Climate change poses twin threats

KATHMANDU: Climate change poses fundamental threats to Asia’s food and energy security which, if left unchecked, will result in an upsurge of migration into already overburdened mega cities, according to three major new studies funded by Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Draft versions were released today in Bangkok on the sidelines of a major United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations on a new climate change treaty to succeed Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

Findings are impacts of rising temperatures in Asia will fall disproportionately on the region’s poor, and rural women in developing countries will be among the most affected groups due to dependence on subsistence crops, limited access to resources and lack of decision-making power.

“The food and energy security of every Asian is threatened by climate change, but it’s the poor — and especially poor women — who are most vulnerable and most likely to migrate as a consequence,” said ADB vice-president Ursula Schaefer-Preuss.

More than half of Asia’s total population lives below the $2-per-day poverty line, and it is this sector of the population that depends on rain-fed agriculture and lives in settlements highly exposed to climate change.

The agriculture, energy and migration studies were produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); USA, Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India and the University of Adelaide, Australia, respectively.

The agriculture study warns that the sector — and therefore food security — is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Some 2.2 billion Asians rely on the sector for their livelihoods, which are now threatened by falling crop yields caused by floods, droughts and erratic rainfall. Current climate models indicate food prices may increase — rice by 29 per cent to 37 per cent, maize by 58 per cent to 97 per cent and wheat by 81 per cent to 102 per cent — by 2050.

According to the energy report, Asia’s access to affordable energy is under increasing threat due to factors including demand-supply gaps, high reliance on traditional biomass fuels, and the high-energy intensity of the region’s economies.