This article needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (May 2019)
The 2022 South Asian floods, including in Pakistan (pictured) are an example of a climate change impact.[1][2]

Climate change in South Asia is having significant impacts already which are expected to intensify as global temperatures rise due to climate change. The South Asia region consists of the eight countries: Afghanistan,[note 1] Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. In the 2017 edition of Germanwatch's Climate Risk Index, Bangladesh and Pakistan ranked sixth and seventh respectively as the countries most affected by climate change in the period from 1996 to 2015, while India ranked fourth among the list of countries most affected by climate change in 2015.[4] The Indian subcontinent is one of the most vulnerable regions globally to a number of direct and indirect effects of climate change, including sea level rise, cyclonic activity, and changes in ambient temperature and precipitation patterns. Ongoing sea level rise has already submerged several low-lying islands in the Sundarbans region, displacing thousands of people.

Among the countries of South Asia, Bangladesh is likely to be the worst affected by climate change. This is owing to a combination of geographical factors, such as its flat, low-lying, and delta-exposed topography,[5] and socio-economic factors, including its high population density, levels of poverty, and dependence on agriculture.[6] Its sea level, temperature, and evaporation are increasing, and the changes in precipitation and cross-boundary river flows are already beginning to cause drainage congestion. There is a reduction in freshwater availability, disturbance of morphological processes,[clarification needed] and a higher intensity of flooding.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Bangladesh only contributes 0.21%[7][unreliable source?] of the world's emissions yet it has 2.11% of the world's population.[8][unreliable source?] In contrast, the United States makes up about 4.25 percent[9][unreliable source?] of the world's population, yet they produce approximately 15 percent of the pollution[10] that causes global warming.

According to data from 2020, China, the United States, India, and Russia are the world's biggest emitters of CO2.[10]

Impacts on the natural environment

Temperature and weather changes

Regarding local temperature rises, the IPCC figure shows that mean annual value of temperature rise by the end of the century in South Asia is 3.3 °C with the min-max range as 2.7 – 4.7 °C. The mean value for Tibet would be higher with mean increase of 3.8 °C and min-max figures of 2.6 and 6.1 °C respectively, which implies harsher warming conditions for the Himalayan watersheds.[11]

Current/past Köppen climate classification map for Southern Asia for 1980–2016
Predicted Köppen climate classification map for Southern Asia for 2071–2100

Extreme weather events

Increased landslides and flooding are projected to have an impact upon states such as Assam.[12] Ecological disasters, such as a 1998 coral bleaching event that killed off more than 70% of corals in the reef ecosystems off Lakshadweep and the Andamans, and was brought on by elevated ocean temperatures tied to global warming, are also projected to become increasingly common.[13][14][15]

Sea level rise

The global average sea level rose by 3.1 mm per year from 1993 to 2003.[16] More recent analysis of a number of semi empirical models predict a sea level rise of about 1 metre by the year 2100. [17] Ongoing sea level rises have already submerged several low-lying islands in the Sundarbans, displacing thousands of people.[18] Temperature rises on the Tibetan Plateau are causing Himalayan glaciers to retreat. It has been predicted that the historical city of Thatta and Badin, in Sindh, Pakistan would have been swallowed by the sea by 2025, as the sea is already encroaching 80 acres of land here, every day. [19]

Some territories in India were already evacuated due to increase in tidal flooding. Large part of some Indian cities will be below tide-level by 2030: Mumbai, Kolkata, Cuttack, Kochi and more. Navi Mumbai will be below this level almost entirely.[20]

In October 2019, a study was published in the Nature Communications journal. The journal claims that the number of people who will be impacted from sea level rise during 21st century is 3 times higher than the previous expected number. By 2050, 150 million will be under the water line during high tide and 300 million will live in zones with flooding every year. By the year 2100, those numbers differ sharply depending on the emission scenario. In a low emission scenario, 140 million will be under water during high tide and 280 million will have flooding each year. In high emission scenario, the numbers reach up to 540 million and 640 million, respectively. 70% of these people will live in 8 countries in Asia: China, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, and the Philippines. Large parts of Ho Chi Minh City, Mumbai, Shanghai, Bangkok and Basra could be inundated.[21][22]

Population that will live in a zone of annual flooding by 2050 in millions, in 6 countries in Asia, according to old and new estimates:[23]

Country Old estimate New estimate
China 29 93
Bangladesh 5 42
India 5 36
Vietnam 9 31
Indonesia 5 23
Thailand 1 12

Impacts on people

Economic impacts

India has the world's highest social cost of carbon.[24] The Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research has reported that, if the predictions relating to global warming made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change come to fruition, climate-related factors could cause India's GDP to decline by up to 9%; contributing to this would be shifting growing seasons for major crops such as rice, production of which could fall by 40%. Around seven million people are projected to be displaced due to, among other factors, submersion of parts of Mumbai and Chennai, if global temperatures were to rise by a mere 2 °C (3.6 °F).[25]

