Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

Climate Change 1

Covid-19 has highlighted the result of being caught unprepared in a crisis, despite timely warnings. The pandemic has shown how a health crisis can disrupt industries, change consumer habits and stall the global economy all at once. The time is thus right to assess the risks posed by climate change and its impact in order to prepare a response plan so that repetition of the present catastrophe can be avoided.

After 10,000 years of relative stability, earth’s climate is about to undergo major changes. Climate change poses a greater risk to Asia than the rest of the world and if Asia aspires to continue in its economic growth trajectory then the region would need to mitigate the scathing climate risks urgently. Fortunately, the region is well positioned to combat these challenges.

Primary climate threats in Asia till 2050

Considering the higher-emission scenario of RCP 8.5 (Representative Concentration Pathway) and absence of any mitigation measures, following are the primary hazards facing Asia:

  • Rise in average temperatures by more than 2 degrees in many regions.
  • Lethal heat waves – temperatures where a human resting in shade might not survive.
  • Extreme precipitation – Life-threatening floods could rise by three to four times by 2050.
  • Severe typhoons – By 2040 typhoons could increase three-fold and become more intense.
  • Drought and water-supply – Both can increase intensely in some regions and decrease in others.

Socio-economic impacts of climate change

In the absence of mitigation measures, 600 million to 1 billion people in Asia would be inhabiting areas with a nonzero probability of lethal heatwaves in comparison to the global total of 700 million to 1.2 billion – making Asia worst affected. About $2.8 trillion to $4.7 trillion of GDP in Asia would ne at risk annually by 2050 due to climate change. Findings also project damage of about $1.2 trillion in capital stock in Asia due to riverine flooding annually, accounting for 75% of the global impact.

India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are expected to be the worst affected countries in Asia. Facing lethal heatwaves and rising heat and humidity, the outdoor conditions would negatively affect human labor capabilities risking about 7 -13% if GDP by 2050. Probability of flood in the region is also likely to increase from 0.05 – 3%, putting $800 billion of stock at risk. Annual crop yield in the region is also expected to decline by 39 – 53% by 2050. In another instance, fishing catches could decrease due to ocean warming negatively affecting the livelihood of more than 650 million people.

Thus, overall findings suggest that climate change would impact livability and workability, disrupt food systems, devalue physical assets, hinder infrastructure services which might in turn cause several knock-on effects on other dependent sectors and finally, deplete natural capital like forests and ocean ecosystems.

Characteristics of socio-economic impacts

The afore mentioned impacts of climate change display certain characteristics. The severity of the impacts would increase progressively between 2 – 20 times by 2050. Climate threats would be spatial, impacting different regions differently – devastating some places and benefiting others. The impacts would be non-linear – when hazards surpass certain thresholds, they would wreck the existing systems. Most significantly, climate change would be regressive – poorest population would be worst effected, further increasing inequality in the society.

Climate mitigation: Challenges and opportunities

It is essential to reach zero-emission objective to deter warming risks, especially since earth’s thermal inertia would likely cause additional warming even when the goal is reached. The impacts enlisted above are harshest and can be softened only when policy makers, business organizations and individuals come together to formulate and implement adequate adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Asia is well-placed to address the mitigation requirements. Annual investment of $1.7 trillion till 2030 in Asia is a good starting point. Incorporating climate adoption in all development projects can increase resiliency. Policymakers can ensure all opportunities of emission reduction is capitalized while developing new infrastructures. Private and public sector collaborations should be formed to explore new approaches that include climate factors in planning.

In the past decade Asian countries have done extremely well in leading technological victories globally. If national leaders and the best business minds of Asia are determined to find solutions that will effectively mitigate the rising climate challenges, not only can they manage risks of their own region but also lead the rest of the world in the fight against climate change.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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