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Climate change in Kathmandu

5:10:00 AM Posted by Kinar Timilsina , , No comments
By Mark L. Hildebrandt

Global climate change is one of the many complicated issues we face today in our world. Nepal in particular is highly vulnerable to the potential negative impacts of climate change; here, the average annual temperatures are already increasing.
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a consortium of many of the world’s top climate scientists, predicted that global mean temperatures will increase by between 1.0 and 6.5°C within the next 90 years. Even more alarming, average annual temperatures are forecast to increase by more than 1.0°C by 2029 and by more than 2.0°C within 50 years in Nepal.
Average annual temperatures at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (provided by the World Meteorological Organization) indicate a very strong upward trend over the period of 1990 to 2010, a warming of over 1.5°C in just 20 years and exceeding the IPCC’s initial projections. And while average annual temperatures have and always will fluctuate throughout time, Kathmandu’s temperatures are indeed showing signs of warming.

Occurrences of climate change can be sighted throughout the year in Nepal. This rapid rise in temperatures is especially evident in wintertime, the season during which annual minimum temperatures tend to occur. Changes in annual minimum temperature extremes are changing most dramatically, a rise of almost 3.0°C since 1990.

While Kathmandu’s winters are becoming less cold, annual maximum temperature extremes are also rising but more slowly. These changes in annual average temperature and extreme annual minimum and maximum temperatures are consistent with what the IPCC has predicted for South Asia and Nepal.

In fact, most tropical regions of the world with monsoonal climates, like Nepal’s, are forecast to see much warmer winters, slightly warmer summers, and warmer average temperatures in the years and decades to come. It should be also noted that higher elevations, such as the Himalayas, are likely to be more dramatically affected than lower elevations, such as the Terai.

Since all parts of Nepal will likely experience climate change, what does this mean to your typical Nepalese citizen? It means that there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty about the future. But the people of Nepal must prepare for precipitation extremes ranging from unpredictable drought to deluge, all with catastrophic consequences for the very crops that Nepalese society is dependent on, including rice; higher prices of food staples, including rice, tea, grains and maize/corn due to stresses on the food market; unreliable and over-stressed water supplies; extreme heat waves and resulting deaths; and less reliable hydropower due to less predictable stream flow.
While a global climatic warming of 1.0 - 6.5°C by the end of this century is certainly a possibility, the bottom-line is that climate will change in the near and distant futures. Nepalese citizens must start altering their lifestyles and prepare their respective societies for futures with different temperature and precipitation regimes. These climate-induced hazards are not only causing damage and loss of human lives and property but are also undermining development progress in Nepal. As taking more bold steps to tackle this difficulty is the major responsibility of all states worldwide, we need to start by admitting the fact that global climate change, in Nepal and worldwide, is not a myth but a reality.

(Mark L. Hildebrandt, Ph.D. is Associate Professor at Department of Geography Southern Illinois University, USA. Email: mhildeb@siue.edu)


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