Asia must take action on climate change, or suffer its worst consequences
- Nineteen of the 25 cities most threatened by a 1m sea-level rise are in Asia
We must urgently act to keep global temperatures below the safe limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures in 2016 were already almost 1 degree Celsius above the average in 1880. This means we only have 0.5 degrees till we meet the limit recommended by climate scientists.
If we do not act now, global warming will bring soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, more intense storms, erratic rainfall, plummeting crop yields and a collapse of mangrove ecosystems and coral reefs to Southeast Asia.
The region’s future growth and security – and the welfare of hundreds of millions of people – are at stake. Southeast Asia can expect the sea level to rise in excess of 1 metre if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced. Nineteen of the 25 cities most threatened by a 1m sea-level rise are in Asia, as many as seven in the Philippines alone. Indonesia will be the country most affected by coastal flooding, with around 6 million people affected every year until 2100. Global flood losses are expected to increase to US$52 billion per year by 2050, compared to US$6 billion in 2005.
However, I do not believe that this planet is condemned. Global warming was caused by humans, and it can be solved by humans. Greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by 45 per cent by 2030 to keep global temperatures below the 1.5 degrees limit. Public and private investment must be focused on the rapid decarbonisation of the Asian economy.
Much of the existing climate research is oriented around technologies; for example, air quality, water and energy. But we need a broader focus beyond technology, such as increased urban planning coupled with a change in land use practices, with significant reforestation projects. But beware geoengineering – the techno-fix for combating global warming – there are serious risks to letting ourselves believe we can alter the Earth to solve our problem. Policymakers need to find solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Professor Benjamin P Horton, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore