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 the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Draft versions of the studies were released Wednesday 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 the Kyoto Protocol’s provisions, which expire in 2012.
Among the studies' findings is that the impacts of rising temperatures in Asia will fall disproportionately on the region's poor, and rural women from developing countries will be among the most affected groups given their dependence on subsistence crops, their limited access to resources, and their 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 US$2 per day poverty line, and it is this sector of the population that tends to depend on rain-fed agriculture and live in settlements that are highly exposed to climate variability and change.
The agriculture, energy and migration studies were produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); USA; The 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, erratic rainfall and other climate change impacts. Current climate models indicate food prices may increase sharply – rice prices by 29%-37%, maize by 58%-97% and wheat by 81%-102% – 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. The region's vast renewable energy potential could help respond to this threat but only if policy and finance measures quickly scale-up proven technologies for the poor, including small hydro and solar power.
Climate change-induced threats to Asia's agriculture and energy will contribute significantly to migration within national boundaries, according to the migration report. The report identifies a number of global "hot spots" - specific areas where residents are at relatively high risk from climate change hazards - in the Asia and the Pacific region. The criteria for defining these areas include coastal vulnerability due to sea level rise, water stress, flooding and cyclones.