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SOUTH ASIA CANNOT AFFORD TO SWEEP CLIMATE CHANGE AGENDA UNDER THE SOFA ANYMORE-- AS WORLD BANK REPORT SUPPORTS
Barely a week ago, when the first whiff of indonesian haze hit the shores of Malaysia and Singapore, Singapore was still grappling with rising mosquito populations and tropical disease. Shortly after, one problem gave way to another, as much of southeast asia became shrouded in a hot and gray choking cloud.
This was coincidentally the time when the World Bank issued a new scientific report entitled "Turn Down The Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resilience, warning that an expected 2°C rise in the world’s average temperatures in the next decades threatens South Asia’s dense urban populations with extreme heat, flooding, and disease and could trap millions of people in poverty across the region.
They couldn't have hit the nail harder on the head.
The message for conscious interboundary cooperation and management of climate change and air pollution cannot be more urgent now that we are choking from the consequences of our evasion of the real issues at stake. Previously a diversion at peacetime, and relegated to NGO dialogues and youthful debate, air pollution and climate change should now be front and centre, the issues having been forcefully reignited and reinitiated by our friends in Indonesia, and rightly so.
The apocalyptic report predicts storms, severe weather, submerging cities, massive redistribution of rain and drought forecasts for north-western India, Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as outbreaks of disease, forced migrations and food scarcity.
Listen to World Bank’s Regional President for South Asia Isabel Guerrero explain what the consequences of climate change are likely to be.
In her own words, "South Asia would be very affected by a warming climate. In a 2°C rise world, the region would see changes in rainfall patterns: some areas would be getting much more rain than they are today and others would be getting droughts. In a 4°C rise world the impact would be even higher: the monsoon patterns that are central to South Asia and have implications in the whole region in many different ways, would change. A hugely disruptive monsoon that happened every 100 years would happen every decade.”
The World Bank is also leading the way in acknowledging a change in their thinking which has put climate change at the heart of their development strategy. They have doubled their investment in climate adjustment from US2.3 billion to US$4.6 billion in one year.
Indonesia should definitely take this into consideration as Malaysia presses her to ratify the ASEAN agreement on transboundary haze pollution.
With the report, it is now clear that poverty reduction is not isolated but entwined with climate change mitigation, clean energy development and the phasing out of fossil fuels.
Food for thought for all of Asia as the 2015 deadline for an international agreement to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, proposed by the United Nations, is upon us.
(World bank report below)
Sonia Ong. Evolve Asia Magazine.