THE RISING possibility of a warmer world in the next two decades is magnifying the development challenges South-East Asia is already struggling with, and threatens to reverse hard-won development gains, says a new scientific report just released by the World Bank Group cited on Pacific Scoop.
Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resilience was prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics. It builds on a World Bank report released late last year, which concluded the world would warm by 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century without concerted action now.
This new report looks at the likely impacts of present day (0.8°C), 2°C and 4°C warming on agricultural production, water resources, coastal ecosystems and cities across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South-East Asia.
"South East Asia" includes the western Pacific (PNG and Timor-Leste) - Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.
“This new report outlines an alarming scenario for the days and years ahead ¬ what we could face in our lifetime,” says World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim.
“The scientists tell us that if the world warms by 2°C ¬ warming which may be reached in 20 to 30 years ¬ that will cause widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat-waves, and more intense cyclones.
"In the near-term, climate change, which is already unfolding, could greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the Earth's temperature.”
The report synthesises the most current peer-reviewed literature and supplements it with computer modeling. It describes two scenarios: an extreme 4ºC warming and a more modest 2ºC warming.
The report reveals how rising global temperatures are increasingly threatening the health and livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, food shortages will become more common, while in South Asia, shifting rain patterns will leave some areas under water and others without enough water for power generation, irrigation or drinking.
In South East Asia, the degradation and loss of coral reefs will diminish tourism, reduce fish stocks, and leave coastal communities and cities more vulnerable to storms.
Countries in the South East Asia region are particularly vulnerable to the sea-level rise, increases in heat extremes, increased intensity of tropical cyclones, and ocean warming and acidification because many are archipelagos located within a tropical cyclone belt and have relatively high coastal population densities.
“Many South East Asian countries are already taking concerted actions to address the impacts of climate change, but this report tells us that we need to do much more,” says Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank vice-president for East Asia and Pacific.
"We need to both intensify and accelerate these actions to reduce the ever-increasing vulnerability of populations to climate risk, especially the poor and vulnerable."
The report examines the most significant climate risks for South East Asia in a 2ºC world:
- Sea levels are rising faster than previously projected and cyclones will intensify. The report finds that a sea-level rise of as much as 50 cm by the 2050s may already be unavoidable as a result of past emissions, and in some cases, impacts could be felt much earlier. This will cause greater destruction and result in flooding fields for extended periods, and inundate delta areas with intrusions of salt water into fields and in groundwater used for drinking. The report also projects that typhoons will increase in intensity (category 4 and 5).
The three river deltas of the Mekong, Irrawaddy and the Chao Phraya - all with significant land areas below 2m above sea level - are particularly at risk. Agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries, and tourism are the most exposed sectors to climate change in these deltas. Coastal cities, with their concentration of increasingly large populations and physical assets, are also highly exposed to increased storm intensity, long-term sea-level rise, and sudden onset coastal flooding. Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Manila, and Yangon are among the cities that are projected to be most affected.
- Coral reefs will come under severe stress. With increasing ocean acidification, there is a high risk (50 percent probability) of annual coral reef bleaching events occurring as early as 2030. Projections indicate that all coral reefs in South East Asia are likely to experience severe stress by the year 2050, hurting marine fisheries, tourism, and livelihoods. There are about 138 million people living on coasts and within 30 kms of a coral reef who are likely to suffer major social, economic, and nutritional impacts as a result of climate change.
- Rural and coastal livelihoods are threatened. The report projects that fish stocks in the Java Sea and the Gulf of Thailand will suffer due to increased water temperature and decreased oxygen levels, with very large reductions in average maximum fish body size by 2050. The Mekong Delta produces around 50 percent of Vietnam’s total agricultural production and contributes significantly to the country’s rice exports. A sea-level rise of 30 cm, which could occur as early as 2040, could result in the loss of about 12 percent of rice production.
The evidence presented in the Turn Down the Heat series highlights the World Bank Group’s climate change mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk management work to development and poverty reduction.
The bank is helping 130 countries across the globe take action on climate change. Last year, it doubled its financial support for adaptation - from US$2.3 billion in fiscal year 2011 to US$4.6 billion in fiscal year 2012. Increasingly the bank is supporting action on the ground to finance the kind of projects that help the poor grow their way out of poverty, increase their resilience and reduce emissions. - Pacific Scoop