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Up in smoke? Asia and the Pacific: the threat from climate change to human development and the environment

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Global scientific consensus indicates that all of Asia is very likely to warm during this century and it is here that the human drama of climate change will largely be played out. This report from the Working Group on Climate Change and Development describes in detail the challenges that Asian countries face and asks, will global warming send Asia and the Pacific ‘up in smoke’? The report also looks at positive measures that are being taken to reduce the causes and mitigate the effects of climate change, and identifies a list of urgent priorities for action. The report predicts that warming will be accompanied by less predictable and more extreme patterns of rainfall. Tropical cyclones are projected to increase in magnitude and frequency, while monsoons, around which farming systems are designed, are expected to become more temperamental in their strength and time of onset. However, it emphasises that the impacts across Asia will be diverse, reflecting different climatic zones. For example:

the arid and semi-arid regions of Asia are set to suffer further shortages and water stress
tropical, temperate and boreal Asia are likely to experience an increase in flooding
communities living on the Pacific islands will continue to suffer the impacts of rising sea levels due to thermal expansion of ocean water and melting glaciers and polar ice caps

A range of positive measures are already being taken to reduce the causes and impacts of climate change. Examples described include: emissions reduction; alternative water and energy supply systems; preservation of strategic ecosystems; and protected areas and increasing capacity, awareness and skills for risk and disaster management. The report reiterates the three overarching challenges identified in the first IPCC Up in Smoke report of 2004:

how to stop and reverse further global warming
how to live with the degree of global warming that cannot be stopped
how to design a new model for human progress and development that is climate proof and climate

In view of the above, it identifies ten urgent priorities. These include:

a global risk assessment of the likely costs of adaptation to climate change in poor countries
commensurate new funds and other resources made available by industrialised countries for poor country adaptation
development models based on risk reduction, incorporating community-driven coping strategies in adaptation and disaster preparedness
disaster awareness campaigns with materials produced at community level and made available in local languages
coordinated plans, from local to international levels, for relocating threatened communities with appropriate political, legal and financial resources
removing barriers to developing countries accessing appropriate technologies.