Global climate change is perhaps the most widely studied phenomena in recent decades, with data being pored over by countless scientists around the world -- but for farmers in Nepal, its dramatic effects are part of daily life. For years, villagers in the Himalayan highlands have witnessed increases in snow melt and rising temperatures in the region associated with global warming, and now, for the very first time, their unique on-site knowledge has been gathered for scientific study on climate change -- reportage from the front line of a warming world.Researchers from the UK's Royal Society recently conducted interviews with and administered questionnaires to 250 villagers from throughout Nepal to find out whether they have noticed any differences in seasonal patterns in recent years -- and the results they returned were quite clear: the climate is changing, and they're feeling the pinch.
A report from the AFP breaks down the Society's findings, which will be published in the journal Biology Letters:
Three-quarters of the interviewees said they believed the weather had been getting warmer over the past 10 years, while two-thirds said the onset of summer and the monsoon had advanced.
Nearly half the respondents thought there was less snow on the mountains than before and 70 percent said water was less plentiful.
Roughly half said they believed that some plant species were budding earlier than before and that mosquitoes had appeared in villages where none had been seen before. At least a third said new crop pests or new weeds had emerged in places where they farmed.
Aside from merely confirming the suspicions of climate scientists worldwide, this recent study is groundbreaking in its microcosmic approach. Too commonly, the on-the-ground observations of local communities regarding climate changes are thought of as unreliably subjective or inherently unscientific -- but the study argues that a scientific survey of such observations actually provide unique insight that might be difficult to ascertain relying more heavily on traditional approaches to data gathering.
Researchers chose to focus on communities living in and around the Himalayas for good reason. The snow-covered mountain range serves as a vital source of water for the region, and approximately 1.4 billion people could potentially be affected if weather patterns changed dramatically. Despite its great importance and relatively high susceptibility to the effects of climate change, there remains much to be learned regarding how the Himalayas are currently being impacted.
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