USAID Study Analyzes Climate Impacts in Mekong River Basin

usaid20 March 2014: The values at risk in key livelihood sectors from predicted climate change impacts are estimated to be at least US$16 billion per year, according to the findings of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) 'Mekong ARCC Climate Change Impact and Adaptation Study.' The study, which was inspired by an International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) study, considers climate impacts on agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and rural infrastructure and health.

The study analyzes the potential magnitude of climate impacts in the Mekong delta with the aim of translating them to local communities and policymakers to support adaptation investment. It predicts that climate-induced changes will make land unsuitable for certain crops and shift ecosystems upwards, as a result of more extreme river events, including drier dry seasons, wetter wet seasons, more frequent, extreme flooding and higher temperatures.

Climate change will also be a significant driver of biodiversity loss, accelerating the loss of populations and species, according to the report. It also predicts, inter alia, shifting geographic ranges for ecosystems and species and effects on ecosystem structure and function.

The estimated $16 billion a year at risk includes the values at risk from agricultural output, ecosystem services, infrastructure services and worker productivity. Infrastructure assets at risk are estimated at approximately $18 billion. The report concludes that adaptation expenditures are worth the investment, even if actual climate change costs turn out to be less than estimated.

Paul Hartman, director of the Mekong ARCC, emphasized that the study combines climate science projections with on-the-ground investigations on adaptation. He explained that the project works with farmers based on 2030 and 2050 projections, noting that “the assumption is that communities understand weather trends,” but their understanding is based on the past.

USAID is also publishing separate reports on biodiversity, food security, livelihoods, non-timber forest products, protected areas and water resources.

The CIAT study used global climate models in combination with local adaptation strategies, an approach that USAID drew upon for its study. CIAT is a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) [CIAT Press Release] [Publication: USAID Mekong ARCC Climate Change Impact and Adaptation Study: Summary Report]