Coastal Asia most at risk, says UN

By Robin McKie

Rising sea levels from global warming only one of the problems likely to face hundreds of millions of people.

According to the scientists who have written the draft report, hundreds of millions of people will be affected. Photo / AP
According to the scientists who have written the draft report, hundreds of millions of people will be affected. Photo / AP

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 United Nations says.

The report - Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability - makes it clear that for the first half of this century people living in developing countries in low latitudes, in crowded cities, particularly along the coast of Asia, will suffer the most climate change, triggered by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

A final draft of the report will be debated by a panel of scientists set up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week at a meeting in Yokohama, Japan, and will form a key part of IPCC's fifth assessment report on global warming whose other sections will be published 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 rise, icecaps 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."

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."

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 is argued. This combination of a high-risk region and the special vulnerability of cities, make coastal Asian urban centres likely flashpoints for future conflict and hardship as the planet warms up.

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 to a baseline without climate change," it states. Other potential crises include the likelihood that crop yields will fall.

- Observer

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