Thursday, November 29, 2012

Climate change, disaster risk: Asian action critical

Bindu N. Lohani in the Philippine Daily Inquirer: ... one thing is clear: Weather-related disasters are increasing in both frequency and intensity. Witness the string of severe recent floods across Asia—from Pakistan, to Thailand, to the Philippines—and Hurricane “Sandy” in the United States, which have vividly shown us how extreme weather events can bring entire countries to a virtual standstill. Volatile weather extremes are hitting Asia and the Pacific more often than any other region of the world.

This gives the Asia-Pacific region a huge stake in mitigating global temperature rise while adapting to already rising climate change impacts. Sixty percent of the region’s people rely on highly climate-sensitive farms, forests and fisheries for their livelihoods. Seven out of the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change and disasters caused by natural hazards are in Asia and the Pacific. A decrease in fresh water availability can affect more than one billion Asian people by 2050.

The region has borne the brunt of the physical and economic damage of increased disasters. It accounted for 38 percent of global disaster-related economic losses between 1980 and 2009. People in the Asia-Pacific region are four times more likely to be affected by disasters than those in Africa, and 25 times more likely than those in Europe or North America.

A recent report of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) noted that storms and floods, in particular, are becoming endemic to the region, and their increasing frequency and severity can slash economic growth and development. And as we have seen time and again, it is the poorest and most vulnerable citizens who suffer the most. We cannot hope to bring an end to poverty without building resilience to climate change and these associated events....

True-colour satellite image showing flooding in Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani Provinces in Central Thailand (right), compared to before the flooding (left). Ayutthaya lies north of Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok, and the floods plaguing Thailand in October 2011 did not spare this historic city. From NASA

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