If we were not all consumed by the coronavirus pandemic at the moment, we would be worrying about the impact of climate change. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, the COVID-19 outbreak will fade away.
We will then have to go back to where we left off to address a far greater long-term threat not just to human beings, but also all other species on this planet. In January, just as first reports were coming out of a virus outbreak in Wuhan scientists were issuing dire predictions about how the land, air and sea was warming much faster than previously thought – and how this would have catastrophic impact on life on Earth.
Millions would die of heat stress, climate migrants would be driven out of coastal cities, food supplies would run out with droughts and floods, there would be continental-scale fires. But politicians in many countries continued to be in denial.
Human face of a Himalayan crisis, Rastraraj Bhandari
When the coronavirus crisis is over, the world has to show the same resolve in addressing the root causes of the climate emergency, and cut emissions, allow forests to grow back, alter food habits, change the consumption patterns and endless consumerism. Time will tell if world governments will learn from the pandemic to act together with the resolve they have not yet shown in dealing with the climate.
Here in Nepal, the virus has not spread as aggressively as elsewhere. We do not know why. Maybe it is just lurking undetected, waiting for the right moment to strike. But this much vilified government has shown uncharacteristic resolve in risking economic collapse to prevent the spread of the virus. That same determination is needed to address the climate crisis.
How much fossil carbon Nepal burns is not making a big different on the planet, but our dependence on imported petroleum is going to add to the huge economic burden of the pandemic. Nepal has to reboot its development model, switch to renewable energy, aim for agricultural self-sufficiency, and halt destructive infrastructure construction. All this demands visionary leadership and good governance which is in short supply.
Back to the future of farming, Editorial
The impact of the climate emergency is already being felt throughout Nepal: melting glacial ice means too much water in some places, and in others springs have gone dry due to extreme weather events. As Rastraraj Bhandrai reports in this issue, Nepal needs to mitigate the danger of glacial lake bursts, as well help farmers adapt to erratic monsoons and water scarcity. But it need to cut fossil use to save the economy.
The reduction of global emissions due to the worldwide lockdown is temporary. China has already announced reverting to coal to kick-start its economy as it revives after the pandemic. Other nations will try to ratchet up fossil fuel extraction.
Like the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis needs a global strategy. Here in Nepal we need local action.
Climate, COVID-19 and China, Rastraraj Bhandari