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What does climate change bring to Asia Pacific?

Global climate change has already had observable effects such as higher ocean temperatures, an increase in heavy precipitation, shrinking glaciers, thawing permafrost,shifted plant and animal ranges, earlier flowering of trees. Climate change could seriously hinder the Asia-Pacific’s sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts. About 2.4 billion Asian live in low-lying coastal areas, rising seas threaten to intensify floods and storms and degrade land through increased salinization. On average, 43,000 people in Asia-Pacific are killed in storms, floods, and landslides each year.

Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions affected by climate change because of its long coastlines, high concentration of population and economic activity in coastal areas, and heavy reliance on agriculture, natural resources and forestry. In 2019, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Nepal experienced deadly floods and landslides. Vietnam and India have been severely hit by tropical storms. These erratic weather patterns not only take lives but also displace people, destroy infrastructure, contaminate fresh water, crush ecosystems, and wipe out agricultural land. People living in Asia-Pacific have to learn to cope with extreme weather. Raising awareness about natural hazards, planning disaster drills, and installing early warning systems can help prepare people ahead of time and save their lives in the face of disaster.

Moreover, Climate change also affects Southeast Asia’s domestic and regional security issues. Take Vietnam as an example, because of rising sea level, the tensions with China over sovereignty, oil and gas claims, and fishing rights in the South China Sea risk may strengthen. Vietnam must also plan for rising sea levels threatening to flood and salinate the Mekong Delta, the economic productivity of which is already threatened by changing weather patterns and upstream hydroelectricity projects.

The Indo-Asia Pacific is also highly exposed to climate change impacts. More frequent or intense extreme weather, sea level rise, and ocean acidification will create a range of threats to the well-being and security of countries. As well as the immediate physical impacts, climate change will increase food and water insecurity, contribute to forced migration and displacement, and challenge disaster response and recovery capabilities. If emissions continue to increase, the annual mean temperature in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam is projected to rise by 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2100 from the 1990 level on average; the global mean sea level is projected to rise by 70cm during the same period, with dire consequences for the region. Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are projected to see increasingly drier weather in the next 20 to 30 years. If climate change becomes more severe, it could be equivalent to losing 6.7 percent of combined GDP each year by 2100.

We can foresee that climate change is a high-probability, high-impact threat. Security communities across the Asia Pacific will need to comprehensively address the risks created by climate change in order to achieve their mission in coming years. Considering climate security consequences with a broad aperture, including how they affect current and future drivers of fragility and instability, can improve the ability of civil and military institutions to coordinate comprehensive responses and shift to a more preventive posture.

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