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Climate Change in South Asia – A Conversation with Sir Nicholas Stern

Climate Change in South Asia – A Conversation with Sir Nicholas Stern

February 14, 2007 – From the Himalayas, which feed water to a billion people, to the coastal areas of Bangladesh, South Asian countries must prepare for the effects of global warming, even as they work to combat the human causes of climate change.

Sir Nicholas Stern | Interview (mp3)
Additional Resources From the World Bank Research/Publications on Climate Change
In Washington for a two-day legislators' conference on climate change, Sir Nicholas Stern said even a moderate rise in temperatures could cause serious changes to the environment in South Asia. Stern led the eponymous Stern Review, which last year examined the economic impact of climate change.

“You have to give examples from around the world for people to really understand what’s going on. In India and China, I think people understand the rising water stress, and how vulnerable they are to melting glaciers and snows from the Himalayas,” Stern said. He used the analogy of the Himalayas as a sponge, moderating the impact of precipitation as seasons change.

”Precipitation comes, and it’s held there. That’s how you get water in the rivers. That effect will not be there if the glaciers and snow are not there. Which means you’ll get torrents during the wet season and dry rivers in the dry season. So you’ll get a combination of flood and drought,” Stern said.

“We also don’t know what effect that will have on the monsoon, and it could have quite a strong effect. That kind of thing is being studied now,” he added. The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology supplies climate change data to SAARC nations, and is engaged in its largest recruitment drive in a decade.

Agriculture represents a fourth of India’s national income, and that sector could be seriously disrupted by changes to the monsoon. Mitigation strategies are needed to deal with the risks.

“We have to adapt how we handle water extraction, and irrigation. Water management is involved in all of this. Work has to be done on what crops would be resilient,” Stern said.

Urban areas throughout the region are also at risk, as water supplies could be disrupted over time. Infrastructure must be upgraded for sanitation and drinking water, as well as for adequate storm drainage in areas prone to flooding.

Additional Resources From the World Bank Research/Publications

Unlocking Opportunities for Forest-Dependent People in India - April 2006

Over a quarter of India’s poorest people, many of whom are indigenous people, depend on forests for part of their livelihoods. But, almost half the country’s forests have been degraded, and their average productivity is a third of potential. A new World Bank report, "Unlocking Opportunities for Forest-Dependent People in India" by Grant Milne, suggests that if national and state level reforms are introduced and forest productivity improved, rural poverty can be reduced significantly and government revenues increased.

Bangladesh environmental analysis - August 2006

The economic losses resulting from the environmental impacts are equivalent to more than 4 percent o f Bangladesh's GDP. Among these impacts, three sources of environmental degradation are currently receiving insufficient attention: (1) indoor and urban air pollution, (2) the degradation o f water quality in Dhaka, and (3) the decline of capture fisheries.

Health impact of air and water pollution in Bangladesh - August 2006

This report analyzes the health impact of air and water pollution in Bangladesh using the most recently available data

Pakistan Environmental Assessment - August 2006

The urgency of addressing Pakistan's environmental problems has probably never been greater. Conservative estimates presented in this report suggest that environmental degradation costs the country at least 6 percent of GDP, or about Rs. 365 billion per year, and these costs fall disproportionately upon the poor.

Pakistan: Analysis of physical and monetary losses in environmental health and natural resources - August 2006

This annex provides a comprehensive overview o f the data and methods used to estimate the costs of environmental degradation in: (i) urban air pollution, including particulate matter and lead, (ii) water supply, sanitation and hygiene, (iii)in door air pollution, (iv) agricultural damage from soil salinity and erosion, (v) rangeland degradation, and (vi) deforestation.

Household use of commercial energy in Pakistan - May 2005

Between 1994 and 2001, prices of electricity, natural gas, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) rose more rapidly than the consumer price index (CPI), potentially offering insights into how households might react to, and manage, sharply rising energy prices. Participants in household interviews were asked questions about reasons for energy choice, the quality of service provided, evidence of increasing competition, affordability of different energy sources, benefits and costs, and commercial malpractice.

Overcoming drought: adaptation strategies for Andhra Pradesh, India - August 2006

Using recent advances in modeling climate-related risks and adjusting state of the art catastrophic risk modeling techniques to drought, the study conducts an innovative long-term assessment of drought risks in Andhra Pradesh, India, and suggests strategies to reduce their impact, under several economic, drought management and climate change scenarios.

For a Breath of Fresh Air: Ten Years of Progress and Challenges in urban air quality management in India - June 2005

The report presents a retrospective analysis of urban air pollution data with a focus on particulate air pollution from 1993 to 2002 in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai. A potentially significant and encouraging finding of this study is that ambient concentrations of airborne suspended particulate matter (RSPM), the main pollutant of public health concern, appeared to fall between 1993 and 2002 in all the five cities.

Arsenic contamination of Groundwater in South and East Asian Countries - March 2005

The detrimental health effects of environmental exposure to arsenic have become increasingly clear in the last few years. High concentrations detected in groundwater from a number of aquifers across the world, including in South and East Asia, have been found responsible for health problems ranging from skin disorders to cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Expanding Renewable Energy in Bangladesh - November 2005

The Government of Bangladesh has established a goal of providing electrical power to all its citizens. Renewable energy is a key component of the initiative, and Bangladesh has already made impressive gains in reaching the 85 percent of the country's population that lives in rural areas. To help speed that process, the GEF is undertaking an ambitious effort with the Government of Bangladesh, the World Bank, and Bangladesh's Infrastructure Development Company Limited to increase the spread of off-grid, renewable energy technologies, such as solar home systems.

Bangladesh Country Water Assistance Strategy - December 2005

Population growth combined with economic growth will increasingly stress water resources and this has the potential to be the dominant environmental and possibly the most important development issue facing Bangladesh in the coming half century. This Country Water Resources Assistance Strategy describes what the Bank can and will do to help improve country-level water management.

Building Country Capacity to Combat Climate Change - July 2006

Providing people, institutions, and developing countries with the tools and training to make choices about the environment is a critical element of Global Environment Facility (GEF) climate change projects. This paper includes the following topics: special focus on least developed countries and small-island developing states, indicators, civil society, and the national communications support program.

Manage Climate Risk: Integrating adaptation into World Bank Group Operations -June 2006

Climate change is already taking place, and further changes are inevitable. Developing countries, and particularly the poorest people in these countries, are most at risk. The impacts result not only from gradual changes in temperature and sea level but also, in particular, from increased climate variability and extremes, including more intense floods, droughts, and storms. The way to address these concerns is not to separate climate change adaptation from other priorities but to integrate comprehensive climate risk management into development planning, programs, and projects.

Natural Disasters Hotspots - June 2006

These case studies complement the earlier groundbreaking work of Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis published in April 2005. Three case studies address specific hazards: landslides, storm surges and drought. An additional, three case studies address regional multi-hazard situations in Sri Lanka, the Tana River basin in Kenya, and the city of Caracas, Venezuela.

Will Markets direct investments under Kyoto Protocol? - February 2007

Under the Kyoto Protocol, countries can meet treaty obligations by investing in projects that reduce or sequester greenhouse gases elsewhere. Prior to ratification, treaty participants agreed to launch country-based pilot projects, referred to collectively as Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ), to test novel aspects of the project-related provisions. Relying on a 10-year history of projects, the authors investigate the determinants of AIJ investment. Their findings suggest that national political objectives and possibly deeper cultural ties influenced project selection.

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