News and Articles

The Power of Social Connectedness: Unlocking Effective Climate Commitments

October 13, 2023

By Anusha Pandey, 2023 Social Connectedness Fellow

Resting on my couch sipping my morning coffee, I reflected on the flood that recently hit Kagbeni, Mustang. According to the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, the area received an astonishing 25 mm of rain in a single day, a record-breaking event for the region. This  flood caused significant destruction, including 31 structures like houses, hotels, temples, ashrams, schools, and police stations. This tragic incident serves as a grim reminder of the region’s vulnerability to floods, echoing the devastation caused by the Melamchi flood just two years earlier.

Switching our focus to Delhi, India, the Yamuna river flood recently experienced its highest water levels in 45 years. Surpassing the evacuation threshold of 206m and rising up to a record high of 208.57m on July 13, 2023, this flood displaced 30,000 people while killing more than 67 people  July 14. This catastrophic event occurred despite earlier predictions of a ‘normal monsoon’  by the Indian Meteorological Department, highlighting the unpredictability of weather patterns resulting from climate change. While climate change itself may not directly cause floods or disasters, it is undeniably linked to the increasing unpredictability resulting in devastating extreme disaster events.

This reflection reminded me of the interconnectedness between climate change, the lives affected, the urgency for action and the effectiveness of these commitments under which we act. It is abundantly clear that knowing the risks by a handful of people isn’t going to suffice anymore. So, we should be asking a deeper question about who is making these commitments and who is supposed to be included in making these commitments?

The awareness about the threat of climate change and the environmental crisis has been increasing amongst the general population. The Google trends analytics also shows that people are googling about the effects of climate change more than ever before. Despite growing concerns about the climate crisis, a considerable portion of the population still underestimates its gravity. However, climate change does not discriminate between believers and non-believers. The cost of climate disasters has been exponential over the years. The World Economic forum compiled a list of last year’s disasters that briefs its horrors succinctly yet conspicuously. The report on these disasters showed that each caused more than $3 billion worth of damage and unsurprisingly the countries with limited resources like Pakistan suffered more severely than countries like the USA. The climate crises are magnified by the discrepancy in a country’s capacity to respond to it. 

Developing countries, which contribute less to climate change, are more severely affected by its consequences. Meanwhile, developed nations, often the major contributors, possess greater resources to mitigate its impact. A study in 2021, highlighted that under the current climate policies, the average GDP of vulnerable countries like the Least Developed Countries, Alliance of Small Island States, and the members of Climate Vulnerable Forum, will be hit by -19.6% by 2050, and -63.9% by 2100 in contrast to the scenario with no such climate crisis. The study further clarified that even under the hopeful goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5C as per the Paris Agreement, the impact on such countries is still going to hit the GDP by -13.1% in 2050, and -33.1% in 2100. Furthermore, a different study studied the need for global humanitarian disaster response spending burden of the world in relation to the temperature rise. The study found that with every 1C rise in 5 year temperature, a 3.1% rise in humanitarian spending is required. 

Such devastating consequences of the climate crisis are acknowledged in different agreements and conferences like The Paris Agreement, Kyoto Protocol, and UN Climate Change Conferences. However, the implementation of these commitments remains a challenge for many participating countries. The countries that take part are far from implementing them into action. Except for a few countries from the European Union, the UK, Nepal, and some African countries, the rest of the world is far from meeting the commitments criteria made during these events. To address the disparities in climate action capabilities and contributions, equitable policies and plans are crucial. Each country must be tasked with addressing the complexity of climate action, while recognizing the need for international action. For example, Nepal’s forest cover growth has increased from 26% in 1992 to 45% in 2016 – an exemplary feat! Nepal did this by changing its forest conservation policy and gave the forest back to the community with usage guidelines.  This change in policy welcomed in a new era of community forest management where “local forest rangers worked with the community groups to develop plans outlining how they could develop and manage the forests”. Cattle–grazing, tree-cutting and over-harvesting firewood was restricted, whereas people were now able to extract fruits, medicine and fodder from the forest. In Ethiopia, when farmers planted trees among their crops, it infused their soil with nitrogen and recharged 12 depleted springs while giving work to 2000 people. Aside from economic and environmental benefits that farmers gained by practicing agroforestry, carbon offsets generated by the trees financed the farmers’ efforts. By empowering local farmers and providing them with knowledge and resources, Ethiopia is making strides in climate-resilient agriculture. Furthermore, Kawaki, a community-led urban greening movement in Kochi, stands as a shining example of successful climate resilience efforts. This initiative, implemented by the city municipal corporation with the technical support of WRI India under the Cities4Forests program, focuses on developing and conserving urban forests in heat-vulnerable localities. These successes by community engagement illustrates the vital interconnectedness between climate change awareness, community involvement, and the effectiveness of sustainable commitments

The complexities of the climate crisis action and commitments may not be simple on a global scale but, for some climate actions,  decentralizing into communities is effective.   Involving communities in developing an action plan should be promoted. Creating dialogue between government, policy makers, and communities will improve the awareness of commitments and action required. Together the society should be able to harness the collective power, and build a future where climate commitments are not mere words, but impactful actions that safeguard the well-being of our planet and all its inhabitants.


