Asia faces grim future due to climate change, says Asia Development Bank
A survey by the Philippines-based bank paints a severe outlook for many communities in Asia, predicting the region's four billion people will face rising sea levels, growing losses from severe weather and food insecurity
MANILA, Phillipines—A report by the Asia Development Bank says Asia will endure extreme heat, rising sea levels, growing losses from severe weather and increasing food insecurity in coming decades as climate change raises temperatures and alters weather patterns across the globe.
The survey released July 14 by the Manila-based lender paints a grim outlook for many communities in Asia, home to about four billion people. It’s based on the latest scientific research, with or without more aggressive efforts to curb carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Here are some of its main findings:
Even if global warming is limited to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius (34.7-35.6 F) above pre-industrial levels, from mountain communities in Japan to the tropics of South Asia and deserts of Australia, rising temperatures are altering ecosystems, damaging crops and causing thousands more deaths each year. The report forecasts that Asian summer temperatures could rise by 6 C (42.8 F) by 2100 if warming trends are not curbed. India suffered heat waves in 2015 and 2016 with temperatures at times around 50 C (122 F). When temperatures stay above 35 C (95 F) for extended periods of time, both people and animals are at risk of heat stroke.
Rising sea levels
Sea levels rose about 19 centimetres (7 1/2 inches) globally over the past century and are forecast to rise by about 2.3 metres (7 1/2 feet) for every degree Celsius of global warming as glaciers and ice caps melt, the report says, citing past climate observations. Losses due to coastal flooding of the world’s biggest cities are expected to rise to $52 billion a year. The report says Indonesia will be the worst affected in Asia, with 5.9 million people flooded out each year by 2100. But across South Asia, 130 million people living in low-lying areas may be displaced under worst-case scenarios, it says.
Changes to the jet stream can bring on unprecedented rainfall and massive flooding. Floods in Pakistan in 2010, the worst ever, killed about 3,000 people and left millions homeless. While some areas are suffering extreme droughts, in Southeast Asia, the number of record-setting daily rainfall amounts doubled over the past three decades. Up to a quarter of Bangladesh is inundated in a normal year, and century-level flooding could put 60 per cent of the country under water, the report says. Storm surges from tropical cyclones, destructive winds and landslides are other risks from weather extremes.
A 3 C (37.4 F) rise in regional temperature is likely to cause grain output to fall by up to 10 per cent, the report says, causing tens of millions of people to go hungry. Weaker wheat yields in China and loss of rice paddy in Vietnam due to rising sea levels and extreme weather are among the changes expected in coming decades. At the same time, desertification is spreading in Central Asia, a region where about 7-8 per cent of the population lacks secure access to food. Growing ocean acidity due to changes in the atmosphere and warming temperatures are meanwhile straining marine ecosystems, hurting fisheries that are a crucial source of food across the region.
Increased flooding can taint water supplies, increasing deaths from cholera and other waterborne diseases. Meanwhile, rising temperatures will further push tropical illnesses such as dengue and malaria into areas that once saw few cases, the report says. It also noted rising risks from displacement of communities due to flooding and rising sea levels, conflict over scarce water, malnutrition and other troubles brought on by climate change.
The combination of all the trends above will put heavy demands on scarce resources at a time when larger numbers of people are migrating to escape rising sea levels, extreme weather and drought. At the same time, climate-related disasters are likely to cause economic disruptions across many regions. “The magnitude of the challenge for the people of the region is immense, with the livelihoods and welfare of hundreds of millions of people at stake,” the report said.