Climate Vulnerability & Adaptive Capacity of Mountain Societies in Central Asia

Sujata Manandhar, Stefanos Xenarios, Dietrich Schmidt-Vogt, Christian Hergarten, Marc Foggin

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Mountain societies in developing and low-income countries are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which may severely threaten people’s livelihoods and wellbeing. The situation of mountain communities in the Pamir and Tien Shan mountains in Central Asia (CA) is exacerbated by their often remote location along with outdated infrastructure and poor access, in a region with a distinctively continental climate. Climate change models based on ‘’most likely’’ greenhouse gas concentrations have projected future
temperature and precipitation changes in CA. The modeling studies suggest that mean temperature in CA will increase between 2.6 and 3.2°C by the year 2050, though considerable variation is expected across the region. While modeled precipitation changes are afflicted with higher degrees of uncertainty, increases
in overall precipitation during the winter season (and concomitant decreases across the remainder of the year) are projected. In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the countries that encompass the largest portions of the Pamirs and Tien
Shan mountains, social and legal strategies have been adopted to reduce vulnerabilities and enhance nationwide adaptation. Numerous international donors and development organizations are currently working with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to implement projects aiming at strengthening local adaptive
responses to climate change in both urban and rural regions.
Assessing the vulnerability of mountain societies in the Pamirs and Tien Shan mountain regions and assisting them to develop adaptation strategies is, however, a challenging endeavor that demands a thorough understanding of a range of technical and socio-economic parameters. On the technical side,
microclimatic processes as determined by mountain topography, geophysical parameters and energy exchange from solar radiation are still insufficiently explored. Currently, there are only few studies that investigate the role of mountain hydrological regimes in triggering or exacerbating extreme hydrometeorological hazards. Moreover, institutional and socio-economic changes that have affected mountain societies in CA over the last quarter century may also impact their capacity to adapt to a range of direct
and indirect effects of climate change.

Strengthening research to address climate change challenges in mountainous CA is essential. In this regard, this MSRI study reviews the state of research on climate change, vulnerabilities, impacts and adaptation measures, and attempts to identify knowledge gaps as well as opportunities for the improvement
of adaptive capacity of mountain societies in CA.

Current climate change adaptation (CCA) initiatives that have been adopted at national level in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan face various limitations. This review highlights several apparent weaknesses in the areas of policy and related institutions and governance mechanisms; in economic and financial information and resources; in education and knowledge sharing; and in science-based information. Moreover, adaptation activities in mountain regions of CA generally lack a solid scientific understanding of the effects of climate-water-energy-land system interactions on the local population.

The present study proposes priority areas of research as well as development and policy initiatives in climate monitoring and assessment, climatic processes and hazards, vulnerability and adaptive capacity, resource governance, and economic opportunities, that could help support and improve people’s livelihoods and wellbeing in mountain societies in CA. The study also highlights the need for enhanced collaboration between research institutions and communities, government and private sectors, and development agencies
and civil society. It helps identifying and better understand the obstacles and challenges as well as new promising opportunities in the development of effective CCA strategies at local, national and regional levels in CA.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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