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Economic losses from extreme sky rocket in Asia

Economic losses from extreme sky rocket in Asia

Economic losses from droughts, floods and landslides have skyrocketed in Asia. In 2021 alone, weather and water-related hazards caused total damage worth US$35.6 billion and affected almost 50 million people, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Impacts of climate change on Asia

The State of the Climate in Asia 2021 report highlighted how the impacts of climate change are causing increasing human, financial and environmental costs, worsening food insecurity and poverty and holding back sustainable development.

The report also painted a worrying scenario for future water stress. The high mountains of Asia, including the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, contain the largest volume of ice outside the polar region, with an area of ​​approximately 100,000 km2 of glacier cover.

The rate of glacier retreat is accelerating and many glaciers suffered intense mass losses as a result of exceptionally hot and dry conditions in 2021. These so-called water towers of the world are vital to supplying fresh water to the most densely populated part of the world of the planet. so glacial retreat has important implications for future generations.

“The climate indicators and extreme events shown in this report and the expected increase in precipitation across much of Asia in the future show how vital it is to strengthen early warning systems,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “The UN’s Early Warnings for All program will help protect people from more frequent and intense extreme weather, and there are huge gaps to fill in Asia.”

Economic losses increasing due to disasters

The report produced jointly with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), was launched during the United Nations climate change negotiations, COP27, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

It shows how, compared to the average of the last 20 years, economic losses are increasing for most types of disasters. Economic damage from drought is up 63 per cent, flooding is up 23 per cent, and landslides are up 147 per cent compared to the 2001-2020 average.

In 2021, there were a total of more than 100 natural hazard events in Asia, of which 80 per cent were flood and storm events. These resulted in almost 4,000 deaths, around 80 per cent caused by flooding. In total, 48.3 million people were directly affected by these hazards, causing a total economic damage of USD 35.6 billion. While the floods caused the most deaths and economic damage, the drought in the region affected the most people, according to the report. Sand and dust storms were also major problems.

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Floods caused economic losses in Aisa

In 2021, floods caused the largest economic losses in China ($18.4 billion), followed by India ($3.2 billion) and Thailand ($0.6 billion). The storms also caused significant economic damage, especially in India ($4.4 billion), China ($3 billion), and Japan ($2 billion).

“As floods and tropical cyclones in the region represent the largest economic losses, investment in adaptation must be directed towards prioritizing preparedness and anticipatory action,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

“Despite progress in establishing early warning systems, further strengthening is needed as climate change intensifies. Similarly, new infrastructure needs to be made more resilient, along with improvements in water resource management and agricultural crop production in drylands, while nature-based solutions deliver far-reaching and long-lasting benefits.”

The 2021 and 2022 Asia-Pacific Disaster Reports from the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) estimate that in Asia, annual investment in adaptation should be highest for China, at US$188.8 billion, followed by India at US$46.3 billion, and Japan at US$26.5 billion. As a percentage of the country’s GDP, the highest cost is estimated for Nepal at 1.9%, followed by Cambodia at 1.8% and India at 1.7%.

Most Asian countries have prioritized adaptation in their climate action plans, with most highlighting water, agriculture and food security, ecosystems and biodiversity, and health as their top priority areas.

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