What does the new report ‘State of the Climate in Asia’ say? | Explained

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Heavy rain in Kollam, Kerala, on November 14, 2023. | Photo credit: C. Sureshkumar/The Hindu

The story so far: Asia has warmed faster than the global average since 1960, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s 2023 State of the Climate in Asia report. According to the report, released on April 23, the Asian continent is experiencing extreme climate events such as floods and heat waves, with record-breaking temperatures and rainfall in all countries. It also reiterated that the year 2023 was the world’s hottest year on record. The State of Climate report also noted an “alarming gap” between climate projections and the ability of Asian countries to adapt to and mitigate climate change and its impacts.

What toll did Asia’s heat take?

In 2023, more than 2,000 people were killed across Asia and more than nine million people were affected by extreme climate events. More than 80% of these events were related to storms and floods.

The report also noted that several parts experienced severe heat waves, leading to several fatalities, but acknowledged that heat-related deaths are widely under-reported. In India, severe heat waves in April and June killed about 110 people due to heat stroke (a condition in which body temperature rises above 40 degrees Celsius).

A prolonged heat wave swept across large parts of South and Southeast Asia in April and May, affecting areas from Bangladesh and eastern India to southern China. Local authorities also reported unusual temperatures from Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Northern China in particular experienced a significant heat wave from June 21 to July 9. The highest temperature recorded at the Beijing Observatory was 41.1 degrees Celsius, the second highest temperature since records began in 1951.

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Japan also experienced its hottest summer on record since 1898. Jeddah and Wejh in Saudi Arabia also experienced one heat wave each.

The heat has also ravaged marine ecosystems. The most severe to extreme heat waves occurred over much of the Arctic Ocean, in the eastern Arabian Sea and the northern Pacific Ocean, and lasted three to five months.

What impact did floods and storms have on Asia?

Similarly, Tropical Cyclone Mocha, which hit Myanmar and Bangladesh in May 2023, was the strongest cyclone in the Bay of Bengal in the past decade. Shortly afterwards, around 600 people were killed in India, Pakistan and Nepal in June and July 2023 by floods, landslides and lightning.

In India, floods and landslides in August 2023, mainly in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, killed at least 25 people and damaged much infrastructure. Lightning alone was responsible for 1,200 deaths across India throughout the year.

The Hong Kong Observatory headquarters recorded a total of 158.1 mm of precipitation per hour on September 7, the highest since records began in 1884. Intense, short-lived rainstorms in Yemen affected more than 165,000 people and killed about 30.

Even Medina in Saudi Arabia recorded an all-time high amount of rainfall on January 2. In August and September, high precipitation, coupled with extratropical cyclones in Russia’s far east, caused one of the largest disasters of the past decade in terms of duration. size and economic losses. Intense rainfall also caused flash flooding in Dubai and surrounding areas in November.

How well can Asia spot a coming disaster?

An early warning system is an integrated process that monitors, predicts and predicts hazards. It also includes activities related to risk assessment, communication and preparedness, allowing individuals, communities, governments, businesses, etc. to take timely action to mitigate risks. Experts have said such systems are an integral part of countries’ response to the increasing risk of natural disasters.

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For example, such systems gave authorities in Bangladesh a day’s head start to prepare for Cyclone Mocha and take anticipatory action in Cox’s Bazar, helping local communities to better survive the landfall. Myanmar’s Rakhine also received an early warning: the dubious presence of aid agencies and lackluster assistance from the military establishment translated into little action on the ground. Associated press reported.

Twenty-one Asian countries reported the status of their early warning systems to the UN. According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the average composite score for the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems was 0.46 out of 1. Asia; 0.58 for willingness to respond; and 0.50 for observation and prediction. By comparison, the world scored an average of 0.35, 0.78 and 0.33 on these points respectively. Warning and dissemination were the strongest areas within the framework for Asia, while risk knowledge was the weakest.

According to the report, less than half of all Asian countries have the resources to mitigate the effects of climate change.

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