NEW DELHI: Food shortages, water scarcity, heatwaves, floods and migration of millions of people will occur across Asia as a result of climate change, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN climate panel, said on 10 April.
Pachauri was speaking after Friday’s release of a report on the impacts of global warming by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which groups 2,500 scientists and is the world authority on climate change.
According to the report’s predictions, global warming would mean Asia would get less rainfall, affecting agricultural production and leading to food and water shortages.
“What we project is substantial decreases in cereal production in Asia and... there will unfavourable impacts on rain-fed wheat in south and southeast Asia,” he told a news conference.
“There will be risk of hunger and water resource scarcity.”
Pachauri, also the head of The Energy and Resources Institute, one of India’s leading environmental think-tanks, said half a degree Celsius rise in winter temperatures would reduce wheat yields by 0.45 tonnes per hectare.
The average wheat yield in India is currently 2.6 tonnes per hectare, he added.
Hundreds of millions of people who rely on glacier melt from the Himalayan Hindukush mountains for water supplies would also be affected, he said, adding that a quarter of a billion people would suffer as a result in China alone.
Pachauri said the impact in a country like India, where almost 70% of the workforce is dependent on agriculture, would be very serious, with mass migration of rural communities to already overburdened towns and cities.
“Given that they are not able to pursue their livelihoods, they clearly would have no choice but to move into the large cities and towns,” he said.” That means greater slum populations with inadequate urban infrastructure.”
Rising sea levels could flood the homes of millions of people living in low-lying areas of Asia such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, India and China, said the report.
Sea levels will be about 40 cm higher than today by the end of the 21st century and the annual number of people flooded in coastal areas will increase from 13 million to 94 million in Asia.
About 60 million of these people will be in South Asia, along the coasts from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar, said Pachauri.
Coastal cities like Mumbai and Kolkata are extremely vulnerable, he said, adding that they required better infrastructure such as drainage systems to cope with floods and water supplies as much of their water would become more saline.