Some of the factors making countries in the Greater Mekong region extremely vulnerable to climate change:
- High exposure to severe storms
- High sensitivity to warmer temperatures and precipitation patterns
- Large populations living in low-lying and coastal areas
- Heavy dependence on ecosystems and natural resources
- Relatively low adaptive capacity of many institutions and communities
Climate change, a threat multiplier in the Greater Mekong region
Climate change is best viewed as an ‘amplifier’ of current environmental threats
such as habitat loss, poorly planned infrastructure, and unsustainable natural resource extraction.
These threats weaken ecosystem resilience (the capacity of ecosystems to ‘bounce back’ or recover from disturbances and damage), which makes ecosystems even more vulnerable to climate change—a downward spiral that ultimately has serious consequences for humans too.
Likewise, warmer temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and other manifestations of climate change directly stress ecosystems, rendering them prone to other human pressures including invasive species, pest outbreaks, fire, and changes in the movement, distribution, and quality of water.
Poorly planned responses to climate change can have negative consequences
The unintended negative consequences of human responses to climate change
are also extremely difficult to address. Human responses intended to reduce vulnerability, if not carefully conceived with sufficient geographic scope, may increase vulnerability by degrading ecosystems and increasing the exposure or sensitivity of people. That is why WWF is promoting integrated approaches to addressing climate change
A cascading effect
Ecosystem deterioration in combination with climate change will have cascading effects, which will negatively affect people. For example, water scarcity (resulting from extreme droughts over successive years) may reduce agricultural productivity, which will lead to food scarcity, unemployment and poverty.
Beyond the acute impact of stronger and more frequent extreme climate-related events, people will also suffer "chronically" from an accelerated degradation of the ecosystems. The region’s poorest people will be disproportionately affected.