Bhutan’s climate hurdles

update:August 3o,2021

The intergovernmental panel on climate change issued a damning report on the future of the earth’s climate if we continue to sit and watch. 

As if to drive home the message of the report, Bhutan in the past few weeks witnessed a summer like never before. Massive landslides removing entire stretches of roads, bridges, and threatening human settlements and livelihoods.

The country has been a climate and environmental leader. However, its successes in environmental conservation so far have been threatened in a major way by inaction by the larger international community. Being in a fragile Himalayan ecosystem makes it even more vulnerable for the small landlocked country.

Lack of concerted global action against climate change is affecting the way we live. We are already facing the threats in their diverse manifestations.

Unlike some years ago, there is no lack of data or studies on the adverse effects of climate change on Bhutan.

Studies have shown that Blue Pine, which is usually confined to the lower elevations, can now also be found in the fir forest, between 3,400 metres and the tree line.

Experts estimated warming in Bhutan increased from 0.8 °C in 1910 to 1.5 °C in 1960, and 2.8 °C since the 1990s. As the temperature increases, the upper limit of the evergreen broad-leaved species is also expected to shift upwards.

The livelihood of our highlanders, who mainly depend on cordyceps, is at stake. Even Bhutanese in other parts of the country would suffer due to the shift in the ecosystem mainly due to a rise in temperature and issues with precipitation. The trends indicate that shorter, heavier precipitation could be experienced in future. Our experience shows it is already here.

There are more outbreaks of bark beetles, crop pests, and diseases. Changing climate is affecting water balance, which in turn is affecting our agricultural productivity. Forest fire hazards show an increasing trend since 1999, which could have serious implications on rural livelihoods.

Things are escalating out of control. Time is running out.

While Bhutan, a debt-ridden and largely donor-driven country, has increased efforts in tackling climate change impacts and adaptation, those countries with capacity in finance and technology must support the least developed countries (LDC) like Bhutan. The failure to make climate change the central issue of this century must be owned by both powerful and less powerful countries.

Covid-19 recovery options with inclusive and green economic development pathways are the way forward. We must work together to ensure that the virtue, force, and strength of multilateralism be harnessed to speed up the process of addressing climate change.

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