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Myanmar - Climate

Climate change is a major challenge for the development of Myanmar. It is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, exposed to multiple hazards, including floods, cyclones, earthquakes, landslides and droughts. Along with Puerto Rico and Honduras, Myanmar is one of three countries most affected by climate change in the period 1999-2018 according to the 2020 Global Climate Risk Index and 19th out of 191 countries on the INFORM Index for Risk Management.

Myanmar is one of the most highly vulnerable countries in the world to the adverse impacts of climate change facing threats from extreme weather events, sea level rise, flooding and drought. Without action to adapt to these threats, the prospects for the economic development of the population of over 50 million will be hindered and our environment degraded. In 2015, for the third consecutive year, Myanmar was ranked globally by studies, as the second most vulnerable country in the world to extreme weather events over the last 20 years.

The climate of the country is under the influence of the southwest monsoon, which blows off the Indian Ocean and divides the year into three seasons: a rainy season, from late May to late October; a cool season, from late October to mid-February; and a hot season, from mid-February to late May. Despite the influence of the monsoon over much of the country, the amount of rainfall varies sharply by area. Along the coastline, where the west monsoon winds are forced to rise and cool, annual rainfall is very heavy. In drier upland areas annual precipitation is considerably less.

The drenching monsoons inundate the plains and even help the drier uplands during the rainy season of roughly three months. Trapped in ancient irrigation canals - low earth dikes - this life-giving water has supported centuries of ricegrowers in what is often called Lower Burma (approximately the lower one-third of the country), including the coastal and river delta regions that, particularly during the last hundred years, were opened up to cultivation.

Lower Burma may also refer to the area annexed by the British in their second war against the Burmese in the mid-nineteenth century. In general, it may be thought of as the wet-rice region that is not the historical heart of the country but rather the more modern agricultural rice-basket centering on the modern-day capital of Rangoon. North and upriver of the wet-rice plains are the drier heartlands of Upper Burma, where the classical civilizations of Burma developed.

According to the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, Myanmar’s climate is changing, with some observable trends over the last six decades. These include an increase in mean temperature, an increase in overall rainfall in most areas with a declining trend in some areas, late onset and early termination of the south-west monsoon. Overall there has been an increase in extreme weather events and a rise in sea level. With the largest standing forests on mainland South East Asia, Myanmar currenily absorbs more greenhouse gases than it emits, thereby already making a significant contribution to global efforts to tackle climate change.

Tropical Cyclone Nargis caused the loss of 138,000 lives in 2008 and devastated of infrastructure, causing long-term adverse socioeconomic impacts. The estimated total cost of loss and damage due to Nargis to the national economy is estimated to be over USD4bn. The severe effects of the storm were compounded by the inept reaction from Myanmar’s government at the time, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The secretive military regime left international warnings unheeded, prevented accurate counting of civilian deaths, and prevented aid workers from entering the country in the wake of the powerful storm. Already under pressure from human rights advocates and the target of international sanctions, the SPDC was unwilling to lose further credibility by displaying its inability to protect its citizens to the world community. This strategy backfired, however, and only led to increased criticism of an ineffectual government that would be out of power less than three years later.

During mid-2015, Myanmar experienced floods of unprecedented proportions. Observed changes in the past decades include rain patterns variations that erre causing climate-driven migration that affect, for instance, the socio-economic conditions of dry regions due to increased occurrences of drought. In addition, climate models predict further sustained impacts from climate change in future, which will further expose Myanmar to the negative impacts of climate change.

Adaptation actions in agriculture, forestry, water, infrastructure and bio-diversity, among others, are being currently implemented, while reducing risks of disasters remains a main programme and policy focus. Myanmar wishes to highlight to the international community that, while committed to making an evidence-based contribution to global mitigation efforts, the national priority is to adapt to the devastating effects of climate change.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 15:39:54 ZULU