SEA to face more severe impact from climate change than other regions

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Volunteers collect trash as they participate in the 34th International Costal Cleanup Day in Manila on September 21, 2019.
AUGUST 14, 2020 - 10:54 AM

The impacts of climate change could be more severe in Asia than in many other parts of the world according to new research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), even as it added that the region has significant opportunities to address the challenge. 

"Covid-19 is highlighting the importance of risk and resilience to lives and livelihoods, and as the world focuses on recovery, it is important to not lose sight of the role that climate plays," said Jonathan Woetzel, an MGI director who is leading the research.

Three potential climate hazards highlighted in the preview include: 

- Emerging Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) is expected to see increases in heat and humidity. By 2050, in an average year, between 8 and 13 percent of GDP could be at risk as a result of rising heat and humidity.

- The likelihood of extreme precipitation events could increase three- or four-fold by 2050 in Indonesia.

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- In Ho Chi Minh City, where direct infrastructure damage from a 100-year flood could be between $500 million and $1 billion by 2050, knock-on costs could be between $1.5 billion and $8.5 billion.

The research, which is based on data from the World Resources Institute, also finds that more than 75 percent of the global capital stock that could be damaged from riverine flooding in a given year is in Asia.

Looking at measures that could be taken to manage the risks, the research notes that infrastructure and urban areas are still being built out in many parts of Southeast Asia, which gives the region the chance to ensure that what goes up is more resilient and better able to withstand heightened risk.

"Asia faces climate hazards with potentially severe socioeconomic impacts, and thus has a keen interest in playing a front-line role in addressing the challenges,” said Mr Woetzel. The region can potentially lead a global response by better incorporating climate risk in decision-making, pioneering adaptation technologies and accelerating decarbonization to mitigate the most severe potential consequences of climate change.

The full MGI report on Southeast Asia's climate challenge will be published later this year.