Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

Other reports in this collection Temperate Asia

Projected surface warming and shifts in rainfall in temperate Asia are significant and will induce increases in photorespiration, maintenance respiration, and saturation deficits—causing stomatal closure and decline in productivity (White et al., 1999). An adaptive response in the agriculture sector should be an effort to breed heat-resistant crop varieties by utilizing genetic resources that may be better adapted to warmer and drier conditions. Improvements in farming systems, fertilizer management, and soil conservation form major adaptation strategies (Lou and Lin, 1999). Research is needed to define current limits to heat resistance and the feasibility of manipulating such attributes through modern genetic techniques. Crop architecture and physiology may be genetically altered to adapt to warmer environmental conditions. The genetic resources of seeds maintained in germplasm banks may be screened to find sources of resistance to changing diseases and insects, as well as tolerances to heat and water stress and better compatibility with new agriculture technologies. Genetic manipulation also may help to exploit the potentially beneficial effects of CO2 enhancement on crop growth and water-use efficiency.

The process of rapid urbanization and industrialization in several Asian megacities has placed enormous stress on urban infrastructure, human well-being, cultural integrity, and socioeconomic arrangements. These urban cities are giant resource sinks and create a large "ecological footprint" on the surrounding countryside. The negative environmental impacts of expanding cities are already large; as they continue to grow and become more prosperous, these impacts are likely to increase. Rising levels of air and water pollution in many of the large cities are considerable. Production and consumption systems that sustain life in cities are largely responsible for many of these changes. As climate changes, the demand for basic infrastructure facilities such as housing, electricity, food supply and distribution, and drinking water supply will increase, and municipalities would have a difficult time managing waste recycling and waste disposal. Development policies that mitigate or avert some of these long-term problems would have to be country-specific and depend heavily on the availability of infrastructure resources, the size of the floating population, and sustainable behavioral changes in society.

Climate change will impinge on a diverse, complex, and dynamic form of climatic hazards such as floods, droughts, sea-level rise, and storm surges in the countries of temperate Asia. Preparation for changes in climate variability should include provision for the possibility of increased flooding, as well as incidences of drought. The present path of development in this region is placing more fixed infrastructures and economic activity within the coastal zone. This trend seems to offer limited scope for adjustments against flooding in the coastal zone resulting from sea-level rise. The likelihood of damage to infrastructure and loss of human life because of unexpected extreme events will rise. A wide range of precautionary measures at the regional and national levels—including awareness, perception, and the acceptability of risk factors among regional communities—are warranted to avert or reduce the impacts of such disasters on economic and social structures. Many current technical and socioeconomic barriers will need to be overcome to prevent risks to human health resulting from increases in disease incidences associated with climate change.

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