Dhaka, Manila & Jakarta Worst Climate-Affected Asian Mega-Cities - Hits Closer to Home Than You Might Think

jakarta photo

Jakarta, Indonesia photo: flydime via flickr.

Want to know which cities in Asia are going to get really whacked by climate change, and which ones have the greatest ability to adapt to it? Well, WWF has just released a new report that ranks 11 of them in terms of their climate vulnerability. Let's just say being a resident on Dhaka, Manila or Jakarta isn't going to be much fun towards the middle of this century and beyond:In terms of overall vulnerability to climate change, Dhaka, Bangladesh fared the worst, with a score of 9 out of 10 -- the city's more than 13 million people have high environmental exposure to both increased flooding and sea level rise, have high socio-economic sensitivity, and very little adaptive capacity to deal with climate impacts due to very low incomes and development levels.

dhaka photo

Dhaka, Bangladesh photo: b k via flickr.

Next worst is Jakarta. The Indonesian capital fares slightly better than Dhaka, and is under much less stress from increasing storms (though sea level rise and flooding risks are still high). However, it is much more subject to socio-economic stresses due to climate change -- a huge portion of the nation's GDP is generated in Jakarta and it has a large population. In terms of adaptive capacity, things are slightly better than Dhaka, Jakarta scoring 7 out of 10 (in this case high scores indicated worse performance).

manila flooding
Manila is the third-worst Asian mega-city in terms of climate change, scoring similarly to Jakarta overall. But in terms of exposure to sea level rise, flooding (as the photo at left shows), storms, Manila is the worst in the lot. Socio-economic sensitivity is moderate for the cities surveyed, but threats are still high -- the same can be said of adaptive capacity, which is similar to Jakarta.

Calcutta, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai on the Front Lines
Rounding out the most climate-threatened cities surveyed are: Calcutta and Phnom Penh (7/10), Ho Chi Minh City and Shanghai (6/10), Bangkok (5/10), Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore (4/10) -- the last three scoring as they did more because of their comparatively higher incomes and adaptive capacity to other cities in the region, rather than lower exposure to the effects of climate change.

But what about elsewhere in the world?

Most TreeHugger readers are from the United States, Canada, and to a lesser extent, Europe. How would New Orleans, or Miami compare to the least vulnerable cities surveyed here. Keeping in mind this is just some quite back-of-the-napkin analysis, let's look at Singapore and extrapolate a bit.

Singapore is Vulnerable But Has High Adaptive Capacity
For those not up on Southeast Asian geography, Singapore is an island city-state and the bottom of the Malay Peninsula. It's the third most densely populated country in the world, packing 4.7 million people into 274 square miles (a bit smaller than all of New York City). In terms of purchasing power parity, its per capita income is about $51,000, making it the sixth wealthiest country in the world.

Due to its unique geography (read: no farmland, limited water supplies), it is dependent on imports for nearly all its food, and water stress is growing. The threat of sea-level rise is genuine as is flooding, but due to its high income adaptive capacity is great (1 out of 10).

singapore photo

Singapore photo: Leong Him Woh via flickr.
New Orleans Will Probably Fare Worse Than Some Asian Cities
Let's look at New Orleans: Sitting at the end of the Mississippi River on the Gulf of Mexico, as Hurricane Katrina showed, it is extremely vulnerable to storms and flooding, and sea level rise is a major concern. In terms of adaptive capacity, New Orleans per capita income is about $17,250. Louisiana's is a bit over $31,000 per capita, which is about $6,000 below the national average. Again, this is just a very rough comparison, but New Orleans could easily fare worse than Singapore.

hurricane katrina flooding

Hurricane Katrina flooding in New Orleans, photo: Matt Morgan via flickr.
Miami Very Vulnerable As Well
Miami/Dade County doesn't fare any better: High vulnerability to storms, saltwater inundation, sea level rise, combined with per capita income (standing in for adaptive capacity) of about $18,500 per year. It's a recipe for disaster. If it was a choice between Singapore and Miami, Singapore will likely fare far better.

Which is all to say, reports like this aren't just about some city on the other side of the world and how bad things are going to get there. They are just as much about how bad things are going to get closer to home.

Read more: Mega-Stress for Mega Cities [PDF]

Manila flooding photo: zandie via flickr.
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