  1. Baker, Ingrid, Ann Peterson, Greg Brown, and Clive McAlpine. “Local government response to the impacts of climate change: An evaluation of local climate adaptation plans.” Landscape and urban planning 107, no. 2 (2012): 127-136. 
  2. Bearak, Max, and Nadja Popovich. 2022. “The World Is Falling Short of Its Climate Goals. Four Big Emitters Show Why.” The New York Times, Accessed August 15, 2023.
  3. Christian Aid. 2021. “Lost & Damaged: A study of the economic impact of climate change on vulnerable countries.” ReliefWeb, Accessed August 15, 2023.  
  4. Climate Action Tracker. 2019. “Climate Action Tracker.” 2019.
  5. David-Chavez, Dominique M., and Michael C. Gavin. “A global assessment of Indigenous community engagement in climate research.” Environmental Research Letters 13, no. 12 (2018): 123005.
  6. Dervis, Kemal. 2007. “Devastating for the World’s Poor: Climate Change Threatens the Development Gains Already Achieved.” United Nations. Accessed August 15, 2023.
  7. Hagelberg, Niklas . 2020. “How Climate Change Is Making Record-Breaking Floods the New Normal.” UN Environment Programme. Accessed August 15, 2023.
  8. IPCC. “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.” Retrieved from 
  9. Jessie, Yeung and Suri, Manveena. 2023. “Yamuna River Surpasses Height Record as Northern India Reels from Deadly Floods.” CNN. Accessed August 15, 2023.
  10. Kabir, Radifah. 2023. “There Will Be Lots of Variability in Rainfall, Expert Says as IMD Predicts Normal Monsoon.” Accessed August 15, 2023.
  11. Khatibi, Farzaneh Shaikh, Aysin Dedekorkut-Howes, Michael Howes, and Elnaz Torabi. “Can public awareness, knowledge and engagement improve climate change adaptation policies?.” Discover Sustainability 2 (2021): 1-24. 
  12. Khatri, Purushottam. 2022. “Is Monsoon Pattern Changing in Nepal?” GorakhaPatra. Accessed August 15, 2023.
  13. McDougal, Topher L., and John H. Patterson. 2021. “The Global Financial Burden of Humanitarian Disasters: Leveraging GDP Variation in the Age of Climate Change.” International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 55 (March): 102073.
  14. Narayanan, Priya and Shekhar, Achu R. 2022. “Kawaki, a Community-Led Tree-Based Intervention for Climate Resilience: A Case Study.” n.d. WRI INDIA. Accessed September 5, 2023.
  15. Nepal Ministry of Forests and Environment. “Plastic Bag Prohibition Regulation, 2074.” Retrieved from 
  16. Pew Research Center. 2019. “Publics around the World Increasingly See Climate Change, Cyberattacks and American Power as Threats.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Accessed August 15, 2023.
  17. Pierre, Joe. 2022. “Why Don’t People Believe in Climate Change?”. Psychology Today. Accessed August 15, 2023.
  18. Sarzynski, Andrea. “Public participation, civic capacity, and climate change adaptation in cities.” Urban climate 14 (2015): 52-67. 
  19. Satizabal, Paula, Isabel Cornes, Maria de Lourdes Melo Zurita, and Brian R. Cook. “The power of connection: Navigating the constraints of community engagement for disaster risk reduction.” International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 68 (2022): 102699.
  20. Subedi, Shree Ram. “What Caused the Unprecedented Flood in Mustang?” My Republica. Accessed September 5, 2023.
  21. Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). “Pathways to 1.5°C: Assessing Climate Change Scenarios and Sustainable Development Goals.” Retrieved from 
  22. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). “The Paris Agreement.” Retrieved from 
  23. UNU-EHS. “Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.” Retrieved from 
  24. Wijaya, A S. “Climate Change, Global Warming and Global Inequity in Developed and Developing Countries (Analytical Perspective, Issue, Problem and Solution).” IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science 19 (2014): 012008. 
  25. WMO. 2023. “Economic Costs of Weather-Related Disasters Soars but Early Warnings Save Lives.”. World Meteorological Organization.  Accessed August 15, 2023. 
  26. World Economic Forum. “Global Risks Report 2022.” Retrieved from 
  27. Zwick, Steve. 2018. “How Ethiopia Is Slowing Climate Change by Reviving Its Forests – and Its Economy – Ecosystem Marketplace.” Ecosystem Marketplace. Accessed August 15, 2023.
  28. “Climate and Environment.” n.d. Google Trends.
  29. “How Nepal Regenerated Its Forests.” 2023. Accessed August 15, 2023.