Report Warns of Impacts of Climate Change in Asia

The Asian Development Bank cautions that human health and food security in the Asia Pacific region are under threat if steps are not taken to tackle climate change.

Jul. 27, 2017
By Isabel Putinja

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A report pub­lished by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) this month warns of the con­se­quences of global warm­ing in the Asia Pacific region.

Titled A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific,” the study is a col­lab­o­ra­tion between the Manila-based ADB and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

Asian coun­tries hold Earth’s future in their hands. If they choose to pro­tect them­selves, they will help to save the entire planet.- Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

The ADB warned in a press state­ment that the global cli­mate cri­sis is arguably the biggest chal­lenge human civ­i­liza­tion faces in the 21st cen­tury, with the Asia and Pacific region at the heart of it all. Home to two-thirds of the world’s poor and regarded as one of the most vul­ner­a­ble regions to cli­mate change, coun­tries in Asia and the Pacific are at the high­est risk of plum­met­ing into deeper poverty — and dis­as­ter — if mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion efforts are not quickly and strongly imple­mented.”

The report cau­tions that progress made in eco­nomic devel­op­ment and improved liv­ing stan­dards in the region can be eas­ily undone if steps are not taken to curb emis­sions and depen­dence on fos­sil fuels. Without these changes, cli­mate change has the poten­tial to cause increas­ing tem­per­a­tures, a rise of the sea-level, dis­rup­tion in rain­fall pat­terns, and extreme weather pat­terns and floods across Asia. These effects can have human costs in the form of crop dam­age, strained liveli­hoods and the need for food imports.

The 131-page report starts with an intro­duc­tion to the Asia Pacific region and its geog­ra­phy, peo­ple and econ­omy as a back­ground to under­stand­ing the poten­tial impacts of cli­mate change on the region. This is fol­lowed by a sec­tion exam­in­ing these impacts, and specif­i­cally the changes in tem­per­a­tures, pre­cip­i­ta­tion, sea-level rise, hydrol­ogy, the inci­dence of cyclones, and flood­ing risks that can be expected. The last part cov­ers the human costs of cli­mate change and in par­tic­u­lar its impact on human health, urban areas, secu­rity, migra­tion and trade net­works.


The study con­cludes that even if the Paris tem­per­a­ture goals are met (i.e. by lim­it­ing global warm­ing to 1.5°C to 2°C), some ecosys­tems and socioe­co­nomic sec­tors in the region will still be affected, while no change at all will have severe effects on liveli­hoods, human health, migra­tion, and the poten­tial for con­flicts.

The pos­si­ble solu­tions sug­gested to mit­i­gate cli­mate change in the Asia Pacific region are those out­lined in the Paris Agreement. These include rapid decar­boniza­tion, adap­ta­tion mea­sures to pro­tect the most vul­ner­a­ble, projects focussing on renew­able energy, and inno­va­tion in infra­struc­ture and trans­port.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, direc­tor of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the report’s co-author, cau­tioned that The Asian coun­tries hold Earth’s future in their hands. If they choose to pro­tect them­selves against dan­ger­ous cli­mate change, they will help to save the entire planet. The chal­lenge is twofold. On the one hand, Asian green­house-gas emis­sions have to be reduced in a way that the global com­mu­nity can limit plan­e­tary warm­ing to well below 2 degrees Celsius, as agreed in Paris 2015.”

Yet even adapt­ing to 1.5 degrees Celsius tem­per­a­ture rise is a major task,” Schellnhuber added. So, on the other hand, Asian coun­tries have to find strate­gies for ensur­ing pros­per­ity and secu­rity under unavoid­able cli­mate change within a healthy global devel­op­ment. But note that lead­ing the clean indus­trial rev­o­lu­tion will pro­vide Asia with unprece­dented eco­nomic oppor­tu­ni­ties. And explor­ing the best strate­gies to absorb the shocks of envi­ron­men­tal change will make Asia a cru­cial actor in 21st-cen­tury mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism.”

In an effort to com­bat cli­mate change in the region, the ADB ded­i­cated $3.7 bil­lion in 2016, an amount that will reach $6 bil­lion by 2020.

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