Vulnerability and Resilience to Climate Change Risks: a Focus on Asia and Africa
Climate change is an event that creates vulnerability and risks to every region in the world without any exception.
Meaning that many cities are affected equally by the changing climate; however, different effects are seen across regions due to the difference in management and resilience capacity.
Vulnerability is a combination of exposure to natural hazards and environmental risks from lack of management interference, which are exacerbated by climate change.
Natural hazards include hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, floods, etc. Environmental risks, however, are mainly caused by pollution that creates unhealthy environmental conditions such as declining air and water quality, leading to health hazards.
This has led to billions of dollars of economic loss from healthcare costs and even deaths.
Climate change exacerbates both the environmental and natural risks by worsening the frequency and intensity of natural disasters such as heat stress, causing a shortage of water, famine, etc.
Research has found that around 1.4 billion people across the 400 cities on the planet are at high or extreme risk of environmental risks from pollution, including the urban centers.
Urban and city centers are the heart of anthropogenic processes such as businesses, industrial, and economic activity and usually have the most human population clustered.
So accordingly, it produces the most pollution and GHG emissions, which, as mentioned above, exacerbates climate change and causes complications such as diseases.
However, inland city areas are more exposed to natural hazards yet receive less attention.
The result is that poorer communities, generally living in the most exposed areas, are most vulnerable to climate change.
According to a recent report by Verisk Maplecroft, Asia is home to 99 of the world's 100 most dangerous cities, including 37 in China and 43 in India, and Jakarta (Indonesia) is the riskiest city, followed by Delhi (India).
Asian and African cities are most vulnerable to climate change threats due to being developing countries and being geographically placed in areas most exposed to natural hazards.
For example, East Asian countries are the most prone to seismic activity and flooding from sea level rise, whereas extreme weather events and high temperatures are common in African countries.
In contrast, Europe and Canada are home to the least risky cities from environmental risks.
Major urban cities contribute the most to the global GHG emission inputs. Especially, Asian countries are at the frontline of climate change.
If no action is taken, Asian cities will account for more than half of the increase in global GHG emissions in the next 20 years.
Furthermore, Asia faces more severe impacts than other regions concerning natural hazard exposure and climate change.
Therefore, city officials must ensure that current and future infrastructure can withstand increasingly frequent natural events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and others while taking into account pollution mitigation strategies.
Some countries have shown resilience and adaptation to climate change impacts.
For example, even though China is a major contributor to the global GHG emissions, they are also at the front of renewable energy investment globally.
They have improved power plant emission limits and developed the world's largest carbon market from a network of regional emissions trading programs.
The carbon market is a cost-friendly carbon reducing strategy by implementing limits to emissions and enabling emission unit trading.
The UK also has made the most progress in combating climate change by aiming to reduce 78% of the total emissions by 2035, which is 15 years early of the 2050 goal.
Role of organizations and corporates
Climate change also impacts businesses and corporate companies.
As society and lawmakers are starting to become more environmentally conscious and recognizing the economic benefits from sustainability, the image of a company can be damaged if they seem to associate with the major rise of global warming and the destruction of crucial ecosystems.
Furthermore, the socioeconomic and political instability in some countries, which are an indirect effect of climate change, also poses a threat in the business sector; if decisions are not taken appropriately.
Investors are also starting to consider the environmental data when making investment decisions and identifying future threats and opportunities.
The role of organizations and companies to content with weak governance and outright corruption can provide support and assist in building the long-term resilient and adaptive capacity in countries.
As no country is entirely risk-free to environmental hazards, corporations cannot simply focus and relocate to a safer city.
Instead, they could help overcome corruption and help combat climate risks and natural hazards, and vice versa, the country could aid the growth of the business.
An example of how businesses relate to a country’s effort to reduce climate risks is that the Dutch court has ordered Royal Dutch Shell to drastically reduce its carbon emissions due to the court findings that Shell’s carbon emission poses a threat to Dutch citizens.
This is the first case in which a court has ordered a significant polluting firm to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement.
This decision could have far-reaching consequences for other significant polluters as they are pressured by investors and activists to invest in clean and renewable energy.
However, on the plus side, there is an increasing trend in investments towards new business prospects aimed at achieving the Paris Climate Agreement's goals. Let's just hope it gets better with time!
No country is immune to climate change risks.
Climate and environmental risks are a combination of natural hazards and poor management, exacerbated or worsened by the warming climate.
Some countries are impacted and exposed to more hazards than others, but in the end, poor communities are the most vulnerable.
Therefore, the government’s role and contribution from the citizens are vital in building the resilience and adaptive capacity of a country.
Additionally, businesses and organizations contribute majorly to building resilience by complying with authorities and their policies, providing financial assistance, and taking the responsibility to help mitigate the total emissions produced.
The Paris Climate Agreement has created the landmark and starting point for countries and businesses to follow, which should be considered in all decision making, as combating climate change risks requires the role and efforts of everyone!
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Maplecroft. (2021, May 12). Environmental Risk Outlook 2021. Retrieved June 3, 2021, from Verisk Maplecroft website: https://www.maplecroft.com/insights/analysis/environmental-risk-outlook-2021/
Olivia Eugenia is an Environmental Science student at the University of Western Australia. She is also an activist and a content writer at the International Youth Organization for Peace and Sustainability.
Inputs and Edits by Aswin Raghav R.