If severe climate changes occur, Bangladesh will lose land along the coast line.[26][unreliable source?] This will be highly damaging to Bangladeshis especially because about 50% population of Bangladeshis are employed in the agriculture sector,[27] with rice as the largest production.[28][29] If no further steps are taken to improve the current conditions global warming will affect the economy severely worsening the present issues further.[30] The climate change would increase expenditure towards health care, cool drinks, alcoholic beverages, air conditioners, ice cream, cosmetics, agricultural chemicals, and other products.[31]

Agriculture

Climate Change in India and Pakistan will have a disproportionate impact on the more than 400 million that make up India's poor. This is because so many depend on natural resources for their food, shelter and income. More than 56% of people in India work in agriculture, while in Pakistan 43% of its population work in agriculture while many others earn their living in coastal areas.[32]

Thick haze and smoke along the Ganges River in northern India.

Health impacts

Main article: Effects of global warming on human health

Heat waves

Heat waves' frequency and power are increasing in India because of climate change. The number of heat wave days has increased — not just day temperature, night temperatures increased also. 2018 was the country's sixth hottest year on record, and 11 of its 15 warmest years have occurred since 2004. The capital New Delhi broke its all-time record with a high of 48 degrees Celsius.[33] The government is being advised by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in predicting and mitigating heat waves. The government of Andhra Pradesh, for instance, is creating a Heat Wave Action Plan.[34]

Impacts on migration

Villagers in India's North Eastern state of Meghalaya are also concerned that rising sea levels will submerge neighboring low-lying Bangladesh, resulting in an influx of refugees into Meghalaya which has few resources to handle such a situation.[35][36]

Mitigation and adaptation

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed at the launch of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor in 2009.

There are many concrete steps which can be taken to address the threat of climate change. Incentives can be provided for electric vehicles or public transport and this curb the impact of the transportation sector. However, though these suggestions have been made, there is no political will to carry them out. Households can be given electricity and slowly phasing out LPG (the current trend is to increase the usage of the latter). Rainwater can be harvested and the rivers could be restored to their original flow so that they can bring back the wetlands and the natural ways of silt, nutrient and wildlife flow. All of these use technologies and can be implemented by the 11-year period the IPCC has stipulated before which any change must be made if we are to evade the adverse effects of climate change. So far, though the initiatives by the Delhi Metro to switch to solar power- or similar efforts by Kochi airport-are a step in the right direction, such moves are few and far between. These models should be taken up by other agents as well.[34]

The latest accord, the 2015 Paris Agreement, takes a different approach. The 197 signatory countries have promised to limit global temperature increase to just 1.5 °C over pre-industrialization levels, but each country has set its own targets. India, for instance, has promised to cut its emissions intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) by 33-35% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels (Chart 1a/ 1b).[37]

Adaptation

The Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaption Information Platform (AP-PLAT) was launched in 2019. It aims to provide Asia and Pacific countries with data on climate change and convert it to adaptation and resilience measures.[38]

Climate change by South Asian country

Afghanistan

Graph showing temperature change in Afghanistan between 1901 and 2021.

In Afghanistan, climate change has led to a temperature increase of 1.8 °C since 1950. This has caused far-reaching impacts on Afghanistan, culminating from overlapping interactions of natural disasters (due to changes in the climate system), conflict, agricultural dependency, and severe socio-economic hardship.

Combined with infrequent earthquakes, climate-related disasters such as floods, flash floods, avalanches and heavy snowfalls on average affect over 200,000 people every year,[39] causing massive losses of lives, livelihoods and properties.[40][41][42][43] These interacting factors, particularly protracted conflicts which erode and challenge the ability to handle, adapt to and plan for climate change at individual and national levels, often turn climate change risks and hazards into disasters.

Although the country itself contributes only very little to global warming with regards to greenhouse gas emissions, droughts due to climate change affect and will affect Afghanistan to a high degree.

Due to a combination of political, geographic, and social factors, Afghanistan is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts in the world,[44][45] ranked 179 out of 185 countries.[46][47][48] As of 2021, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has committed more than $900 million,[49] for irrigation and agriculture infrastructure projects to help with food security, agribusiness, and enhancement of water resources management through a climate resilience approach.[50]

Bangladesh

Climate change is a critical issue in Bangladesh[51] as the country is one of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.[52][53] In the 2020 edition of Germanwatch's Climate Risk Index, it ranked seventh in the list of countries most affected by climate calamities during the period 1999–2018.[54] Bangladesh's vulnerability to the effects of climate change is due to a combination of geographical factors, such as its flat, low-lying, and delta-exposed topography,[55] and socio-economic factors, including its high population density, levels of poverty, and dependence on agriculture.[56] The impacts and potential threats include sea level rise, temperature rise, food crises, droughts, floods, and cyclones.[57]

Temperature in Bangladesh has risen by 2.74 Degrees Celsius in the past 20 years. The environmentalists believe if the trend moves on like this, 17% of Bangladesh will be under water by 2040.

