People in coastal regions of Asia, particularly those living in cities, could face some of the worst effects of global warming, climate experts will warn this week.
Hundreds of millions of people are likely to lose their homes as flooding, famine and rising sea levels sweep the region, one of the most vulnerable on Earth to the impact of global warming, the UN states.
A report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, makes it clear that for the first half of this century, countries such as the UK will avoid the worst impacts of climate change, triggered by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
By contrast, people living in developing countries in low latitudes, particularly those along the coast of Asia, will suffer the most, especially those living in crowded cities.
A final draft of the report will be debated by a panel of scientists set up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this week at a meeting in Yokohama, Japan, and will form a key part of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report on global warming whose other sections will be published later this year.
According to the scientists who have written the draft report, hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding and land loss as global temperatures increase, ice caps melt and sea levels rise.
“The majority of it will be in East, Southeast and South Asia. Some small island states are expected to face very high impacts,” they wrote.
In addition, the report warns that cities also face particular problems.
“Heat stress, extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, as well as drought and water scarcity, pose risks in urban areas with risks amplified for those lacking essential infrastructure and services or living in exposed areas,” it said.
The report adds that this latter forecast is made with very high confidence.
In addition, climate change will slow down economic growth, further erode food security and trigger new poverty traps, particularly “in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger,” it said.
This combination of a high-risk region and the special vulnerability of cities make coastal Asian urban centers likely flashpoints for future conflict and hardship as the planet warms up this century.
Acrid plumes of smoke — produced by forest fires triggered by drought and other factors — are already choking cities across Southeast Asia.
In future, this problem is likely to get worse, scientists say.
The authors warn that some other climate-change effects will be global.
“Climate change throughout the 21st century will lead to increases in ill health in many regions, as compared with a baseline without climate change,” it states. “Examples include greater likelihood of injury, disease and death due to more intense heatwaves and fires; increased likelihood of under-nutrition resulting from diminished food production in poor regions; and increased risks from food-borne and water-borne disease.”
Other potential crises highlighted by the report include the likelihood that yields of major crops such as wheat, rice and maize are likely to decline at rates of up to 2 percent a decade, at a time when demand for these crops — triggered by world population increases — are likely to rise by 14 percent.
At the same time, coral reefs face devastating destruction triggered by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide dissolving in sea water and acidifying Earth’s oceans.