Sudarshan Jha

Climate change ramping up faster in Asia than rest of the world

Image credit: Shutterstock

Asia is facing increasing incidences of extreme weather and climate change events, which are having disastrous impacts on local livelihoods, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has warned.

In a new report, the body said that said that melting glaciers alongside rising sea levels raises the prospect of more disruption in the future.

Asia is currently warming faster than the global average. There were 81 weather, climate and water-related disasters in Asia in 2022, of which 83 per cent were flood and storm events.

These disasters caused the deaths of more than 5,000 people, affected the lives of a further 50 million people and caused more than $36bn (£28bn) in economic damages.

“In 2022, many areas in Asia experienced drier-than-normal conditions and drought. China, in particular, suffered prolonged drought conditions, which affected water availability and the power supply. The estimated economic losses from the drought affecting many regions in China were over $7.6bn. Pakistan, by contrast, suffered disastrous flooding,” said WMO secretary-general Professor Petteri Taalas.

“Most glaciers in the High Mountain Asia region suffered from intense mass loss as a result of exceptionally warm and dry conditions in 2022. This will have major implications for future food and water security and ecosystems.”

The report, one of a series of WMO regional State of the Climate reports, was released during a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction.

The mean temperature over Asia for 2022 was the second or third warmest on record and was about 0.72 °C above the 1991-2020 average. This average was itself about 1.68°C above the WMO 1961-1990 reference period for climate change. 

Drought affected many parts of the region, reducing water availability. The economic losses in 2022 as a result of the drought in China, for example, were estimated to exceed $7.6bn. 

Severe flooding hit Pakistan, causing significant loss of life and economic damage. Pakistan received 60 per cent of its normal total monsoon rainfall within just three weeks of the start of the monsoon season in 2022. According to the National Disaster Management Authority, more than 33 million people, almost 14 per cent of Pakistan’s 2022 population, were affected.

The WMO said that enhancing the resilience of food systems in Asia was a “high priority” as climate change presents increasing risks to agriculture.

In June, the Met Office said that Antarctic Sea ice fell to a record low for that time of year.

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