Life in a warming worldEven seemingly simple solutions like using paper and cloth bags instead of polythene ones have not been implemented.
As we celebrate yet another World Environment Day in this scorching summer heat, we cannot overlook the undeniable threat of climate crisis that looms over Nepal. Our land is warming at an alarming rate, with the average annual maximum temperature rising by 0.056 degrees Celsius a year, compared to the global average of 0.03 degrees Celsius rise. In fact, Nepal is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. Over the years, it has consistently witnessed extreme weather events like droughts, glacier explosions, delayed monsoons, intense landslides and floods.
Worryingly, the consequences aren’t confined to the environment. The crisis has resulted in food insecurity, loss of life, as well as poverty. We also cannot deny its implications on health. Rising temperatures in recent years have created a conducive environment for mosquitoes, increasing the risk of vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria. Waterborne diseases such as cholera have emerged, as have other respiratory problems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, and lung cancer.
It’s not that the country hasn’t been working on mitigating the climate crisis either. Nepal enhanced its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in 2020 under the Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, for the period 2021-30 for the mitigation of (and adaptation to) climate change. However, the country made lofty pledges, failing miserably in its implementation. For instance, in its first NDC of 2016, the government pledged to “expand renewable energy by 20 percent”. But in 2020, renewables accounted for just 3 percent of the total energy consumption. Even the plan of using paper and cloth bags instead of polythene ones has not been implemented, even as the country has repeated the pledge in the fiscal 2023-24 budget. Plastic products and polythene bags continue to be a significant environmental threat for the country.
Meanwhile, funds have continued to flow into projects that contribute to climate change. Such a sorry state of affairs recently led to Kathmandu being designated as the city with the worst air on the whole of the planet. These events should remind us that we cannot afford complacency in the face of climate adversity.
We should also not understate the impact of anthropogenic activities as our actions and behaviours have far-reaching effects on the earth, people and our future. Unfortunately, Nepal’s per capita emission was the highest in South Asia in 2018. That said, it is essential to acknowledge that the root cause of climate change lies in human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and unsustainable practices, and to warn and educate people about the importance of adopting climate-friendly measures, which the government should prioritise with adequate funding.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2022 report, “the climate is changing more quickly than suggested by most previous studies, and the planet has already reached a point of no return.” We are all responsible for caring for our land, so we must begin by changing our behaviour. It is time to hold our leaders accountable and encourage them to translate their words into action. It is also vital for countries worldwide to recognise their role in addressing climate change and take immediate action to cut loss and damage. We must shift our behaviours towards sustainable practices, adopting renewable energy, and preserving our valuable ecosystems. We can limit global warming and save the planet only if we all work together.