The Third Pole talks to researchers behind Asia’s largest study on people’s daily experience of climate change
BBC Media Action has launched the findings of a major, two-year research project called Climate Asia. The research team interviewed 35,500 people in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam to understand how people in Asia are being impacted by climate change in their everyday lives and how they are adapting.
The Third Pole talked to the Climate Asia research team, who struggled through floods, visited isolated mountain villages, mangrove forests and urban slums to speak to communities and individuals about what climate change means for them.
The Third Pole: Was there anything that surprised you about the results?
Climate Asia: People are noticing large changes in climate already. Based on an understanding of climate science I assumed many people would not have noticed changes yet. I also assumed that any changes people noticed would be very small. But people really do think it’s getting hotter, all across the region.
Another big surprise was just how few people trusted NGOs as a source of information in some countries – in India only 31% of people trust them.
TTP: Are there any individual stories or concerns that particularly struck you?
CA: In one community in North-West Bangladesh villagers who couldn’t afford deep tube wells were having to walk for hours to collect water because the ponds and wells they used have dried up. It was really interesting to see the wider social impacts of this change. Men are finding it hard to find wives who want to move to a village with no water, while all the young women are marrying outside the village to make sure they have water.
TTP: Do you notice any cultural differences between countries that affected peoples’ attitudes to climate change?
CA: There were very large differences in people’s willingness to respond to the changes they noticed. This is particularly evident in South Asia where people in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and India felt changes in climate and availability of resources were negatively affecting their ability to earn money.
However in Nepal 84% were willing to make changes to their livelihoods compared to only 30% in India. In India people were less likely to feel it was their responsibility to act and could not see how they could make a difference.
TTP: Did you come across any innovative responses to water problems?
CA: In Makwanpur, Nepal people were trying to collect water by digging small ponds and placing plastic sheets over them during rainy seasons. The water was being used for agriculture and small scale fish farming. In parts of Java, Indonesia women washed clothes while bathing. In Uttarakhand we found groups of women who were going from village to village singing about the importance of, among other things, protecting the environment.
TTP: What kind of challenges did you face when trying to collect this research?
CA: During the research we experienced floods in Tianjin, a record-breaking power cut across northern India, record high temperatures in Karachi and conflicts over resources and land use in Indonesia between palm oil companies and Indigenous people. One researcher was bitten by dog while interviewing people in the Kathmandu valley. More prosaically during one community assessment in Nepal people misled the researcher about having access to television in the hope that they would give them new television sets.