Temperatures in South-East Asia’s Lower Mekong Basin are set to rise by up to three times the global average temperature increase, according to a USAID-funded study.
Previous reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that the basin would see increases in line with the global average of around two degrees Celsius.
But according to a preliminary report by the Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change Project (Mekong ARCC) released on March 29, parts of the basin could see annual temperatures increase by as much as six degrees Celsius by 2050.
It also predicts that areas such as Mondulkiri province in Cambodia could experience doubling of the number of days with heavy rainfall, up from just nine days annually.
The authors of the study – a complete version of which will be released in May – warn that if local communities do not adapt, their crop yields will fall significantly, causing severe food insecurity.
“We’ve found that this region is going to experience climate extremes in temperature and rainfall beyond anything that we had expected,” says Jeremy Carew-Reid, the study’s lead author, and director of the International Center for Environmental Management, one of the organisations tasked with implementing the five-year project.
The Lower Mekong Basin, which encompasses most of Cambodia and Laos, and parts of Thailand and Vietnam, is primarily rural, with 70 percent of its 60 million inhabitants working as farmers or fishermen.
But as temperatures increase, the region’s suitability for certain crops and aquaculture will change. Farmers could find that yields from crops that once thrived, including staples such as cassava, will plummet.