Climate damage


Climate change is global, it does not respect national boundaries. Neither should its solution. The only way we can save the biosphere from anthropogenic carbon build-up is to reduce our use of fossil fuels. There is no other way.

The latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the findings presented at the Climate Summit in Katowice late last year show that warming trends are much worse than we thought. The effect is already seen in the last few years which have been the hottest since records started being kept.

Read also:

Terrifying assessment of a Himalayan melting, Kunda Dixit

'Turning on the heat', Ajaya Dixit

As Ajaya Dixit writes in his Nepali Times column this week, last week we saw a 100oC difference between the temperatures in parts of Minnesota and Australia. Then unprecedented floods hit Townsville in Queensland. The polar vortex has frozen North America, while above the Arctic Circle it is unseasonably warm.

Here in Kathmandu this week, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) released its long-awaited assessment which shows that the Himalayan mountains are melting faster than anyone expected, Altitude Dependent Warming and deposition of pollution particles are amplifying the thaw.

An analysis of the assessment and interview with ICIMOD’s David Molden indicate that even a 36% ice loss during the rest of this century will have serious consequences for 1.6 billion people living downstream from the Himalaya. And that is just the best-case scenario, in all probability carbon reduction targets to keep warming within 1.5oC will not be met, meaning that two-thirds of the glaciers will be gone by 2100. Another recent report is even more apocalyptic: 90% of the glaciers below Mt Everest will vanish during this century.

Read also:

Climate climax, Editorial

Decarbonise now, Ajaya Dixit

Now that we know things are much worse than we thought, what are we going to do about it in? Nepali Times also talked this week with Gebru Jember Endalew, who has just stepped down as chair of the Least Developed Countries Group in the UN climate change negotiation process who is in Kathmandu for a consultative workshop of the Asia-Pacific region.

Endalew argues that least-developed, landlocked mountainous countries like Nepal should move on from seeking funds for climate change adaptation, and launch national strategies to build up carbon stock and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Read also:

'From playing victim to proactive leadership on climate'

The great Himalayan thaw, Ajaya Dixit

Indeed, what Nepal does or does not do is not going to save the planet. With an annual carbon footprint of 0.12 tons per capita (Qatar’s footprint is 40 tons) Nepal’s contribution is minimal compared to the gas guzzlers. However, Nepal’s petroleum demand is the fastest growing in the region, and has more than doubled in the last two years, increasing our trade imbalance with India. Nepal spent Rs90 billion last year in importing petrol, diesel and gas, widening the country’s already yawning trade deficit.

The argument that since we did not create the climate crisis, we should just try to adapt does not hold anymore. Another recent report, State of Climate Action in Nepal says that Nepal also needs to take mitigation action, not only because it will help save our mountains from melting but, much more importantly, to save the country’s fossil-based economy from collapse.

Read also: On thin ice in the Khumbu, Kunda Dixit

 Nepal’s long-suffering people have lived through poor governance, instability, under-development, poverty and inequality for generations. We have survived droughts, floods and landslides. Adaptation is not a new word for us. And climate change is just the latest crisis to hit Nepal, making all our existing problems worse. It crowds out the other crises we face because it is treated as a stand-alone problem.

As Endelew eloquently argues, we need to move beyond the victim narrative in international negotiations and stop blaming historical emissions. As resurgent landlocked countries like Ethiopia and Rwanda have proven, in the final analysis it all boils down to national leadership, and the political will to clean up our own act first.

10 years ago this week

The Editorial in issue #437 of 6-12 February 2009 is so prescient in the context of next month’s Nepal Investment Summit we present the following extract from it:

In his address to the nation last week, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal bemoaned that frequent strikes were scaring away investors. He said the tendency of Nepalis to hit the streets at the slightest pretext needed to be stopped once and for all. But what is Prime Minister Dahal going to do about it? He must know it is goons from his own party who are undermining his efforts to woo investors. The head of the Maoist student wing publicly threatened last week to "break the backbones" of anyone daring to oppose his union. Since they have done it before, nobody doubts their ability to carry out the threat.

Union militancy has now become the single biggest worry of the private sector. Many entrepreneurs have bought peace at prices that nobody knows about. It is of no concern to the union mafia that these institutions already pay much higher wages than the minimum fixed by the government. But then it is not really about wages, is it? It is about control and extortion.