Climate change will overturn hard won gains in reducing poverty in South Asia as changing weather patterns make accessing water and food resources even more difficult, according to a new report released by the World Bank today.
Extreme weather such as heat waves, devastating floods and droughts, and more intense tropical cyclones will hit the region with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan bearing the brunt of the climate impacts, according to new research.
What the Report says about life in South Asia at 4C:
India: Devastating floods like the 2005 deluge in Mumbai which killed 500 and caused USD 1.7 billion in damage will be become twice as likely in the region. Dry areas will get drier and wet areas wetter.
Bangladesh: Potentially the most vulnerable country in the region, with an increase in cyclones, extreme flooding and higher than average sea level rise all impacting Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries of the world. The impacts of extreme flooding are expected to be at their worst at just 2.5C of warming. The salinisation of water and heat waves will lead to a reduction in crop yields, as well as the availability of drinking water, impacting the health and wealth of the population.
Sri Lanka: Most vulnerable to unprecedented heat waves and coastal erosion which can impact tourism.
Maldives: The islands are famously vulnerable to sea level rise - with 115cm expected by the end of the century. This can be reduced to 80cm if temperature rise is kept under 2C.
Pakistan: Most vulnerable to drought and extreme heat waves - if the world warms by an average of 4C, Pakistan’s average temperature will rise 6C. Also, flash flooding in the Indus Delta.
Sanjay Vashist, Director of Climate Action Network South Asia said the report highlights the threat that climate change poses to the hard won gains in development made in this region in recent years.
“South Asia needs support from the international community to adapt towards a low carbon approach to development that is compatible with meeting the human rights and needs of its growing population,” said Hina Lotia from LEAD Pakistan.
The report, Turn down the Heat - Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resilience - takes an in-depth look at what climate change means for South Asia. The report warns that even climate change of 2ºC will pose a “significant challenge to development” in the region.
“South Asia will require comprehensive plans to adapt communities to climate change with investments in infrastructure, flood defenses, and drought resistant crops are necessary,” said Ziaul Mukta from Oxfam GB
He warned that if warming increased by 4ºC on average, rainfall patterns will be affected. Overall, dry areas like Northwestern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan - currently a major food producing area like Punjab in Pakistan and India, Tarai belt in Nepal and Northern parts of Bangladesh for the sub continent - will get dryer resulting in reduced crop production. While wet areas, like Southern India and parts of Bangladesh, will get wetter, leading to flooding and an increase in diseases.
Not only will climate change affect the provision of safe drinking water and water for agricultural irrigation, access to energy could become even more difficult as less water is available to run hydropower stations and cool other existing electricity stations. Only 62 per cent of the region’s population currently has access to electricity.
Heat waves will disproportionately impact the elderly and the urban poor. Events like the heat-wave in Andhra Pradesh, India, in May 2002 which caused 1,000 deaths in a single week as the mercury hit 51ºC will become much more common.
Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) is calling on South Asian governments to collaborate of initiating joint monitoring of the impacts and undertake joint actions to address the climate induced disasters. Since the sub-continent nations are dependent on shared natural resource ecosystems, much can be achieved through ‘Regional Cooperation’ among neighboring stakeholders.
Climate Action Network – South Asia (CANSA) is a platform of 103 organisations across South Asia geared to redress policy divides and insufficient systematic scientific evidence & collective action. CANSA endeavors to compose policy solutions to bridge the gap between policies and practice among policy makers and civil society, and more importantly between the civil society organisations. In order to achieve this objective, CANSA envisages empowering through the improving knowledge and instilling skills for policy advocacy through platforms on experiential knowledge exchange in each country and among South Asian CSO partners, to frame common understanding on Climate Action. It is a regional node of Climate Action Network International (CANI) which a global network of over 850 NGOs working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.
Ms. Vositha Wijenayake
Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator
Climate Action Network South Asia