Bhutan

Bhutan has faced ongoing and immediate climate change since the late twentieth century. Tangible climate change has resulted in the warming and recession of many of Bhutan's glaciers, increasing the frequency and severity of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). Bhutan has also seen a shift in agriculture patterns due to climate change, prompting concern over the stability of agriculture in Bhutan.

India

Satpura coal-fired power station

India is ranked fourth among the list of countries most affected by climate change in 2015.[58] India emits about 3 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2eq of greenhouse gases each year; about two and a half tons per person, which is less than the world average.[59] The country emits 7% of global emissions, despite having 17% of the world population.[60] Temperature rises on the Tibetan Plateau are causing Himalayan glaciers to retreat, threatening the flow rate of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Yamuna and other major rivers. A 2007 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report states that the Indus River may run dry for the same reason.[61] Heat waves' frequency and intensity are increasing in India because of climate change. Severe landslides and floods are projected to become increasingly common in such states as Assam.[62] The climate change performance index of India ranks eighth among 63 countries which account for 92% of all GHG emissions in the year 2021.[63]

Temperatures in India have risen by 0.7 °C (1.3 °F) between 1901 and 2018.[64]

According to some current projections, the number and severity of droughts in India will have markedly increased by the end of the present century.[65]

Maldives

The Maldives government have adapted infrastructure in capital city Malé to the threats of climate change, including beginning to build a wall around the city.
Climate change is a major issue for the Maldives. As an archipelago of low-lying islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean, the existence of the Maldives is severely threatened by sea level rise. By 2050, 80% of the country could become uninhabitable due to global warming.[66] According to the World Bank, with "future sea levels projected to increase in the range of 10 to 100 centimeters by the year 2100, the entire country could be submerged".[67] The Maldives is striving to adapt to climate change, and Maldivian authorities have been prominent in international political advocacy to implement climate change mitigation.

Nepal

Globally, Nepal is ranked fourth in terms of vulnerability to climate change. Floods spread across the foothills of the Himalayas and bring landslides, leaving tens of thousands of houses and vast areas of farmland and roads destroyed.[68] In the 2020 edition of Germanwatch's Climate Risk Index, it was judged to be the ninth hardest-hit nation by climate calamities during the period 1999 to 2018.[69] Nepal is a least developed country, with 28.6 percent of the population living in multidimensional poverty.[70] Analysis of trends from 1971 to 2014 by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) shows that the average annual maximum temperature has been increasing by 0.056 °C per year.[71] Precipitation extremes are found to be increasing.[72] A national-level survey on the perception-based survey on climate change reported that locals accurately perceived the shifts in temperature but their perceptions of precipitation change did not converge with the instrumental records.[73] Data reveals that more than 80 percent of property loss due to disasters is attributable to climate hazards, particularly water-related events such as floods, landslides and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs).[74]

Pakistan

Climate change in Pakistan is a major issue for the country. Pakistan is highly vulnerable to climate change. As with the changing climate in South Asia as a whole, the climate of Pakistan has changed over the past several decades, with significant impacts on the environment and people.[75] In addition to increased heat, drought and extreme weather in parts of the country, the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas has impacted some of the important rivers of Pakistan. Between 1999 and 2018, Pakistan ranked 5th in the countries affected by extreme weather caused by climate change.[76] Pakistan is prone to a range of natural disasters, including cyclones, floods, drought, intense rainfall, and earthquakes. According to scientific research, climate change played a substantial role in the devastating floods of 2022, which had a direct impact on over 30 million people in Pakistan, resulting in the loss of lives, damage to public infrastructure, and displacement from homes.[77] Climate change poses a significant menace to Pakistan's economy and security. [78]

Sri Lanka

Climate change is an important issue in Sri Lanka, and its effects threaten to impact both human and natural systems. Roughly 50 percent of its 22 million citizens live in low-lying coastal areas in the west, south, and south-west of the island, and are at risk of future sea level rise.[79] Climate change also threatens the island's biodiversity, including its marine ecosystem and coastal coral reef environments. Sea-level rise due to climate change has the potential to affect the overall abundance of endemic species. Sri Lanka's coastal regions, such as the Northern Province and the Northern Western Province, are considered major hotspots and extremely vulnerable to climate change. These maritime provinces are the most densely populated.[80] In addition to being a threat to Sri Lanka's biodiversity, climate change may cause disastrous consequences on various levels in such areas. Such consequences include: Affecting agricultural productivity, causing natural disasters like floods and droughts, increasing the spread of infectious illnesses, and finally undermining the living standards.[81]

See also

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Notes

  1. ^ Afghanistan is considered to be part of Central Asia. It regards itself as a link between Central Asia and South Asia.[3]