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The East-West Center Research Program works with research and policy communities in the US and the Asia Pacific to provide more complete knowledge and deeper understanding of environments, societies, economies, governments, and international relations in the region. Research is conducted in close collaboration with networks of individuals and institutions throughout Asia and the Pacific and is shared broadly with planners, policymakers, regional specialists, the media, and the general public.

 

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In Hawai‘i and the Pacific Islands, Climate Change Means Billions of Dollars of Coastal Damage, Widespread Coral Death, and Human Health Risks, Official US Assessment Finds

Strained freshwater supplies, damaged and compromised coastal infrastructure, coral reef death, and greater stresses on native biodiversity and species are among the major concerns and challenges detailed in the Hawai‘i-Pacific Islands chapter of the fourth official US National Climate Assessment, released on 23 November 2018. In economic terms, the impacts add up to billions of dollars.

The chapter on Hawai‘i and the US-Affiliated Pacific Islands appears in Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, the most significant US report to assess the effects of climate change on the US economy and communities. The assessment finds that early action to address these impacts can lower economic, environmental, social, and cultural costs and could help to prevent conflict or displacement from lands and resources.

“This report makes it clear that climate change has arrived far sooner and as a greater threat than we previously thought,” said Dr. Victoria Keener of the East-West Center. The Center’s Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (Pacific RISA) team served as the chapter’s regional lead. “Here on O‘ahu, we already see road closures during morning rush hour because of flooding, and with sea level rise we’ll see this more and more. Our Pacific Island neighbors on atolls will face sustainability challenges sooner rather than later. The world’s largest insurers recently stated that climate change is creating an ‘uninsurable’ world. Only by acting now can we hope to effectively manage these risks.”

 

East-West Center Authors Participate in Broad Review of Climate Hazards

East-West Center researchers Abby Frazier and Keith Bettinger are among the authors of a new study published in Nature Climate Change, Broad threat to humanity from cumulative climate hazards intensified by greenhouse gas emissions. The study provides one of the most comprehensive assessments yet of how humanity is being affected by the simultaneous occurrence of multiple climate hazards. This assessment indicates that society faces a much larger threat from climate change than previous studies have suggested. The systematic review of thousands of scientific papers revealed 467 ways in which climate hazards—including warming, drought, heat-waves, wildfires, precipitation, floods, storms, sea level rise and changes in land cover and ocean chemistry—have already impacted human health. In connection with the article, more than 3,000 documented case examples, with supporting papers, are listed at http://impactsofclimatechange.info/.

 

New Book on Family Demography in Asia

As the biggest driver of population growth in the world, Asia's demographic future is a global issue, and an understanding of patterns and trends in fertility throughout Asia is critical to understand our shared demographic future. Family Demography in Asia: A Comparative Analysis of Fertility Preferences, soon to be published by Edward Elgar, explores the heterogeneous experience of Asia, home to some of the highest and lowest fertility rates in the world. This is the first book to analyse fertility comprehensively and systematically across the continent through the perspective of individuals themselves rather than as a consequence of top-down government policies. Adjunct Senior Fellow Minja Kim Choe and graduate student Ki Tae Park authored the chapter on South Korea, and Choe is one of the book's co-editors.

 

Report Explores the Conflict Resource Economy and Pathways to Peace in Burma

Burma’s natural resource economy is inextricably tied to the ongoing armed conflict within the country. Questions of who has what ownership rights over what resources and how these resources can be more equitably shared with the wider population loom large. The Conflict Resource Economy and Pathways to Peace in Burma, a report published in November 2018 by the United States Institute of Peace, focuses on Burma’s resource-rich ethnic states and territories near the borders with China and Thailand and suggests that a more robust, accountable, and equitable system for managing the country’s resource wealth can help lay down the pathways to peace. The author of the report, Kevin M. Woods, is a political ecologist and human geographer who specializes in land and natural resource management and its governance reform in ethnic conflict areas. Woods is an Adjunct Fellow at the East-West Center.

 

International Meeting on 25 Years of Community Forestry: Mapping Tree Dynamics in the Middle Hills of Nepal

Since the 1980s, Nepal has gained worldwide recognition for path-breaking achievements in community forest management. Mapping Nepal’s forest transition and developing a comprehensive understanding of factors underlying observed changes in tree cover are critical if Nepal is to improve upon its already successful resource initiative.

An international meeting and hands-on workshop will take place in Kathmandu, Nepal, from 29 November to 4 December 2018, to discuss the rate, extent, and socioeconomic importance of Nepal’s tree transition based on three decades of Landsat satellite data and spatial modeling. The meeting has four overarching themes: (1) Describing project methodologies (satellite image processing, census and interview data analysis, and spatial modeling); (2) Documenting annual tree-cover change since 1990; (3) Identifying physiographic and socioeconomic variables associated with tree-cover change and quantifying their respective influences; and (4) Assessing how foreign labor migration and remittances correlate with tree cover and the future of community forestry in Nepal.

More information about the meeting is available on the South/Southeast Asia Research Initiative (SARI) website.

 

East-West Center Receives NOAA Grant to Study Climate-Induced Migration from the Marshall Islands

The East-West Center has recently been awarded a $477,079 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to study climate-induced migration from the Republic of the Marshall Islands. This collaborative project will expand knowledge about the health and other effects of climate change in the Marshall Islands and improve the use of climate information to better serve migrant populations in both sending and receiving communities.

 

Rubber Plantations Replace Forests in Southeast Asia

Terraces with rubber trees in Southeast Asia
Ninety-seven percent of the world's natural rubber comes from Southeast Asia.

Over the past 50 years, the mountainous region of mainland Southeast Asia has witnessed a dramatic expansion of commercialized agriculture. The emphasis has been on tree-based cash crops and, in particular, on rubber.
Much of this expansion has come at the expense of the region’s native forests.

In Rubber Has Replaced Natural Forests in Southeast Asia, Kaspar Hurni and Jefferson Fox chart the expansion of rubber production in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Shan State in Myanmar, and Xishuangbanna refecture in China. By 2014, rubber accounted for 8 percent of the total land cover in an area twice the size of France. Seventy percent of this expansion came at the espense of natural forests.

In Opium, Rubber, and a Land Grab on Myanmar's Border with China, Kevin Woods notes that the Myanmar government has allocated large tracts of land to private businesses—often with ties to the military or to favored local armed groups. These "land grabs"—ostensibly to grow rubber—have often been financed in part by the Chinese government under the guise of a crop substitution program to reduce the production of opium poppies. In the process, conflict between ethnic-based armed rebel groups and the national military has only increased.

In a third issue of the East-West Wire, Jefferson Fox and his colleagues describe two very different ways in which rubber production has expanded throughout the region In China, Thailand, and Vietnam, many local farmers have started growing rubber trees, and some have become wealthy. In Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, by contrast, traditional farmers are being squeezed out by large companies. Government policies and programs appear to make all the difference in who benefits from expanded rubber production and who does not.

 

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