Nepal highly vulnerable to climate change

Source: The Himalayan Times

An ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ report drafted by the Ministry of Population and Environment to submit it to the Germany-based United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat has painted a gloomy picture of the impacts of climate change on the overall environment of Nepal.

Nepal is a party to the UNFCCC, a treaty, which aims to ‘stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’.

According to the report, 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 at the range of 10 to 20 per cent across the country. In the country’s Himalaya, total estimated ice reserve between 1977 and 2010 has decreased by 29 per cent (129 cubic kilometre).

The number of glacier lakes has increased by 11 per cent and glaciers recede on an average by 38 square kilometre per year. Hence, climate change has visible and pronounced impacts on snows and glaciers that are likely to increase the glacier lakes outburst floods.

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.

The 2013 study on Economic Assessment of Climate Change in Key Sectors (agriculture, hydropower and water-induced disasters) has estimated direct cost of current climate variability and extreme events equivalent to 1.5 to 2 per cent of current GDP/year (approximately USD 270-360 million/year in 2013 prices) and much higher in extreme years.

In the case of hydropower, the model projected lower dry season flows and thus lower energy availability.

The additional generation capacity needed to meet future demand under this scenario, due to climate change, was estimated at 2800 MW by 2050 with an increase in costs of USD 2.6 billion (present value) for the period through to 2050.

Nepal is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, water-induced disasters and hydro-meteorological extreme events such as droughts, storms, floods, inundation, landslides, debris flow, soil erosion and avalanche.

Based on National Adaptation Programme 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, said the report.