Climate change in the Himalaya

Climate change is an all-encompassing global problem that has had catastrophic effects on both natural and human systems. The Himalaya is no exception to this global phenomenon. Several studies have shown that the Himalaya, a global biodiversity hotspot has experienced an increase in annual mean temperatures by around three times the global average, together with an overall increase in annual precipitation. Yet studies on climate change impacts on biodiversity are largely lacking in the region. The significance of the Himalayan range to the fate of humanity can hardly be overstated. The Himalaya is often referred to as the ‘third pole’ since it stores the largest amount of ice outside the two poles. It is also the source of 10 of the largest rivers of Asia, feeding at least 1.3 billion people. Rising temperatures leading to receding glaciers could have disastrous impacts on downstream water supplies, biodiversity, and livelihoods. In spite of its importance, research in the Himalayan region suffers from a lack of long term measurements. This lacuna constrains the scientific capacity to assess the magnitude of contemporary climate change, or its impacts on the people and the biodiversity of the region.

Climate change, Himalaya and Indigenous people

There is however a wealth of potentially useful information in the form of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK ) of the indigenous peoples inhabiting the region. Indigenous people are often directly dependent on the provisioning services of the biodiversity of their surroundings. Thus, they may often be the first to perceive changes in environmental conditions and form an important source to advance the understanding of climate change. Additionally, TEK may be important since climate projections derived from regional- or global-scale models cannot yet be reliably downscaled to the local scale.

We have shown that in harsh environments such as the high elevations of Eastern Himalaya, natural resource-dependent indigenous communities have developed an intricate understanding of changes in their local climatic conditions and natural surroundings. Furthermore, social systems particularly local institutions, are essential in improving adaptive capacity by providing social, economic, and ecological security to the community. The publications below address four broad objectives​.

1. To analyze the response of the agro-pastoral communities to climate change.

2. To quantify how these responses have affected livelihoods and land-use change of the agro-pastoral communities.

3. To identify the impacts of climate change on patterns of resource utilization in grazing and non-grazing lands and on alpine ecosystems.

4. To develop probable adaptation and mitigation strategies to reduce the negative impacts of climate change.

Selected publications on Climate Change, the Himalaya and Indigenous people

Refereed Journals

Ingty,T. 2018. Reconciling indigenous peoples’ perceptions with climate change data: A case study of high mountain communities in the Himalaya. Regional Environmental Change. Under review.

Ingty, T. 2017. High mountain communities and climate change: adaptation, traditional ecological knowledge, and institutions. Climatic Change. 145(1):41-55

Aryal, A., U. B. Shrestha, W. Ji, S. B. Ale, S. Shrestha, T. Ingty, T. Maraseni, G. Cockfield, and D. Raubenheimer. 2016. Predicting the distributions of predator (snow leopard) and prey (blue sheep) under climate change in the Himalaya. Ecology and Evolution.6:4065–4075.

Ingty,T. 2011. Changing with the seasons. Current conservation.5(3): 25-32

Books and Book Chapters

Ingty, T., B. Subba, S. Momin, and D. Lamsal. 2015. Framed Himalaya: Lachen Valley. Pages 177. Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore, India.

Ingty, T., and K. S. Bawa. 2015. Climate change in Sikkim: Synthesis and a Case Study from Lachen Valley, North Sikkim. Pages 33-50 in S. Hazarika and R. Banerjee, editors. Climate Change in the Eastern Himalaya: Impact on Livelihood, Growth and Poverty. Academic Publications, Delhi.

Ingty,T., Bawa,K.S.,2012.Climate change and indigenous peoples. In Arrawatia,M.L., Tambe,S. (Eds), Climate Change in Sikkim Patterns, Impacts and Initiatives. Information and Public Relations Department,Government of Sikkim,Gangtok.

Bawa K, Ingty, T.,2012.Climate change studies in Sikkim: A Synthesis. In Arrawatia,M.L., Tambe,S. (Eds),Climate Change in Sikkim Patterns, Impacts and Initiatives. Information and Public Relations Department,Government of Sikkim,Gangtok.