Impacts of Climate Change and Air Pollution in the GMS

Surface ozone is a regional air pollutant growing in concentration in the Greater Mekong Sub-region and elsewhere in the world with serious implications for food security. Mean surface ozone concentrations are predicted to increase by about a quarter by 2020 in parts of the GMS. A number of important crops in the GMS are adversely affected by surface ozone at current concentrations, and recent studies predict East Asia is about to experience reductions in crop production due to increasing surface ozone, with major yield losses for wheat, rice, corn, and soybean. There is much less knowledge about impacts of surface ozone on biodiversity than on major crops, but surface ozone is known to have severe impacts on biodiversity. Impacts of other regional air pollutants, including acid deposition and the atmospheric brown cloud could also be important in the GMS within the next decade or two.

Human-induced climate change is a major environmental and development issue with serious implications for biodiversity, food security, and water. The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that observed changes in climate have already affected ecological, social, and economic systems, and sustainable development is threatened by climate change. The IPCC suggests that climate change is likely to result in a wide range of adverse effects including increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, increased intensity of storms, greater frequency of heat waves, floods and droughts, more rapid spread of diseases, and accelerated loss of biodiversity. These impacts are likely to reduce economic growth and exacerbate poverty in many developing countries. Examples of currently observed changes include:

Change in the characteristics of extreme weather and climate events (e.g. natural hazards such as storms and droughts);

  • A general reduction on crop yields in many tropical and sub-tropical regions;
  • Decreased water availability in water-scarce regions of the sub-tropics;
  • Shifts in plant and animal distribution ranges; and,
  • Increased exposure to vector-borne and water-borne diseases.

Due the dependence on agriculture and water resources in the GMS to support local livelihoods and economic development, these crop yield reductions will have major social, economic and environmental consequences.

If sustainable economic development is to be assured and the goals of the CEP-BCI are to be met, capacity building in all countries of the GMS is needed to strengthen regional assessments, communication and dissemination, and adaptive abilities in order to enable the environmental changes accompanying regional air pollution to be factored into development planning.

Countries of the Mekong subregion need to design and implement adaptation strategies aimed at enhancing the adaptive capacity and resilience of vulnerable communities as a matter of priority.

The project involved co-organizing four capacity building workshops to institutions in China, Thailand and Vietnam to adapt to climate change and air pollution using modeling, assessment and analysis.

Donor: Murdoch University (ADB funds)

Duration: November 2008 – December 2009


About the Project

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is executing the GMS Core Environment Program (CEP) and the Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative (BCI), which is a regional technical assistance program for promoting establishment of sound environmental management systems and institutions that mainstream environmental management and biodiversity conservation in the GMS Economic Cooperation Program and subregional development.

The project “Risks and Adaptation to Climate Change in BCI Pilot Sites in PRC, Thailand and Viet Nam” aims to build capacity and knowledge base to adapt to climate change by using modelling, assessment and analysis relevant to local needs, developed in partnerships with local institutions in the GMS countries.

The scope of work of the project includes:

Review current on-going work in PRC, Thailand, Viet Nam, being conducted by EANET and others to avoid duplication

This project supports the objectives of the CEP to:

    i) assess the environmental sustainability of priority development strategies and investment plans for the GMS economic sectors and corridors;
    ii) implement biodiversity corridor activities in at least five pilot sites;
    iii) institutionalize environmental performance assessment (EPA) and sustainable development procedures, systems and activities in the GMS countries;
    iv) development and institutionalization of GMS capacity for environmental management;
    v) program development, delivery and sustainable financing;

Workshops and Meetings

In support of the project, the following workshops were organized:

The project prepared a Report called “Regional Assessments and Profiles of Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in PRC, Thailand and Viet Nam” which tackles the following topics:

    • Future climate projection for Thailand and surrounding Countries: Climate Change Scenario of 21st Century
    • Impacts of climate change and adaptation in Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China
    • Impacts of Climate Change and Adaptation in Thailand
    • Impacts of Climate Change and Adaptation in Vietnam
    • Ground-level Ozone in the GMS
    • Modeling of Future Ozone Levels
    • Acid deposition in the GMS
    • Air quality monitoring in the central part of Vietnam
    • Acid deposition in Kanchanaburi