Extreme weather worsens Asia’s climate crisis

High temperatures, frequent droughts, torrential rains and other extreme weather events this summer have strangled Asia, forced industries to close, slowed global trade, disrupted food supplies and disrupted the lives of ordinary people living in some of the most populous countries in the world. and densely populated cities.

For months, Asia-Pacific countries have experienced a mix of heavier rains and higher temperatures, creating unpredictable weather patterns. When the rains don’t fall much, as in Pakistan, where eight rounds of monsoons have left thousands homeless, they don’t fall at all, causing power shortages as droughts have severely restricted access to electricity. hydroelectric power. Record temperatures in China, for example, have sparked intense wildfires in the center of the country and dried up rivers that cities rely on to power industries and homes.

A severe tropical storm in the Philippines on Tuesday forced schools to close the day after in-person classes resumed for the first time after the nationwide shutdown and shift to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Government buildings in some of the most industrialized metropolitan areas also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a statement. Earlier this month, very heavy rains in South Korea flooded the roads of Seoul, causing landslides and killing at least eight people, including a family living in a semi-basement, a kind of housing low-income which represents about 5% of the city. houses.

High temperatures, frequent droughts, torrential rains and other extreme weather events this summer have strangled Asia, forced industries to close, slowed global trade, disrupted food supplies and disrupted the lives of ordinary people living in some of the most populous countries in the world. and densely populated cities.

For months, Asia-Pacific countries have experienced a mix of heavier rains and higher temperatures, creating unpredictable weather patterns. When the rains don’t fall much, as in Pakistan, where eight rounds of monsoons have left thousands homeless, they don’t fall at all, causing power shortages as droughts have severely restricted access to electricity. hydroelectric power. Record temperatures in China, for example, have started intense forest fires in the center of the country and the dry rivers that cities rely on to supply industries and homes.

Tuesday, a severe tropical storm in the Philippines forced schools to close the day after in-person classes resumed for the first time after the nationwide shutdown and shift to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Government buildings in some of the most industrialized metropolitan areas also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, Filipina President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced this in a statement. Earlier this month, very heavy rains in South Korea flooded the roads of Seoul, causing landslides and killing at least eight people, including a family living in a semi-basement, a kind of housing low-income which represents about 5% of the city. houses.

“The problem has always been that the most vulnerable communities tend to be the poorest communities, the marginalized communities, the communities that don’t have built-in resilience,” said climate and climate scientist Peter Gleick. water and co-founder of the nonprofit Pacific Institute.

Disruptions to normal weather mean places are flooded or burned. Cities in southern China, especially those in Sichuan, which gets 80% of its electricity from hydroelectricity, are experiencing a major drought. A mix of high temperatures and slower rainfall prompted local officials to to suspend the supply of hydroelectricity to certain companies and factories. Experts also warn of a drop in electricity supply for the winter. This is not China’s first dance: last fall, China was struck by coal shortagescausing long-lasting blackouts and particularly dangerous residential blackouts.

“You’re talking about heat stroke, you’re talking about older people who can’t make it known from home that they need help,” said David Fishman, senior director of the Lantau Group, an economic consultancy based in London. Shanghai. on the Asian energy industry.

But this year, while the power shortage has not become as extreme, a drier than normal rainy season has left water supplies low, and higher temperatures are causing low rainfall to dry up quickly in the tanks.

“Normally during this rainy season, if the rain is falling properly, electricity is really, really cheap,” Fishman said.

Everyone downstream from Sichuan, as well as the eastern coast of China, a major importer of hydropower from Sichuan, was affected, he said. In addition, a water shortage is accompanied by a slowdown in production, affecting cars, fertilizers and steel, and increasing the demand for other energy sources, such as coal, he said. he declares.

“When hydropower is affected, it’s not momentary,” Fishman said. “Performance has been declining throughout July and August, which means that in the fall and winter, hydro generation is expected to deplete further.”

It means getting back to the very things that are contributing to the weird weather in the first place. The return to coal and other non-hydroelectric sources “ironically contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and compounds the risk of climate change,” Gleick said.

In Pakistan, heavy monsoons and extreme flooding have killed at least 900 people and destroyed at least 95,350 homes since mid-June, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“This is a serious humanitarian disaster,” said Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s federal minister for climate change. Told CNN Wednesday. “We have monsoons every year. … It’s nothing like that. It is a torrential downpour of biblical proportions,” she said. Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, at one point saw nearly 16 inches of rain pile up in just a few hours, Rehman said. (For context, rainfall greater than about 1/3 inch per hour is considered “very heavy rain”.)

“No city is structured or equipped or so resilient to the climate that it can cope with this amount of water in such a short time,” she said.

But smaller-scale storms are also a concern, particularly in Southeast Asia. Rural areas of Indonesia have been particularly affected.

“Staples – rice, maize and vegetables – are the most affected by the floods,” said Ade Soekadis, executive director of Mercy Corps Indonesia. They are grown near the banks of rivers, which rise during periods of heavy rain, so wetter seasons could actually destroy crops that are most crucial to people’s diets and exports, he said. he declares.

While climate experts in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, predicted increase in forest fires this year, the country has instead seen an increase in flash floods during the wettest summer months. While a longer rainy season has allowed farmers to plant more crop cycles, harvests have become increasingly difficult to predict.

The climate crisis in Asia is not unique: Europe is preparing for a particularly cold winter and the Mediterranean countries have experienced in recent months a devastating potpourri heat and dryness.

But Asia is extremely diverse, with different capacities to respond to the challenges of climate change, and it is full of people. “India and China have very, very large populations. And because of that, a lot of people are exposed to these events,” Gleick said. In addition to the increasing frequency of extreme weather events and the unpredictable nature of climate change, nowhere, from the countryside to the cities, is likely to be spared.

“I don’t think governments are prepared to deal with the vulnerabilities brought by climate change,” he said.