Climate needs urgent actions now

Climate needs urgent actions now

Cities around the world are no strangers to riverine flooding. In December 2021, the four main rivers running through Kuala Lumpur hit dangerous levels, causing nearby rail lines to shut down and halting mobility across the city. In March this year, storms prompted flood warnings along Australia's east coast, including in Sydney. Thousands of residents had to flee their homes.

Last week, major flooding in southern China forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people. Parts of China have seen the worst flooding in decades with 500,000 homes damaged, roads collapsed and some houses swept away. In Jiangxi Province to the northeast, authorities raised a flood "red alert" after 485,000 people in nine districts were affected. Economic losses, according to Xinhua news agency, hit 470 million yuan (US$70.21 million), with 43,300 hectares of crops destroyed.

The summer rainy season brings floods to China almost every year but environmental groups say climate change is bringing heavier and more frequent downpours. Economic losses could mount if the floods cause disruption in the manufacture and distribution of Chinese goods, which play a vital part in global supply chains.

New research released last week estimated that climate-related flooding and drought impact millions of people and cost the world's major cities $194 billion annually. According to the Water Safe Cities report, if global warming continues unabated 7.4 million people in the world's largest cities will be exposed to severe river flooding within the next three decades, with damage to urban areas expected to cost $64 billion per year by 2050.

The catastrophic impact of climate change is also explained in a new report from the Deloitte Center for Sustainable Progress (DCSP). Released during the World Economic Forum's annual meeting, the paper indicates that if left unchecked, climate change could cost the global economy $178 trillion over the next 50 years, or a 7.6% cut to global GDP in the year 2070 alone.

If global warming reaches around 3°C towards the century's end, the toll on human lives could be significant -- disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable and leading to loss of productivity and employment, food and water scarcity, and worsening health and well-being, ushering in an overall lower standard of living globally.

On the other hand, the report found that if world leaders united in a systemic net-zero transition, the global economy could see new five-decade gains of $43 trillion, giving a boost of 3.8% to global GDP in 2070.

Good news is that consumers have growing awareness about severe climate patterns and they are now ready to act. A survey from Herbalife Nutrition, a global nutrition company, found that a huge majority of consumers in Asia Pacific have experienced the effects of climate change (79%), and recognise the importance of environmental sustainability in making nutrition-related decisions (78%).

Conducted in April, the Asia Pacific Nutrition Sustainability Survey 2022 found that that close to 80% of consumers in APAC, including Thailand, were willing to pay more for nutritional choices that support or promote environmental sustainability. Across the different demographic groups, Gen Z/Millennials (80%) were more likely to pay more for sustainable nutrition choices compared to Gen X/Boomers (76%). When asked how much more they would pay, 70% said between 1% and 10%, while 18% were willing to pay from 11% up to 15% more.

For respondents who considered environmental sustainability important, the top considerations were the amount of waste generated (65%) and the amount and type of material used in packaging (62%) when they decide whether to purchase a nutritional product. Three-quarters (76%) felt the recyclability of packaging materials is important when making nutrition-related decisions. This was felt most strongly by respondents in the Philippines (93%) and Thailand (89%), according to the survey, which was released last Monday.

The findings clearly stated that most of us in the global community are keenly aware of the urgency of climate change and are striving to play our part in helping protect the planet for the future. However, it requires extensive coordination and global collaboration between governments, the financial services and technology sectors, and consumers to make our planet more liveable and less harmful for future generations.

Collectively pivoting from an economy reliant on fossil fuels to one primarily powered by renewable energy would spur new sources of growth and job creation. It's vital that the global economy evolves now to find new and lasting solutions to tackle the challenges of climate change.

Nareerat Wiriyapong

Acting Asia Focus Editor

Acting Asia Focus Editor

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