Climate change impacts increasing in Asia

Asia is experiencing higher-than-average warming and increasing climate change impacts at a rate faster than the global average, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization. The region witnessed numerous extreme weather events, leading to widespread devastation and significant socio-economic consequences.

RISING TEMPERATURES IN ASIA

The report highlights that Asia is experiencing rapid warming, nearly double the warming trend in the period from 1991 to 2022 compared to 1961 to 1990. The mean temperature in 2022 was the second or third warmest on record, approximately 0.72°C above the 1991-2020 average.

DEVASTATING WEATHER AND CLIMATE DISASTERS

In 2022, Asia faced 81 weather, climate, and water-related disasters, with over 83% of them being flood and storm events. These events resulted in more than 5,000 fatalities, directly impacting over 50 million people, and causing economic damages exceeding US$ 36 billion.

“This report summarizes the state of the climate and the extreme events and their socioeconomic impacts in Asia in 2022. In 2022, many areas in Asia experienced drier-than-normal conditions and drought. China, in particular, suffered prolonged drought conditions, which affected water availability and the power supply. The estimated economic losses from the drought affecting many regions in China were over US$ 7.6 billion. Pakistan, by contrast suffered disastrous flooding,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof.PetteriTaalas.

“Most glaciers in the High Mountain Asia region suffered from intense mass loss as a result of exceptionally warm and dry conditions in 2022. This will have major implications for future food and water security and ecosystems,” he said.

ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS AND FOOD SYSTEM RESILIENCE

 The devastating impacts of natural hazards on agriculture and food security underscore the urgency of enhancing food system resilience in Asia. The report emphasizes the importance of monitoring past and current climate trends and providing forecasts to strengthen early warning services for agriculture and food security.

The WMO’s State of the Climate in Asia 2022 report paints a worrisome picture of the region’s increasing vulnerability to climate change impacts. Rising temperatures, extreme weather events, glacial mass loss, and ocean warming are posing significant challenges to Asia’s socio-economic and environmental stability. Urgent transformative adaptation measures are needed to strengthen resilience and mitigate the impact of climate change on food systems and livelihoods in the region.

Key messages

The mean temperature over Asia for 2022 was the second or third warmest on record and was about 0.72 °C above the 1991–2020 average. The 1991–2020 average was itself about 1.68 °C above the WMO 1961–1990 reference period for climate change.  

Drought affected many parts of the region, reducing water availability. The economic losses in 2022 as a result of the drought in China, for example, were estimated to exceed US$ 7.6 billion.  

Severe flooding hit Pakistan, causing significant loss of life and economic damage. Pakistan received 60% of its normal total monsoon rainfall within just three weeks of the start of the monsoon season in 2022. According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), more than 33 million people, almost 14% of Pakistan’s 2022 population, were affected. 

Glaciers in the High Mountain Asia region have lost significant mass over the past 40 years, and the loss is accelerating. In 2022, exceptionally warm and dry conditions exacerbated the mass loss for most glaciers. Urumqi Glacier No. 1 in the eastern Tien Shan recorded the second highest negative mass balance of -1.25 metre water equivalent since measurements began in 1959.  

The region shows an overall surface ocean warming trend since the time series began in 1982. In the north-western Arabian Sea, the Philippine Sea and the seas east of Japan, the warming rates exceed 0.5 °C per decade, which is about three times faster than the global average surface ocean warming rate.  

Record-breaking winds and heavy rainfall associated with Typhoon Nanmadol were observed in several stations in Japan in September. Nanmadol was associated with five reported deaths, affected over 1 300 people, and caused estimated economic damages in excess of US$ 2 billion.  

According to the International Disaster Database (EM-DAT), in 2022, 81 natural hazard events were reported in Asia; of these, over 83% were flood and storm events. These events led to over 5 000 fatalities, 90% of which were associated with flooding. Overall, natural hazard events directly impacted more than 50 million people and resulted in over US$ 36 billion in damages. 

Enhancing food system resilience is a high priority in Asia, as was emphasized in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) of most of the parties to the Paris Agreement in WMO Members in the Regional Association II. Monitoring the past and current climate and providing forecasts on weather and climate timescales are fundamental tools underpinning effective early warning services for agriculture and food security.  

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