The State of the Climate in Asia 2021 report highlights how climate change impacts are wreaking an ever-increasing human, financial and environmental toll, worsening food insecurity and poverty and holding back sustainable development. In 2021 alone, weather and water-related hazards caused total damage of US$ 35.6 billion, affecting nearly 50 million people.
The report paints a worrying scenario for future water stress. High Mountain Asia, including the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, contains the largest volume of ice outside of the polar region, with approximately an area of 100,000 km2 of glacier coverage. The rate of glacier retreat is accelerating and many glaciers suffered from intense mass losses as the result of exceptionally warm and dry conditions in 2021. These so-called water towers of the world are vital for freshwater supplies for the most densely populated part of the planet and so glacier retreat has major implications for future generations.
Economic losses are also on the rise for most types of disasters. Economic damage from drought has increased by 63 percent, from flood has increased by 23 percent, and from landslides has increased by 147 percent compared to the 2001 - 2020 average.
In 2021, there were a total of more than 100 natural hazard events in Asia, of which 80 percent were flood and storm events. These resulted in almost 4,000 fatalities, about 80 percent caused by flooding. Overall, 48.3 million people were directly affected by these hazards, causing total economic damage of US$ 35.6 billion. While floods caused the highest fatalities and economic damage, drought in the region affected the highest number of people.
The report, which was produced jointly with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), was presented today at the UN climate change negotiations, COP27, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.