Vulnerability through the eyes of vulnerable: climate change induced uncertainties and Nepal's development predicaments

Vulnerability through the eyes of vulnerable: climate change induced uncertainties and Nepal's development predicaments

In its fourth assessment report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) depicts the Hindukush-Himalaya, including Nepal, as a “white spot,” a region about which scientific information on climate change is limited or lacking altogether. Given that the rise of this mountain range, the world’s highest, has had a considerable influence on global wind circulation and climate dynamics, this knowledge gap does not speak well of our ability to understand climate change or its potential impact.

This report attempts to synthesise existing scientific and socio-economic information on the likely impacts of climate change in the Nepal Himalaya and to assess the complex patterns of vulnerability such changes will expose its citizens to. Existing information on climate change in the Nepal Himalaya suggests that recent extreme events may form the staple of future blueprint of climate change on the region.

Thus, in its assessment of the complex pattern of vulnerabilities in Nepal which could be exacerbated by climate change, this study begins by reflecting on the impact of eight recent “signature events” - extreme floods, droughts and diseases that have caused grievous harm to local populations. These events caused major harm to local populations consistent with the predicted impacts associated with existing climate change scenarios.

This report captures the risk an increasingly capricious climate poses for Nepal and Nepalis. It links its unique ground-level “toad’s-eye” perspective with the results emerging from high-level scientific analyses and suggests the need for intensifying scientific research in order to bridge the gap between the two. The report also recognises the need to foster institutional pluralism in the planning and implementation of development programmes if sustainability is to be ensured and unpleasant surprises minimised. The report also recommends the charting of new development strategies to adapt to the partially known or even unknown multiple stresses induced by climate change.

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