Note 1: Melting glaciers and catastrophic floods
Around two months ago, a glacial lake in Humla District in the Midwestern mountains of Nepal, burst its moraine dam, causing flash flooding downstream, destroying homes and productive farmland.
Recent studies have shown that increasing temperatures have caused most Himalayan glaciers to melt at an accelerating rate and the resulting glacial lakes (pdf) are expanding rapidly. The occurrence of glacial lake outburst floods (pdf), as they are known, seems to have been accelerating in the last few decades.
The farmers of Halji village have virtually no responsibility for the additional heat-trapping greenhouse gases human beings are pumping into the atmosphere at increasing rates. But they are reaping the whirlwind that others have sown.
Note 2: Increased uncertainty making hard lives even harder
A while ago, we spoke with farmers from Doti, a hill district in Nepal’s Far West about their experiences of the weather and climate. One farmer, Dal Bahadur Balayer, described how a piece of traditional knowledge that had once underpinned livelihoods in his village had been rendered useless by a changing climate.
A local tree, the paiyu (a kind of jungle cherry) was known for blossoming in autumn. Farmers in the area had relied on this signal, as an indicator of the imminent arrival of winter rains, to plant the wheat crop. In recent years, the paiyu, in response to changing temperatures, has begun blossoming earlier and earlier. Farmers now have no way of knowing when to plant the wheat, as it can be more than a month between the paiyu’s flowering and the rain.
Rainfall has never been certain. But with one less tool for managing risk taken away, hard lives have been made even harder. For subsistence farmers in Doti, there is little room to manoeuvre, no way to hedge their bets, and no fall-back option to buy food if crops fail.
Another group of vulnerable people being rendered more vulnerable by the choices of others.