Conference “Climate Change and the Asian Monsoon: Impact and consequences for Asian civilization" (June, 19, 2015) [fr]
Co-organized by Civic Exchange and the Institute of Environment, Energy and Sustainability (IEES) of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), with the support of the SWIRE Trust, the Fondation Croucher and the Consulate general of France in Hong Kong and Macau, this conference brang the messages from the AGU (American Geophysical Union) Chapman Conference on the Asian Monsoon which took place on the 17th and 18th June 2015 at CUHK.
Two-thirds of humanity rely on agriculture in the South and East Asian monsoon regions. The rainfall in these regions has been variable in the past with severe societal and economic consequences. Global warming is expected to make it more variable.
What does science tell us about how it has varied in the past, how it may vary in the future and how we can respond to these changes?
Scientists from different sides discussed these challenges faced by Asian monsoon regions under the threat of climate change, as well as the mitigation and adaptation measures that could be taken in meeting such challenges.
Two sessions structured the conference.
Firstly, the question about what science tells us about how the monsoon has changed in the past and how it may vary in the future, was raised.
A geologist, Prof. Peter Clift, from Louisiana State University (USA) detailed the methods geologists used to observe the rainfall quantitative and geographic variations, over the past 20,000 years. Professor Clift noted that if Southeast Asia had already experienced severe weather disturbances, those announced for the future will be unprecedented.
Then an anthropologue, Prof. Barry Rolett from the University of Hawaii, explained the different interactions between the evolution of civilizations and monsoons and how great civilizations have been able to adapt -or not- the important rainfall variations in the past. Prof. Rolett notably detailed the case of the Maya and the Mongols, major civilizations of the past millennia that had not been able to adapt, and instead - the Khmer people, first civilization of Angkor, which was able to adapt properly to these climatic changes.
To conclude the first session, a geophysicist, Prof. William Lau, University of Maryland, described the different methods of weather forecasting, climate observations and for modelling future climate changes.
The second session was a panel discussion moderated by a meteorologist from Météo-France - Dr. Jean Philippe Lafore - who gave the opportunity to participants to discuss the various options available to civilizations to adapt themselves to these changes.
First, a geographer, Dr. Harry F. Lee from the University of Hong Kong, presented different challenges civilizations, victims of such climate changes, would have to overcome.Doctor Harry F. Lee described the example of Darfur (Sudan) and demonstrated the links between climate change and human disasters, such as genocide, wars, shortages, diseases, etc. He also stressed that – in despite of the unavoidable climate change- civilizations will be impacted by changes in monsoons until in the next century.
Dr. Jean Philippe Lafore then detailed his studies of the African monsoon and explained that the results achieved on this continent could be extrapolated to Southeast Asia. Also, Dr. Lafore told again that climate changes generated - even today - a lot of social and economic and political conflicts. Dr. Lafore again insisted that in addition of climatic problems that will generate rainfall variations, humanity must also be prepared to undergo human conflicts.
Following his presentation, Dr. Lafore moderated a roundtable with all stakeholders, which answered many questions from the audience, consisting of a hundred people, of which 50% came from mainland China, which shown a real interest of the Chinese for these climate challenges of tomorrow.
Prof. Gabriel Lau, Director of the IEES and Mrs. Yan Yan Yip, Chief Executive Officer of Civic Exchange, ended the conference by thanking the speakers for the quality of their presentations and discussions with the public, and thanking sponsors and the Consulate General of France for their support in organizing this conference.
Isabelle SAVES, Attachée for Scientific and Academic affairs
Julie METTA, Scientific officer
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