As the world’s top leadership assembles in Egypt for the year’s most significant climate summit, known as the United Nation’s COP, climate disturbances are actively leaving footprints in the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The adverse impact of global warming, footnoted by years of carbon emissions, has reached the glaciers, witnessing severe meltdown, in Kashmir and Ladakh region in India. Earth science experts are ringing alarm bells for appropriate, timely action to deal with crises looming large.

In Ladakh, the latest research has found that around 87 glaciers have retreated 6.7 percent in the past three decades. In Kashmir, deforestation has been one of the main causes of fluctuating temperatures, and flood-like situations. The valley witnessed the hottest March this year in 131 years with the temperature settling at 27.3 Celsius, which is 9-11 degrees above normal.

Its direct impact on daily-wage laborers and crops in Kashmir was apparent. Now, the global south is unequivocally pushing the “loss and damages”, a growing demand of developing nations that press for rich nations to pay up since their historically higher emissions are the main cause of climate change today.

In straight words, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his address: “Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish.”

“Loss and damage can no longer be swept under the rug. It is a moral imperative,” he noted in his speech. “Those who contributed least to the climate crisis are reaping the whirlwind sown by others.”

Global south facing fire

Following the COP27 summit closely, Shakil Romshoo, vice-chancellor at the Islamic University of Science and Technology, said that the lack of cooperation among the twelve nations sharing ‘the Third Pole’ is the major reason for global apathy towards the crisis at the Third Pole.

The Third Pole encompasses the Tibetan Plateau, the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush, the Pamirs, and the Tien Shan Mountains. Most of the population of the Third Pole, including Kashmir, majorly relies on agriculture for a living.

A U.N. report released last week showed global emissions on track to rise 10.6 percent by 2030 from 2010 levels, reported Reuters. 

From devastating storms and droughts, deadly floods in Pakistan, and record-high heatwave in India, the global south is bearing the brunt of higher global emissions. Though India, a country of 1.4 billion people, is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China and the United States, its per capita emissions are lower than the world average.

The impact of climate change is already proving dire for Kashmir’s farming community. The region recorded 80 percent lesser rainfall this year, causing temperatures to rise.

Image source: Twitter.

Romshoo said that a “concrete climate action” can reduce the “future loss and damage” in the Third Pole region.

Attending the summit in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh town, India’s Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav told reporters that the country expects action from rich nations in terms of climate finance, technology transfer, and strengthening the capacity of poor and developing countries to combat climate change.

“The scale of the problem facing the world is huge. Action cannot be delayed and hence concrete solutions must come up and implementation must start with COP27,” he said.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “nearly half the world’s population will be at severe risk of climate change impacts by 2030, even with global warming of just 1.5-degrees.”

Apparent impact in Kashmir

Experts told The Kashmir Walla that even though the Kashmir region has less consumption of greenhouse gases, “it is getting highly influenced by western disturbances”.

In a tweet, Romshoo wrote: “A projected 4-5°C temp increase at the current rate of GHG emissions, very few mountain glaciers will be present by 2200. If world leaders don’t strategise at #COP27, loss of TPE cryosphere will be a reality within the human timeline.”

Kashmir being an agro-state requires certain conditions, including the availability of water, for agriculture and horticulture practices, and even for electricity generation. If necessary steps are not taken to preserve the glaciers, the economy will collapse in due course of time, warned Romshoo.

Climate change has prompted farmers to convert their agricultural land to horticulture because of less requirement of water. The official documents reveal that the land under paddy cultivation in Kashmir is on the decline with nearly 30,000 hectares of land lost in the past decade. The state is already facing a 50 percent deficiency in rice production and it will further decline by 29 percent by the end of this century.

kashmir birds
Migratory birds fly over a wetland in Shalbugh, in the outskirts of Srinagar. Photograph by Umer Asif for The Kashmir Walla.

While the shift to horticulture seemed more profitable at the initial stage, gradually the rise in temperature and decline in rainfall deteriorated the quality of apples in the valley.

In summer due to unusual hail and windstorms, fruits like cherry, plum, peach, and apricot were damaged and untimely snowfall in the winter season caused severe damage to the apple crop.

Junaid Rather, a farmer from Shopian’s Awaneer village, switched from paddy cultivation to apple farming to make more profit. However, the variation in the temperature, including the rise in the night temperature, deteriorated the quality of the apple production this season, he said.

“We had to pluck apples a month before [the decided time],” Rather said, adding that due to early harvest the hardness of the apple didn’t reach its maximum strength, thus reducing the shelf-life. “We are incurring losses every season.”

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