Bhutan and climate change

As the world leaders continue to talk about climate change and its impact on humanity in the long run, climate-induced risks are increasing, particularly in mountains settlements and low-lying areas. Islands are sinking fast; displacement has already begun in countries like Indonesia and Bangladesh. Irrational leadership, which is sadly gaining ground the world over is making the matters worse.

Bhutan has been a climate leader for as long as the world can remember. It is a shame that nations with economic muscles are not doing enough. So the Amazon burns, leaders pull away from the Paris Agreement, and fossil fuel barons are being given free rein to increase their production targets—all in the picture of serious warnings from climate scientists.

Demanding more from smaller and economically challenged nations so can only be seen as unfair. The risks the world is running is that this could be a trend and the precious little opportunity to act could be lost altogether. The time is running out.

Learning from the lessons and heeding to warnings, Bhutan is far better prepared than when we were, say a decade ago. We have legislations, frameworks and contingency plans in place. We have trained and sensitised people on the impending dangers. We continue to conduct simulations, demonstrations, drills and many other activities. The findings of the studies guide our decision-making. There has been a call for an effective communication system but it has not been moving fast. We are still talking about it and doing the drills.

We know the kind of difficulties we could get in due to climate change. We are among the most vulnerable nations. Extreme weather and erratic shift in temperatures have begun affecting the agriculture sector already on which more than half our people depend. We have experienced some devastating floods and more will come as glaciers begin to sweat at a faster rate. What we must remember though is that when communication systems fail, everything grinds to a halt. This results in panic and distress and we are helpless.

We have experienced this in the past. When the tremors of the 2015 Nepal earthquake shook Bhutan, telecommunication network collapsed. The cellular networks got clogged with everyone calling everyone to find out the status of disaster. These left the people who needed to disseminate information handicapped. While we are quick to point fingers at each other we often forget to ask the right questions—how do we communicate these days? What are the tools we use to share information? And how efficiently do we do all these?

If adaptation is almost the only thing that we have today as we tackle climate change and its impact, we aren’t doing enough. We are lagging far behind.

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