Asia-Pacific countries must act fast on climate change

By Nessim J. Ahmad and Kaveh Zahedi
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 10, 2014
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[By Jiao Haiyang/]

 [By Jiao Haiyang/]

In April this year, two world records were broken or equalled with little fanfare: the global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the main driver of climate change, was above 400 parts per million (ppm) for an entire month for the first time in recorded history, and it was the joint hottest April on record, tying with 2010. These milestones provide further evidence that human-induced climate change is happening and accelerating.

The March report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that global warming will hit Asia the hardest, with flooding, famine and rising sea levels putting hundreds of millions at risk. With Asia accounting for a growing share of greenhouse gas emissions, it is clear that the global battle against climate change may be won or lost in the region. This is why the region's leaders need to act fast.

The people of Asia and the Pacific do not need to look at the record books or wait for the latest global panels to issue a report to know something profound is happening. The Asia Pacific region accounted for 91 percent of the world's total deaths and 49 percent of the world's total damage due to natural disasters in the last century. Most at risk are poor people living in the low-lying river deltas of Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, and China as well as the small island states of the Pacific and Indian Ocean.

The economic costs of climate change are being borne by the people and countries of the Asia Pacific region. In 2011, weather disasters cost the region 1 billion U.S. dollars in damages. One single event, Cyclone Evan, resulted in a 0.5 percent contraction in 2013 of the economy of Samoa, a country that will be hosting a global conference focussing on the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States in September. A recent report by Standard and Poor's, the financial rating agency, said that climate change will also impact the creditworthiness of countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Added to the above, the production of rice, maize and wheat has declined in many parts of Asia over the last few decades due to increasing water stress, arising mainly from rising temperatures, increasing frequency of El Nino and a reduction in the number of rainy days. The impacts of air pollution, especially from black carbon and tropospheric ozone, will further impact food production.

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