Bhutan is carbon negative and has committed to remaining carbon neutral, yet it is not spared the wrath of climate change. Himalayan countries face erratic weather patterns and fast receding glaciers with the risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) now becoming a stark reality. Climate change, if left unchecked could become one of the biggest threats to humanity. However, its effects have remained abstract with most explanations being made through complex computer models and simulations that are difficult for the ordinary person to understand.
The Himalayan Environmental Rhythms Observation and Evaluation System (HEROES) Project helps communities to understand climate change in a manner that they can relate to, so that appropriate mitigation of the causes of climate change (namely reduction of greenhouse gases) and adaptations to changes in climatic conditions can be devised accordingly. The (HEROES) project implemented by the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute of Conservation and Environment (UWICE) in partnerships with schools and nature clubs across Bhutan, employs a combination of weather data collection (through a network of weather stations) and citizen science to help understand climate change. While the high-tech weather stations provide an uninterrupted flow of weather and climatic data (temperature, humidity, and wind speed) across Bhutan’s varied ecological and elevation gradient, the citizen science component of the project encourages hundreds of students to actively engage in observing their immediate environment to detect changes in how plants and wildlife respond to climate change.
The HEROES projects is in its second year of implementation and has already succeeded in mainstreaming plant phenology observation and climate change as a topic in the high-school environmental science curriculum. Bhutanese students will soon be learning about this very important topic that affects them every day. The project supports a network of 23 weather stations (20 in schools, and 3 in remote mountain locations). Some 34 teachers and 1000 students have been trained in weather station management, data collection and plant phenology observations. They are now actively participating in the project. Bhutan will be one of the few places in the Himalayas to have a comprehensive set of climate data that will be vital for helping understand climate change. It will help provide an understanding of how key plants and animals are responding to changing climatic patterns over time.