Climate change is an existential threat to Southeast Asian countries. They are already exposed to many natural hazards with potentially severe socio-economic impacts.
The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of risk and resilience to lives and livelihood. As the region recovers, it is essential not to lose sight of climate change risks.
A report by a group of scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and the University of Glasglow presents the hazards, vulnerabilities, and exposure that the region experiences and highlights climate adaptation strategies and plans to reduce the disaster risk and increase resilience at a sub-national and national level (Renaud et al., 2021).
Published ahead of the Glasgow COP26, the report shows that regions will experience hotter weather, more extended monsoon season, increased droughts, as global temperatures predicted in the latest IPCC report exceed 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels in the next 20 years. By 2050 sea levels will rise to 25 cm, significantly impacting the region because of its high population in low-lying coastal areas.
What do researchers say about the report?
Dr Lauriane Chardot, Research Fellow from NTU’s EOS, a lead author of the study, says, “Through conducting a comprehensive review of disaster risk in the region, our interdisciplinary team from multiple institutions in the UK and ASEAN highlighted successful and inspirational case studies to be considered by policymakers at COP26. We called to attention the importance of adapting to climate change to reduce disaster risk and increasing resilience at the sub-national, national and regional levels.”
Professor Benjamin Horton, Director of NTU’s Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), who led the project, said: “Our report describes how ASEAN societies and economies will be increasingly exposed to the climate emergency from sea-level rise, dramatic increases in heat and humidity, extreme precipitation, landslides, and drought. This threatens the advances in human development and poverty reduction that ASEAN has made over recent decades. Therefore, disaster risk reduction in ASEAN requires a suite of policies, including livelihood support, effective emergency relief and social protection.”
Professor Fabrice Renaud from the School of Interdisciplinary Studies of the University of Glasgow, who co-led the project, said: “ASEAN nations are unevenly at-risk to natural hazards and climate change because of different hazard characteristics and patterns of exposure and vulnerability. It is imperative to characterise risks from multiple-hazards at the sub-national scale to provide locally relevant adaptation measures, reduce risks sustainably, and avoid maladaptation”.
For the region to build climate resilience, the study recommends the following:
- To give priority to understanding the root cause of disaster risk.
- Disaster risk reduction in ASEAN needs to focus on the circumstances, needs, and priorities of poor and marginalized people and those who are close to becoming poor due to climate stresses, shocks, and crises.
- Support for institutional mechanisms to assess and respond to disaster risk is needed. Early warning systems should be placed at high-risk regions for monitoring and immediate action before disasters.
- Consider a suite of measures like nature-based solutions, hybrid approaches, and engineered solutions for better disaster risk reduction response.
- Transparency, accountability, and enforcement of financial standards and regulations to better distribute funding for disaster risk reduction and recovery response, preparedness, and resilience-building efforts.
For further reading about Southeast Asia’s climate change and natural hazards vulnerabilities and ways they could prepare and build climate resilience while taking advantage of the opportunities that arise from this, read the entire study:
Renaud, F.G., Chardot, L., Hamel, P., Cremin, E., Ng, D.K.S., Balke, T., Lallemant, D., Friend, R., Shi, X., Lee, J.S.H., Ng, L.Y., Andiappan, V., Le, H., Djalante, R., Tortajada, C., Ebeler, L., Horton, B.P. (2021) Adaptation and Resilience in ASEAN: Managing Disaster Risks from Natural Hazards (p30). UK Government, UK-Singapore COP26 ASEAN Climate Policy Report Series.
Southeast Asia needs to boost disaster resilience, as climate change could have severe economic impact, highlights COP26 report by NTU Singapore and University of Glasgow. (2021 October 27). EurekAlert. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/933057