Cities at Risk

Cities at Risk: Building Adaptive Capacities for Managing Climate Change Risks in Asian Coastal Cities (CAR II)

Much of Asia’s rapid population and economic growth is occurring in large coastal cities that are at high risk from sea level rise and climate change.  Asia’s densely populated deltas and mega-deltas and other low-lying coastal urban areas are among those described in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report as “key societal hotspots of coastal vulnerability” with many millions of people potentially affected.

With the increase in population in coastal areas, there is an increased potential for loss of life and property.  In recent years, there have been many incidences of severe flooding particularly when high tides were combined with storm surges and high river flows.  The risks posed by climate change to Asia’s coastal population will persist, despite any greenhouse gas stabilization.  Future sea level rise and climate change are unavoidable as a result of existing high atmospheric CO levels and projected growth in population and infrastructure.

Physical risks and vulnerabilities in these regions are often accompanied by a deficit of adaptive capacity (i.e., the ability to cope with the risk and vulnerabilities posed by climate change) as the cities generally lack necessary resources – financial, human, and institutional – as well as access to relevant scientific information. Despite the urgent threats posed by the combination of sea level rise and climate change, local governments and the international development community have not as yet seriously considered the implications of climate change and sea level rise on rapidly growing coastal populations and infrastructure. This argues for urgent attention to risk and vulnerability assessment, awareness raising, and integration of science into planning and policy for the potentially affected areas.

Climate Change Workshops

Cities at Risk I 26-28 February 2009, Bangkok, Thailand

With support from APN, ICSU and Ibaraki University (Japan) the first Cities at Risk workshop brought together nearly 80 scientists, urban planners and officials, and representatives of disaster management and development agencies to review scientific findings and projections regarding climate-related risks (e.g., sea level rise, extreme climate events, intensification of storms and storm surges) for Asia’s coastal megacities. Participants examined potential vulnerabilities and current coping mechanisms in the cities and then discussed actions, in both the short and long term, that would enhance the capacity of cities to manage the risks and vulnerabilities posed by climate change.

Cities at Risk II 11-13 April 2011, Taipei, Taiwan

With support from the Academy of Sciences located in Taipei, Taiwan and other partners, a second international conference – Cities at Risk: Building Adaptive Capacities for Managing Climate Change Risks in Asian Coastal Cities (CAR II) – was held. The conference aimed to assess progress, to consolidate a network of researchers, decision‐ makers and institutions in the region and to identify priorities for the next several years. CAR II was sponsored by the IRDR International Center of Excellence and hosted by the Academia Sinica, Taipei. The conference was co-organized by START, the East-West Center and CCaR (Canada). For more information about workshops and/or follow-on activities, contact Clark Seipt,


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