Thursday, March 12, 2009

Climate map of disaster hotspots in South-East Asia

An attempt to map the potential effects of climate change across South-East Asia has found Cambodia to be unexpectedly vulnerable to disasters.

The map, which considers the region's risk of exposure to climate hazards as well as its ability to adapt to such threats, found that Cambodia's poor ability to deal with disasters dwarfs its relatively low exposure to the risks.

The project, 'Climate Change Vulnerability Mapping for Southeast Asia', was carried out by the International Development Research Centre's Economy and Environment Program for South-East Asia (EEPSEA) as part of a larger-scale study.

The researchers combined historical datasets (from 1980–2005) with climate hazard maps for five climate-related risks. They compared these findings with the vulnerability assessment framework of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — based on exposure to multiple hazard risks, human and biological sensitivity, and adaptive capacity to climate change.

The study found that some of the most vulnerable areas in South-East Asia were the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and Bangkok, because of their exposure to sea level. The northern part of the Philippines was also particularly vulnerable, being at high risk from tropical cyclones.

But the most vulnerable areas of all, occupying four of the top ten hotspots out of a total of 530, were in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. Not only does the city lie at the intersection of all but one of five climate-related hazards — drought, floods, landslides and sea level rise — it is also densely populated. These risks outweigh its high adaptive capacity.

"This is the first comprehensive [climatic] picture of what the region looks like," says Herminia Francisco, director of EEPSEA. "The map illustrates the extent of climate change in the region and that most of the countries are vulnerable to the worst manifestations of climate change. To avert disasters, governments should take urgent and ambitious actions."

Richard Fuchs, IDRC regional director for South-East and East Asia, says: "The challenge for us is to put more pressure on the policymakers to better manage adaptation options in reducing vulnerability in the region."

Philippines senator Loren Legarda, who attended the Manila launch of the map last week (6 March), said that policymakers should now devise ways to prepare vulnerable people for the impact of climate change.

Download full report in PDF.


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