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Reducing Asia’s Climate Vulnerability

Much of Asia is already responding to the adaptation and mitigation challenges of climate change. By building on these efforts, sharing best practices, and galvanizing support, the region can emerge as a leader in tackling one of the world’s biggest threats while also promoting sustainable growth and prosperity.

TOKYO – Many parts of Asia seem to be emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic relatively well. But overcoming the public-health crisis is only one challenge the region faces. Where climate change is concerned, Asia may be far more vulnerable than other parts of the world.

Building on global research published at the start of 2020, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) recently estimated the probable impact of the physical climate risks facing Asia today and over the next three decades. Our analysis involved micro cases that illustrate exposure to climate-change extremes and proximity to physical thresholds, as well as assessments of the potential socioeconomic impact in 16 countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and South Korea).

Although climate scientists use scenarios ranging from lower (Representative Concentration Pathway 2.6) to higher (RCP 8.5) concentrations of carbon dioxide, we focus on RCP 8.5 in order to assess the full inherent physical risk of climate change in the absence of further decarbonization. We found that Asia was more vulnerable than other regions to climate risk in three key respects.

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