Bhutan versus Climate Change
Published on 25 October 2022
Bhutan’s location in a geologically active region makes it highly vulnerable to climate variability and extreme weather events. Based on previous studies identifying vulnerability disparities across population groups, Bhutan embarks on a socio-economic impact assessment to further explore the impact of climate change to inform its national adaptation planning.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) mentions that by 2100, South Asian countries, including Bhutan, will experience increase in average temperatures. Climate change, including climate variability and extreme events can directly and indirectly impact the environment and depending socio-economic sectors such as agriculture, food security, water resources, human health, terrestrial ecosystems, and biodiversity. Mountains, the rich repositories of biodiversity and water, are among the most sensitive regions to climate change impacts. Rising temperatures, seasonal shifts in glacier and snowmelt-induced runoff, and frequent extreme weather events are threatening the lives and livelihoods of people living in the mountain regions. Water availability is under threat with declining and varied precipitation patterns and is availability of water supply for drinking, agricultural production, and hydropower generation.
Like other LDCs, Bhutan has undertaken climate-related hazard assessments to establish a broad consensus about climate change hazards across the country and its likely impacts in order to inform its national adaption plan (NAP). The NAPs process was established under the Cancun Adaptation Framework (2010) to prepare countries for addressing climate risk in the medium term. The main objectives of the NAPs are to reduce vulnerability to climate change, and to mainstream climate change adaptation in all levels of planning.
One of Bhutan’s climate related hazard assessments is the Climate Change Vulnerability Analyses (CCVA). The objective of the CCVA is to complement previous assessments with analyses and mapping of vulnerability at the Dzongkhag (District) level. It relies on existing socio-economic and non-climatic, development data and aims to enhance the understanding of the scale of impact of climate change across different population groups. It also provides actionable information about the social and economic impacts of climate change to inform adaptation planning.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is divided into 20 Dzongkhags (districts). For this study, risk and vulnerability indices were constructed at the Dzongkhag level. The first step for the CCVA was t develop impact chains, based on existing literature and studies, to provide a general representation of hazard, vulnerability, and exposure factors that lead to the risk that climate change poses to Bhutan. The impact chains were developed and updated according to a detailed list of indicators which in turn were mapped to their respective stakeholders with the assistance of national consultants. Existing and publicly available data sources and reports were used to collect and report on the indicators. Most data sources used had temporal data ranging from 2005 until 2017 and include: Population Housing and Census, Dzongkhag at a Glance, Bhutan Statistical Yearbooks, Bhutan Living Standard Survey, RNR statistics report, Land use and Landcover assessment report from 2010 and 2016 obtained from National Land Commission, Annual Report of Tourism Council of Bhutan. Climate hazard data was provided by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) under MoHCA. In parallel, stakeholder consultations were undertaken to assess if the indicator data is available or not. The team also aimed at gathering gender disaggregated data whenever it was possible and relevant. Once data collected was completed, different vulnerability indices were calculated and visualized using maps to enable a geospatial analysis of vulnerabilities across Bhutan’s Dzongkhags.
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