Asia’s never-ending war against social, economic and environmental challenges has put the region’s stability under threat.
Along with many other pressing issues, political differences among the countries, growing population, unemployment and development in technology have pushed the region towards energy, water and food crises.
But one of the grand challenges Asia is confronting today is weather-extreme events which have been exacerbated by climate change to a large extent. The frequent occurrences of floods, heatwaves, droughts, increased cyclonic activity in the recent decade have made life miserable for the region’s inhabitants. Recent IPCC reports show that climate extremities will be higher and more severe in the future, and demand the earnest attention of all concerned – political leaders, policymakers and researchers alike.
However, unfortunately the issue has not received adequate attention, which has led to more adversity than expected. Lack of coordinated research – partly due to political differences among countries – is one of the reasons for not adequately addressing the concern of climate change collectively. Having considered this aspect, researchers from Pakistan, China, Nepal and Bangladesh decided to work jointly in addressing extreme weather events. Eventually, a concept ‘Towards robust projections of climate extremes and adaptation plans over South Asia’ was submitted to the Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN) – an intergovernmental network that promotes policy-oriented research and capacity-building activities related to global change in the region.
The APN receives financial contributions from the governments of Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand, with in-kind contribution from all its 22 member countries. It fosters an understanding of global environmental change by conducting regional research through collaboration and capacity development. The APN’s activities promote research which improves understanding of the physical, biological and human dimensions of change in the Earth system, and science that informs adaptation and mitigation decision-making and supports research on crosscutting issues, science-policy linkages and the human dimensions of global change.
The proposal got selected and was awarded funding for three years. It involves collaborators from Bangladesh, China, Nepal and Pakistan with some partner scientists from developed countries as USA, Japan, and Korea, and technical support of Brazilian scientist. The secretariat of the study is the Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC), Islamabad which is a dedicated research institute for climate change studies in Pakistan. The centre is mandated for national level R&D effort, capacity building, policy analysis, information dissemination and assistance to national planners and policymakers on issues related to past and projected future climatic changes in the country, their likely impacts on the key socio-economic sectors of the country such as water, food, agriculture, energy, forestry, health, and ecology, and appropriate adaptation and mitigation measures.
The major objectives of the aforementioned study include: historical analysis of extreme events, developing fine-scale climate change scenarios and devising adaptation options in the South Asian. The study will help the scientific community in designing climate change impact studies with more precise future climate change scenarios and extremes, and will guide planners and policymakers towards robust planning for a climate resilient South Asia.
The project is also expected to open doors for research collaboration in the region along with producing realistic and quality research on the vulnerability of the region to climatic extremes. Young researchers and students, particularly female students, will also be involved to enhance their capacities in the emerging field of climate change.
In an effort to bring all the collaborators and project partners on one platform, the first activity of the project comprised organizing the inception meeting back to back with a training workshop on ‘Observation and statistical models requirement for preparation of high resolution reference data’. The GCISC along with Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP), Chinese Academy of Sciences jointly held this workshop on October 21-23, 2019 in IAP, Beijing, China.
Scientists and students from Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Korea, Brazil, India, Tanzania and Tajikistan participated in the workshop, with equal participation of female students from Asia to ensure the gender balance. The workshop aimed not only to produce quality research work but also became the source of regional collaboration and harmony among researchers of the region for collective efforts to tackle the biggest challenge of this century. Also, the workshop comprised training sessions wherein renowned experts provided training on latest scientific techniques and tools related to research on climate extremes. So this activity provided a platform to promote regional research collaboration by developing a strong research network among project collaborators, young researchers and different institutions of South Asia.
Collaborative activities like this are very important to highlight coordination among South Asian scientists in research, along with providing motivation to other young researchers to follow the lead by grabbing such opportunities. Unfortunately, this process of collaboration efforts sometimes gets hampered due to stringent visa policies. Due to this, scientists are also reluctant to collaborate with each other.
Given the formidable challenge of climate change knocking at the door of the region, governments should encourage and facilitate regional collaborative research activities. Organizations like the APN should continue to implement mechanisms that make regional collaboration and trans-border meetings relevant for all APN-awarded projects in order to ensure productive and advanced research activities in the region. (For more information about the study, visit the APN project page)