Climate change report: What are Asia’s risks?
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Climate change report: What are Asia’s risks?

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a synthesis report on the findings of over 800 scientists regarding the impacts of climate change. The report, which was released on November 3 in Copenhagen, uses strong language to describe risks deriving from hazards, vulnerability and exposure. It also explores the benefits of mitigation and adaptation policies, such as reforestation, water management, planning for sea level rises and public health measures.

Since the document is a summary of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report, the synthesis report refers to more general information rather than location- or region-specific findings. But what do these latest and most definitive findings mean for the Asia-Pacific region, according to the source material for the report?

Here are some highlights gleaned from the IPCC’s research:

  • Within the next 50 years temperatures are predicted to increase significantly (by 2-4°C) across much of Asia, including China, Mongolia. Nepal, Bhutan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran, with disrupting changes in precipitation.
  • Much of Southeast Asia will see a reduction in rainfall by 10-20% during the month of March, while parts of China and South, Central and Western Asia will see increases of 30% during September. These changes will affect soil moisture, which is predicted to decrease in most areas, disrupting farming, while rivers are expected to carry less water. Decreased precipitation will lead to increased water scarcity in Northern China.
  • Permafrost in Northern Asia will thaw by up to 90% by the end of the century, eroding and changing the landscape.
  • South and Southeast Asia will bear the brunt of fish stock reductions. Rice crop losses due to rising temperatures will affect the same area along with western Japan and eastern China.
  • Flood risks are expected to rise significantly in Tokyo, Delhi and Shanghai, three of the world’s five larges cities.
  • Tropical diseases like dengue fever and schistosomiasis are expected to increase in range.

(source: China Dialogue)

Purnamita Dasgupta, an environmental economist and member of the core writing team for the IPCC’s synthesis report, was interviewed by India Today about the effects of climate change on India and Asia, where she says up to 80% more of the population could be at risk from sea level rise by 2050.

There are observed adverse impacts on food production in India that are attributable to climate change. Among the projected future risks for Asia, are increased flood damage to infrastructure, livelihood and settlements; heat related human mortality, increased drought related water and food shortage.

—Purnamita Dasgupta

Meanwhile, as Australia feeds Asia’s increasing appetite for cheap energy with its burgeoning coal exports, carbon emissions continue to rise dramatically. The IPCC stresses that emissions from fossil fuels, mainly from coal, gas and oil, must be drastically cut in order to avoid the risks mentioned above.

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Monsoon floods in Kanchipuram, India. Pic: McKay Savage (Flickr CC)