Info

degradation

North Asia

+1 /H

-2/M

+1 /M

-1 / M

-1 /M

-1 /M

-1 /M

Central Asia and West Asia

-2/H

-1 /M

-2/VH

-1 /L

-2/M

-1 /M

-2/H

Tibetan Plateau

+1 /L

-2/M

-1 /M

Not applicable

No information

No information

-1 /L

East Asia

-2/VH

-2/H

-2/H

-2/H

-1 /H

-1 /H

-2/H

South Asia

-2/H

-2/H

-2/H

-2/H

-2/M

-1 /M

-2/H

South-East Asia

-2/H

-2/H

-1 /H

-2/H

-2/H

-1 /M

-2/H

Vulnerability: -2 - Highly vulnerable

-1 - Moderately vulnerable 0 - Slightly or not vulnerable +1 - Moderately resilient +2 - Most resilient

Level of confidence: VH-Very high H - High M - Medium L - Low VL - Very low

Vulnerability: -2 - Highly vulnerable

-1 - Moderately vulnerable 0 - Slightly or not vulnerable +1 - Moderately resilient +2 - Most resilient

Level of confidence: VH-Very high H - High M - Medium L - Low VL - Very low the priority concerns based on the most likely future outcomes. However, some of the greatest concerns emerge not from the most likely future outcomes but rather from possible 'surprises'. Growing evidence suggests the ocean-atmosphere system that controls the world's climate can lurch from one state to another, such as a shutdown of the 'ocean conveyor belt' in less than a decade. Certain threshold events may become more probable and non-linear changes and surprises should be anticipated, even if they cannot be predicted with a high degree of confidence. Abrupt or unexpected changes pose great challenges to our ability to adapt and can thus increase our vulnerability to significant impacts (Preston et al., 2006).

The spotlight in climate research is shifting from gradual to rapid or abrupt change. There is some risk that a catastrophic collapse of the ice sheet could occur over a couple of centuries if polar water temperatures warm by a few degrees. Scientists suggest that such a risk has a probability of between 1 and 5% (Alley, 2002). Because of this risk, as well as the possibility of a larger than expected melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, a recent study estimated that there is a 1% chance that global sea level could rise by more than 4 metres in the next two centuries (Hulbe and Payne, 2001).

10.8.3 Research gaps and priorities

A number of fundamental scientific questions relating to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the behaviour of the climate system need to be critically addressed. These include (a) the future usage of fossil fuels, (b) the future emissions of methane (Slingo et al., 2005; Challinor et al., 2006), (c) the fraction of the future fossil-fuel carbon that will remain in the atmosphere and provide radiative forcing versus exchange with the oceans or net exchange with the land biosphere, (d) details of the regional and local climate change given an overall level of global climate change, (e) the nature and causes of the natural variability of climate and its interactions with forced changes, and (f) the direct and indirect effects of the changing distributions of aerosols.

An effective strategy for advancing the understanding of adverse impacts of climate change in Asia will require strengthening the academic and research institutions to conduct innovative research on the response of human and natural systems to multiple stresses at various levels and scales. Key specific research-related priorities for Asia are:

• basic physiological and ecological studies on the effects of changes in atmospheric conditions;

• enhancing capability to establish and maintain observation facilities and to collect, and compile, climatic, social and biophysical data;

• improvement of information-sharing and data networking on climate change in the region;

• impacts of extreme weather events such as disasters from flood, storm surges, sea-level rise, heatwaves, plant diseases and insect pests;

• identification of social vulnerability to multiple stressors due to climate change and environmental change;

• adaptation researches concerning agro-technology, water resources management, integrated coastal zone management; pathology and diseases monitoring and control;

• sectoral interaction such as between irrigation and water resources, agricultural land use and natural ecosystem, water resources and cropping, water resources and livestock farming, water resources and aquaculture, water resource and hydropower, sea-level rise and land use, sea-water invasion and land degradation;

• mainstreaming science of climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability in policy formulation; and

• identification of the critical climate thresholds for various regions and sectors.

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