By Shiloh Fetzek and Heather Messera
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) released a regional study in September on climate-related disaster vulnerability and socioeconomic and fragility risks in Asia-Pacific, articulating their view of climate change as one of the greatest threats to global security and economic prosperity.
The report, ‘Analysis and Proposal of Foreign Policies Regarding the Impact of Climate Change on Fragility in the Asia-Pacific Region – With focus on natural disasters in the Region’, is the product of a roundtable seminar, that included participation by the Center for Climate and Security’s (CCS) Shiloh Fetzek, and follow-up meetings hosted by Japan in connection with the G7 Working Group on Climate Change and Fragility.
The interdisciplinary nature of the analysis is evident in its exploration of a broad array of factors that may play into socioeconomic and fragility dynamics, ranging from risks to supply chains, rural/urban and young/old wealth disparities, access to technology and more. Approaching a multifaceted issue in this way gives the discussion utility across a range of sectors and users, to promote resilience across development, adaptation and mitigation projects, bilateral relationships and regional cooperation. By engaging an expert community of practice to consider these issues, it helps build a much-needed bridge between scientists and policy-makers in this arena.
More of this analysis is needed in a region shaped by disaster vulnerability, highly integrated economies and a large and growing population, particularly in areas susceptible to natural disasters. While the main focus of this report is on climate-related dynamics and socioeconomic vulnerability, it lays the groundwork for expanding analysis into higher-order security risks around social and political instability. Further examination of these risks in Asia-Pacific could help to emphasize the dangers the region faces, and expand the climate issue out of the economic and development ‘box’.
This report looks specifically risks associated with cyclones, storm surges, wave height and transitional changes in agricultural production in Asia-Pacific, within the framework of the seven climate fragility risks put forward in “A New Climate for Peace”, the first G7 foreign ministerial report on climate change and fragility.
Following from these, the report highlights that security repercussions of climate change are most likely to come about through increased social insecurity due to rapid urbanization and a widening socioeconomic disparity, development challenges around sluggish economic growth and decline in rural agriculture, tensions around rural/urban and young/old wealth disparities, challenges around social security provision for an aging population in the context of climate impacts (including economic impacts), and challenges around poorly-facilitated urban and transboundary migration and its associated security risks.
It also notes the risks that sea level rise presents to atoll islands and rapidly urbanizing coastal regions in the Pacific. It details ways in which migration in the context of climate change can exacerbate these challenges in Asia-Pacific, from brain drain to inadequate infrastructure in destination communities.
One of the goals of the report is to share risk evaluation methodology, so that it can be applied to areas and studies which focus on regions outside of the Asia-Pacific. The report also concludes that there is a need for more extensive scenario building and greater modeling (including qualitative analysis) for better prediction of potential future political, economic and social fluctuations or instability factors.
The report’s findings echo CCS’s recent report “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene,” which include a number of cast studies Asia-Pacific region, and explore the need to enhance tools and practices for managing systemic risks. The findings also add an additional layer of substance to considerations of the intersection of climate-human security risks and more geostrategic considerations in the region, as covered in CCS’s “The U.S. Asia-Pacific Rebalance, National Security and Climate Change.”
 These are: local resource competition, livelihood insecurity and migration, extreme weather events and disasters, volatile food prices and provision (access to food), transboundary water management, sea level rise and coastal degradation, and unintended effects of climate policies (the “unknown unknowns”).