Monday, August 25, 2014

Climate change: adapt now or perish

Bindu Lohani in Live Mint: Climate change will sow confusion and concern as it unfolds across South Asia in coming decades. Home to a quarter of the world’s population, this vast region will be hit harder than just about anywhere else. Sudden flooding, storms, droughts and other hazards will upend lives, livelihoods, and economies.

As this grim future takes shape, the price of global inaction is rising each year. Up to 9% will have been stripped annually from South Asia’s economy on average by 2100 if no further action is taken globally on climate change, says a new report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Assessing the Costs of Climate Change and Adaptation in South Asia. There’s an outside chance of those losses blowing out to 24% given the uncertainty surrounding climate change’s future impacts.

What can be done? The region’s countries have taken steps to cushion the impact of a warming world, but bolder action is needed. Given the slow pace of global mitigation efforts, the worst-case scenario of huge economic losses might end up being South Asia’s future by default. While only global action will halt climate change, countries should not wait on it before taking adaptive measures. They can be as straightforward as placing sand-filled geotextile bags along riverbanks to stall erosion as happened recently in low-lying Bangladesh, where an area up to twice the size of Shimla city is swallowed annually. Or they can be more wide-ranging, such as a recent initiative of the UK government, the Rockefeller Foundation and ADB to boost climate resilience at 25 cities in Asia by helping to integrate climate risks into city plans and develop resilient infrastructure.

Those efforts must now be mainstreamed into national development plans, with governments, the private sector and civil society working together. Moreover, as climate change ignores national borders, South Asia’s countries must respond cooperatively through a regional framework to promote technology transfer, dialogue, and sharing of best practices....

US Department of Defense photo of flooding in suburban Bangkok in 2011

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