Do Local Perceptions of Climate Variability and Changes Correspond to Observed Climate Changes? A Comparative Study from Nepal as One of the Most Climate-Vulnerable Countries

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American Meteorological Society.

This study explored people’s perceptions of climate change by conducting interviews and focus-group discussions with local residents of three ecological regions of Nepal, i.e., mountain, midhills, and lowland. Climatic measurements from meteorological stations of the regions were acquired for the period from 1988 to 2018. We compared the people’s perception with trends and variabilities of observed temperature and rainfall patterns. The results showed that, over the last three decades, temperature and precipitation trends and variability between regions varied, largely corroborating the local experiences. The temperature increased in mountain, midhills, and lowland by 0.0618, 0.0638, and 0.0178C yr21 , respectively. In contrast, rainfall decreased by 29.7, 23.6, and 20.04 mm yr21 for the regions, respectively. Although the amount of rainfall decrease observed in the mountain was highest, its variability was found to be relatively low, and vice versa in lowland. Approximately 88% of interviewees perceived temperature rise, and 74% noticed rainfall decline. Local residents linked these changes with their livelihood activities, as exemplified by, for example, crop’s quality and quantity and birds’ migration. The results indicate that local understandings complement the scarce observational data and provide a reliable and additional foundation to determine changes in climatic variables. Moreover, the result infers that small changes in climate variables have noticeable implications on human behavior change. Therefore, besides active participation of local communities, integrating local understanding is crucial in developing climate change–related policies and strategies at local and national levels.