The report, produced by WWF, the environmental pressure group, puts the two financial hubs in the top 10 cities threatened by climate change in Asia, the region widely believed to be most vulnerable to rising global temperatures.
It warns that Hong Kong is in danger from higher sea levels, which are likely to rise 40cm-60cm in China’s Pearl River delta by 2050, increasing the area of coastline that is vulnerable to flooding by up to six times.
Costs imposed by typhoons are also likely to rise dramatically, the report says, noting that 14 of the 21 extreme storm surges between 1950 and 2004 occurred after 1986.
The number of nights when Hong Kong temperatures rise above 28°C has risen almost fourfold since the 1960s, while the number of winter nights when the temperature falls below 12°C is predicted to fall from an average of 21 to zero within 50 years.
For Singapore, the report says, the sea level is forecast to rise by 60cm by the end of the century, eroding coastal protection and decreasing the shoreline of the city state, making it more vulnerable to storm surges and flooding.
The report says climate change could also increase the prevalence of dengue fever. The number of cases has been rising in periodic outbreaks and the last significant peak, in 2007, saw the third highest number of outbreaks ever.
Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, heads the list of the most vulnerable cities, mainly because of its position in a big river delta already subject to periodic flooding, its low average height above sea level and its poverty, which makes protection and adaptation more difficult.
Other cities at risk include Jakarta and Manila, which rank equal second, Calcutta and Phnom Penh, which are equal third, Ho Chi Minh and Shanghai, equal fourth, Bangkok, fifth, and Kuala Lumpur, which ties with Hong Kong and Singapore for sixth place.
The report calls on developed countries to agree to shoulder the bulk of the costs required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to finance an adaptation fund to pay for changes required in developing countries, and to provide recompense for losses and damage caused by climate-related catastrophes.
However, the report also says that vulnerable cities and national governments should take action themselves, including better management of coastal habitats and ecosystems.
The report is timed to influence the 21 heads of government attending this week’s Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Singapore, before the global climate change summit in Copenhagen next month.
The Yangtze river basin is being increasingly affected by extreme weather and its ecosystems are under threat, environmentalists say.
This has led to an increase in flooding, heat waves and drought.
Further temperature rises will have a disastrous effect on biodiversity in and along the river, the report says.
The WWF – formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund – predicts that in the next 50 years temperatures will go up by between 1.5C and 2C.
The group’s report is the largest assessment yet of the impact of global warming on the Yangtze River Basin, where about 400 million people live.
Data was collected from 147 monitoring stations. The report’s lead researcher, Xu Ming, said the forthcoming Copenhagen negotiations on climate change would have an obvious and direct influence on the Yangtze.
“Controlling the future emissions of greenhouse gases will benefit the Yangtze river basin, at the very least from the perspective of drought and water resources,” he said.
The report says the predicted weather events and temperature rises will lead to declines in crop production, and rising sea levels will make coastal cities such as Shanghai vulnerable.
Some of the problems could be averted by strengthening river reinforcements, and switching to hardier crops, its authors suggest.
Source: BBC, 10.11.2009