LocATED IN THE Himalayan Mountains and bordering India and China, the kingdom of Bhutan covers a land area of 18,147 sq. mi. (47,000 sq. km.), with a population of 672,400 (2005 est.), giving it a population density of 117 people per sq. mi. (45 per sq. km.). Gaining its independence in 1947, Bhutan has embarked on a program of modernization, trying
Bhutan's forests, such as this one, cover three-quarters of the country, and it has one of the lowest rates of carbon dioxide emissions per person in the world. In spite of this, it is imperiled by rising regional temperatures, which are melting nearby glaciers.
to foster greater harmony between various ethnic groups. Being landlocked, the main effects of global warming on Bhutan will be from melting of nearby glaciers. With average temperatures in the Himalayas having risen by about one degree C since the mid-1970s, there has been a glacial retreat in Bhutan estimated at 100-130 ft. (30-40 m.) annually, with the real possibility of serious flooding from swollen glacial lakes. Over time, this is expected to dramatically change the flora and fauna in the country, posing risks for some endangered animals such as takins (similar to gnus), wild elephants, and snow leopards.
Within the country, there is relatively low car use, with a somewhat overburdened public transport network that still effectively covers the entire country. This network includes the government Bhutan Post Express, the private Leksol Bus Service, and other companies. Although tourist flights into the country have contributed to global warming and climate change, the number of tourists is strictly limited. Also, 75 percent of the country is still forested, only two percent of the land is arable, and another six percent is used for meadows and pasture. Accordingly, the per capita emission of carbon dioxide by the people of Bhutan is one of the lowest in the world, with 0.1 metric tons per person in 1990, rising to 0.19 metric tons per person in 2003. A total of 99.9 percent of the electricity in Bhutan is generated by hydropower, resulting in one of the lowest rates of fossil fuel use of any country in the world. The country also has extremely low levels of emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide.
The Bhutan government took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in May 1992, and 10 years later, on August 26, 2002, it accepted the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which took effect on February 16, 2005.
SEE ALSo: Climate Change, Effects; Floods; Forests; Glaciers, Retreating; Tourism.
BIBLIoGRAPHY. Stan Armington, Bhutan (Lonely Planet, 2002); "Bhutan—Climate and Atmosphere," www.earth-trends.wri.org (cited October 2007); Information on Trade and Commerce of Bhutan at a Glance (Trade and Information Centre, Department of Trade and Commerce, Thimbu, 1985); J. Xu et al., "Critical Linkages between Land-Use Transition and Human Health in the Himalayan Region," Environment International (September 13, 2007).
JUSTIN CORFIELD Geelong Grammar School, Australia
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