Even the Himalayas Have Stopped Smiling: Climate Change, Poverty and Adaptation in Nepal

Poor crop yields, water shortages and more extreme temperatures are pushing rural villagers closer to the brink as climate change grips Nepal. Farmers say changing weather patterns have dramatically affected crop production, leaving them unable to properly feed themselves and getting into debt.
More than 3.4 million people in Nepal are estimated to require food assistance, due to a combination of natural disasters, including 2008/09’s winter drought – one of the worst in the country’s history.
Nepal is seeing an increase in temperature extremes, more intense rainfall and increased unpredictability in weather patterns, including drier winters and delays in the summer monsoons. The changes, partly due to the impact of melting Himalayan glaciers, could also be felt well beyond Nepal’s borders.
Some of the heaviest burdens have fallen on women who are on the frontline of climate change. They have to travel further to fetch water and take on the responsibility for feeding the family as men in many poor households migrate seasonally to seek work.
Nepal is one of the world’s poorest nations, with 31% of its 28 million-population living below the poverty line. It has one of the lowest emissions records in the world – just 0.025% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

Key recommendations

More work needs to be done in Nepal by the government and international organizations:

  • to create greater awareness about climate change and its likely impacts,
  • to prioritize and institutionalize actions at national level; and
  • to help communities to play a greater role themselves in initiatives to reduce their vulnerability.

The world’s richest countries, those most responsible for global emissions, must

  • do more to help poor countries like Nepal better adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change when they meet to discuss a global climate treaty in Copenhagen in December.
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