Coping with Climate Change

The 6th SAES team came across a recent article in TIME Magazine which warned that “melting glaciers and rising temperatures are forming a potentially destructive combination in the deep ravines of Nepal’s Himalayan foothills”. Clearly some South Asian states will be more at risk than others. But issues of climate change are  important to each of us as South Asians. We are living in a region that is projected to be one of the hardest hit by the effects of global climate change, as this report notes.

This year’s South Asia Economic Summit has a strong focus on sustainability. One the ‘Big Four’ themes of the 6th SAES debating this very issue is the 2nd plenary session (on Day 2) of ‘Managing Water Resources, Food Security and Climate Change’, while a parallel session will explore more deeply the ‘Socio-economic Implications of Climate Change for South Asia’.

The grave reality of the scale and speed of global warming is becoming ever more apparent. Just a few weeks ago the Mauna Loa recording station in Hawaii, run by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), came up with a startling discovery – carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere had breached the 400 ppm (parts per million) mark for the first time in human history.

While climate change is rapidly becoming a pressing concern for every region of the world, South Asia’s geography, high poverty levels and population density have rendered it especially vulnerable to these effects. As the World Bank notes, climatic changes are “already having major impacts on the economic performance of South Asian countries and on the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor people”.

Aerial view of the Himalayas mountains in Nepal (image by Anushka Wijesinha, 2010)

Aerial view of the Himalayan mountains in Nepal (image by Anushka Wijesinha, 2010)

As the region’s greenhouse gas emissions are negligible relative to the global total, however, its ability to mitigate climate change is severely limited. Instead, an important policy priority for South Asian states is to take measures to moderate the effects of climate change. These include a particular focus on food security, social protection for those most vulnerable to weather-related shocks, and improved water management. These issues will be explored in detail by experts in the region and beyond, at the 6th South Asia Economic Summit. Other research counterparts in the region, like SANDEE and SAWTEE which are also working on these issues, will be joining the 6th SAES. This month, SAWTEE is organizing a workshop on the ‘South Asian Green Economy’, while the Centre for Science and Environment is organizing its ‘Annual South Asian Media Briefing Workshop on Climate Change’ in late September.

To know more about the 6th SAES, visit


(update II)