Asia, Pacific region ‘at the heart’ of climate risks

“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”

Irshad Salim — Climate change could lead to the loss of about $52 billion per year for the economies of Asia and Pacific region –if left unchecked, says the Asian Development Bank.

“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,” Bambang Susantono, the ADB’s vice president for sustainable development,” said in a statement.

A report from the bank found a business-as-usual scenario would lead to a 6 degree Celsius temperature increase over the Asian landmass by the end of the century, and an increase in rainfall by as much as 50 percent. Total regional losses from the flooding expected by 2050 could be in the range of $52 billion per year, compared with the $6 billion reported about a decade ago.

Moreover, 13 of the top 20 cities with the largest growth of annual flood losses from 2005-2050 are in Asia and the Pacific: Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Zhanjiang, and Xiamen (PRC); Mumbai, Chennai-Madras, Surat, and Kolkata (India); Ho Chi Minh City (Viet Nam); Jakarta (Indonesia); Bangkok (Thailand); and Nagoya (Japan).

Some countries in the region could experience significantly hotter climates, with temperature increases in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the northwest part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) projected to reach 8 degree Celsius, according to the report, titled “A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific.”

If the region does nothing, rice yields would decline by about 50 percent. Food shortages could increase the number of malnourished children in South Asia by 7 million. For health consequences, the ADB warned that deaths related to climate issues like outdoor air pollution could increase and the region already records more than 3 million pollution-related deaths each year.

“To mitigate the impact of climate change, the report highlights the importance of implementing the commitments laid out in the Paris agreement,” the ADB recommended.

“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,” said Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

A U.S. decision to step away from the international climate agreement has opened the door for other economic powers to take advantage of the momentum building behind renewable energy. With rising protectionism, consultant group Frost & Sullivan said the economies in the Asia-Pacific will take up the mantle as a means to buffer against the impacts of global policy shifts.

A 2013 study from the ADB found the Pacific region could experience economic losses of as much as 12.7 percent of annual gross domestic product by 2100 as a result of climate change. At the time, the bank warned that most countries in the region could see average annual temperatures rise by 3.24 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050.

“Leading the clean industrial revolution will provide Asia with unprecedented economic opportunities,” Susantono said.

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