Climate Climax


Forget the horror movies, no more science fiction, stop watching post-apocalyptic Hollywood. We have the real thing coming to a planet near you.

If things were not scary enough, the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in Incheon earlier this month paints a terrifying picture of a dying Earth.

This year saw record heat waves and droughts across Europe, Australia, Japan and the United States. Every new hurricane and typhoon breaks world records for wind speed. The hottest years since records started being kept were in the last 10 years, but 2018 was just a trailer of what is to come.

If the current pace of warming continues, millions will start dying in heat waves across northern India and sub-Saharan Africa by the middle of the century. Droughts, flash floods and storms will be even more intense and frequent, there will be water shortages leading to starvation and famine. Coral reefs will all die, affecting fish populations. Sea level rise will submerge coastal cities, a fourth of Bangladesh’s land area will go underwater, the Maldives will disappear. Nepal’s mountains and glaciers will lose much of their permanent ice.

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The cost of light, Om Astha Rai 

Electri-city Cars, Sikuma Rai

And that is probably the best-case scenario if warming cannot be capped at 1.5o by 2040. In reality, it will probably exceed 2o. By the end of the century, we are looking at average global temperatures at 4o warmer – this means we should replace the term climate change with ‘climate collapse’.

Many of us who have been writing about the climate for the past decades have been called ‘alarmists’ or ‘fear mongers’, but this time it is the scientists who are panicking. The reason is that at a time when action on emission reduction is urgent, populist climate deniers are being elected in democracies across the world. It is getting so scary, citizens and politicians are burying their heads in the sand.

These alarming changes have happened with just an average 1o warming since the industrial age. The IPCC report makes clear that in the next decades, whether the warming is 1.5o or 2o will make a world of a difference – 1.5o means heat waves will be less severe meaning millions will not die, the polar ice caps will not melt as fast, fewer plants and animals will become extinct, sea level will not rise by as much, fewer coral reefs will bleach. However, the report warns that governments only have 12 more years to implement measures so that global warming will be less than 1.5o.

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From a fossil past to an electric future, Om Astha Rai

Decarbonise now, Ajay Dixit

Now that we know how bad things are, what are we going to do about it in Nepal? For years we have argued that since we did not create the problem, and what we do is not going to save the planet, we should just try to adapt. But, as a new report State of Climate Action in Nepal shows, Nepal also needs to take mitigation action – not so much to slow global warming, but to save the country’s economy from collapse.

Despite international treaties Nepal has signed, and successive governments paying lip service to a renewable economy, the country’s fossil energy imports are soaring, including through electricity imports from thermal plants in India. Solar and biogas programs have languished, and there has been nearly no tangible progress on electric public transport.

‘Nepal’s move towards a sustainably renewable future is sluggish, and indeed often regressively heading towards more fossil fuel addiction,’ the report concludes.

The most glaring lapse is in sustainable harnessing of Nepal’s hydropower. Chronic governance failure and sheer stupidity of our rulers have resulted in Nepal now importing half its electricity from Indian coal-fired plants, doubling our carbon footprint. New hydropower plants are expected to add 2,000MW in the next two years, but these will barely meet suppressed demands and since they are all run-of-river schemes, the winter power shortage will continue.

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The great Himalayan Thaw, Ajay Dixit

Nepalis paying price for climate change

The number of vehicles is nearing 3 million, with public transport vehicles making up less than 3% of the total, and the number of electric vehicles is negligible. There is weak political will to promote more efficient and reliable public transport because of the lobbying power of bus syndicates. Although taxes for electric vehicles have been slashed (see page 8-9), there is no sign of a proactive strategy to wean transportation from fossil fuels.

All this is impacting public health due to a proliferation of two-wheelers and lack of emission controls. The poor condition of roads and highways has decreased the efficiency of vehicular transport, but has increased pollution levels.

Much more worrying is that Nepal’s annual spending on petroleum products has more than doubled in the last two years, increasing our trade imbalance with India. 

Flawed energy policy is not just ruining the environment and bankrupting the country, it is also increasing Nepal’s political vulnerability to the outside world.

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Reservoirs of suspicion, Om Astha Rai

Storing water, Bishal Thapa

10 years ago this week

In the #423 issue of Nepali Times  of 31 October-6 November 2008, the Editorial dealt with the elected Maoist government getting back to business after the holidays on the mattter of integration of thier milita with the national Army. Excerpt: 

'Government formation, the prime minister's foreign trips, then there was Dasain-Tihar. Finally, there are no more excuses for the government to start governing. But there is one more potential distraction: army integration. The January deadline for UNMIN's mandate is beginning to focus everyone's minds on dismantling cantonments and containers. Those bankrolling the UN are not in the mood for another extension.

Given the extreme posturing and grandstanding by doctrinaire Maoists led by Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and the centre-right supporters of status quoists in the Nepal Army, integration won't be easy. Thapa's rash public pronouncements, and the kangresis whipping up a storm over rumours they heard that Nanda Kishore Pun was being proposed as army chief has needlessly polarised the debate.'