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Global Heating: The Threat to Asia

Via Nikkei Asia, an article on the threat of climate change on Asia:

The “Asian century” has barely begun — but it is already in peril from global heating.

Rising sea levels and extreme weather pose grave threats to the islands, coastal cities and tropical zones of a vast region where more than half of humanity lives. Climbing global temperatures threaten food security, life expectancy and national economies.

The outcome of the UN climate conference starting on Sunday half a world away in the Scottish city of Glasgow could be crucial to Asia’s ability to deal with the climate crisis. The two-week event aims to raise countries’ carbon emission reduction targets. It is also tasked with drumming up financing for the mitigation and adaptation measures needed to limit global temperature rises.

Nikkei Asia lays out the potential prices of failure here:

Economic damage mounts

Thirteen major port cities in Asia are among the 20 metropolises facing the largest annual losses from flooding, according to an OECD study. Guangzhou, China’s southern trade hub, could lose $13 million per year through 2050 if sea levels rise by 0.2 meters.

Global warming also threatens industries critical to poorer parts of Asia. Lower crop yields would have a devastating effect on Southeast Asia, where agriculture comprises 10.3% of gross domestic product.

The Asian Development Bank forecasts the regional fisheries industry would be badly hit, as rising temperatures kill coral reefs. Fisheries would suffer an estimated $57.98 billion loss by 2050 — even if the world manages to cap temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Natural disasters soar

Asia has seen more climatic disasters in the past 20 years than in the previous century — a trend that scientists have linked to global heating. The rate has accelerated rapidly in the years since World War II as economic and industrial activity have boomed. More than 3,500 disasters were recorded in 2000-2009 globally, nearly five times more than recorded 50 years ago, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Natural phenomena that cause extreme weather, such as El Nino and La Nina, would still occur without human influence. But the 2021 report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said it was “established fact” that human activity has driven the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These trap radiation from the sun, warming the Earth’s surface and driving up temperatures, precipitation and coastal sea levels — all of which make catastrophic events more likely.

China has borne the most floods, storms, landslides and droughts, with nearly 500 disasters since 2000. Monsoon-prone India and the Philippines follow with 333 and 290, respectively.

Storms are the most financially costly disasters, according to the World Meteorological Organization. China took an estimated $47 billion hit from floods in 1998. The largest loss in the past decade came from Thailand’s 2011 floods, which cost the economy around $44 billion.

Diseases multiply

Global temperature rises are very harmful to human health. They lead to heatstroke and malnutrition as food supply dwindles, and diseases such as diarrhea that thrive in climate disaster conditions. They are also a boon to the growth of larval mosquitoes that carry the parasites causing malaria and dengue fever.

The World Health Organization attributes over 150,000 deaths annually to climate change, and expects 250,000 more per year between 2030 and 2050. In this scenario, Asia alone would suffer more than 64,000 additional deaths from heatstroke, undernutrition, malaria, dengue and diarrhea in 2030. Only Africa would be worse affected.

Developing countries account for almost all deaths related to weather and climate hazards, according to the World Meteorological Organization. In the Philippines, the World Food Program found that 15 times as many infants died in the two years after typhoons as perished during them.

Cities submerged

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that Asia’s monsoon seasons will become heavier and longer. Warmer air will evaporate more water from the oceans that will later fall on the land as rain. The threat is even more potent when combined with projected sea level rises of another 0.28 to 0.55 meters. Capitals and other big cities located on or near coasts, such as Bangkok and Manila, could disappear by the end of this century.

A once-in-a-decade flood in 2030 could submerge nearly all of Bangkok and 87% of Manila, according to Greenpeace estimates.

Cities in Asia’s developing countries have a higher vulnerability than the low-lying city of Amsterdam. The Dutch capital has $83 billion of assets exposed to flooding but also boasts the world’s best water defenses, according to an OECD study of 136 large coastal cities. On the other hand, even small floods can rack up outsize costs for underprotected Asian metropolises such as Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.

Food supplies menaced

Rice is central to food fears in a region already home to 265 million who struggle to get enough to eat, according to the U.N. World Food Program. More than 72% of Southeast Asians surveyed last year by Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute think tank believe climate change threatens food security.

Southeast Asia, which harvests 31% of the world’s rice, stands to be particularly badly affected. With each degree of temperature increase during the growing season, yields fall 10%, according to the International Rice Research Institute. The Asian Development Bank projects a 50% plunge in rice yields by the century’s end from 1990 levels in top regional producers Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.

If prolonged droughts occur, farmers in South Asia could see the rice yield fall 8% by mid-century, the ADB says. Maize yields are forecast to drop 16% and sorghum 11% over the same period

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