Bhutan climate report in Copenhagen

Bhutan will see an increase in winter temperature of 1.5°C to 4.0°C by 2050s, according to a World Bank (WB) report released in conjunction with the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen underway this week.

The report titled, Shared Views on Development and Climate Change, states that there are no long-term climate data available on Bhutan but available data during the 1990-2002 period point to an increase in rainfall inconsistency across the country.

In the 1998-2003 period, the mean monthly temperature recorded was higher than the mean temperature recorded for the 1990-2003 period, pointing to an overall warming trend. The predicted increases in temperature and more erratic rainfall patterns pose a threat to Bhutan, its people, and its economy. With its fragile ecosystem, glacier lake outburst floods in the northern mountains constitute an ever-present threat. Of the 2,674 glacial lakes in Bhutan, 24 are considered to be potentially dangerous, states the report.

The increase in temperatures in recent decades has led to a reduction in Bhutan’s glacial cover. Some glaciers in Bhutan have been receding at a rate of 30 to 60 metres in a year. The retreat of some glacier cover in recent decades has already led to the formation of supraglacial lakes and breaches in the critical geostatic thresholds of several glaciers.

According to the report, the challenges Bhutan faces today are damages from glacial melt, impact of increased temperature on rangelands and agriculture, potential loss of forest biodiversity due to vegetation shift and increased incidence of forest fire due to temperature increase.

“The risk of glacier lake outburst floods will increase as the rate of glacier melt accelerates in the future. Steep slopes and heavy monsoon rains also render the entire country susceptible to flash floods and landslides,” the report said.

Bhutan’s National Adaptation Programme of Action recognizes that Bhutan is highly vulnerable to climate change. Factors like the existence of fragile mountain ecosystems, reliance on subsistence agriculture and farming of dry land crops, a population whose growth rate is among the highest in the world (2.5 to 3 percent), and a high dependency monsoon rains (70 percent of the country’s rainfall falls during the monsoon season), and export of hydropower makes the country vulnerable.

Visible effects of climate change in Bhutan are reduced agricultural production, water shortage and groundwater depletion, loss of forest area or production, threat of biodiversity loss, and exposure to glacial lake outburst floods, among others.

Source: Bhutan Observer

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