, and advocacy. By working together, we can make a meaningful difference in the face of this global challenge.
by Kalpana Hamal || Bharat Badayar Joshi
- Miss. Hamal is PhD scholar at Institut für Meteorologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
- Mr. Bharat Badayar Joshi is the Mayor of Parsuram Municipality, Dadeldhura District, Nepal.