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Climate Change: Transboundary Risks Loom

Climate change refers to certain changes in weather patterns and temperatures over a long period of time. Since the beginning of the 1800s, humans have been burning fossil fuels to contribute to the change of Earth’s climate. When fossil fuels are burnt, the earth feels a sense of greenhouse gas effect like a blanket wrapped overhead. 

A domino effect made by climate change supersedes every junction of the Earth’s creatures; including human, animal and plant worlds. Climate shocks have been imparting imminent risks to surroundings; melting of glaciers, shrinking of ice sheets, drying of wetlands, disappearing of flora and fauna, droughts, floods, heatwaves etc. Often such cascading consequences transmit countries, continents, sectors and systems encircling the aspects of human life, society, economy and polity, reshaping natural resources, ecosystem services, traded goods and services and mobility in unprecedented ways.

Assessing the volume risks pertaining to climate change and the impacts associated with the role of transboundary or cross-border risks is historic, though recently being discussed in rounds. Transboundary risks refer to those being triggered due to responses or adaptations to climate change, as a climate hazard is potentially susceptible to impact the neighbouring countries, to overlap across different regions and oceans and to harm distant vulnerable lands. For instance, a country that gets affected by floods could destroy its agricultural lands, thus pausing industrial activities and hindering commercial mobility all at a moment. What happens next, the country tends to impose export bans to protect domestic markets to absorb price shocks. 

The Global Transboundary Climate Risk Report published by Adaptation Without Borders, draws attention to a series of case studies to analyze various transboundary climate risks of importance that can potentially negatively affect the ecosystem, economy, and society. The report finds out that cross-border risks are actually taking place in all sectors and regions, from water resources in high mountain environments, to fish stocks in the open ocean, industrial supply chains, and energy and global finance systems, as well as human health, livelihoods, mobility patterns, and physical and mental well-being. Above all, It is a real-time analysis of risks, detailing given transboundary risks, their evolving nature in changing climate, their impacts across times and distances, modes of transmission etc.



Primarily, terrestrial resources of water carry a significant burden of risk, harming shared rivers that receive water from a catchment near melting glaciers, and flooded river embankments ending up with huge risks to infrastructure, supply and livelihood. Maritime resources and the coast nearby are affected badly in some regions, shrinking the stock of fish due to ocean water warming. It poses threats to global food security, and the same requires a shared adaptation framework to address the overlapping potential consequences to global and local livelihoods.


Agricultural commodities are affected, and the stability of food security is also in perils, disrupting the local and global supply chain of production, distribution and mobility. Grey areas across adequate and integrated risk assessments should be explored to share collective information, to coordinate decision-making in order to build restorative resilience. Cascaded risk would escalate risks across interconnected networks disrupting energy supplies, and hiking the bills on end customers globally and locally. Taking an assessment from a humanist perspective; health, mobility, and well-being will be in the doldrums of the spreading of vector-borne diseases and climate-sensitive diseases, reshuffling of the international labour market, the inverse flow of remittances, accelerated migration, and even illegal immigration and human trafficking across the borders. Transboundary risks are super relevant, yet a blindspot in climate policy, the nature of these risks is complex and invariably cascades in different ways. Simultaneously, it mandates a shared adaptive framework to channel the responses and global responsibility to redress the risks.



In an increasingly interconnected world, these risks are transmitted through resources and ecosystem services, trade links and mobility. As global warming increases, the risks are expected to outgrow to threaten entire societies and economies. Unfortunately, no country is immune, any country can get affected at any time, and the poorest will be most susceptible to risks if risks are combined with historic poverty and conflict. Since the risks are global, three-layered regional, international and local methods to adapt are essential to build collective resilience to climate change. Certain shortcomings compel us not only to rethink climate risk but also to enhance the way we plan adaptation, frame response and manage risks. Subsequently, the long-ingrained notion that adaptation is a local concern and mitigation is a global responsibility, is undermined. After all, it must be seen as a regional-to-global concern raising multi-pronged policy and governance challenges, requiring complex apparatus to better adapt, respond and plan. Opportunities for innovative research around transboundary risks, systematic design of indicators to track those risks, scenario-based studies and research are vital to characterize policy pathways to address transboundary climate risks. Despite having profound threats posed, they offer meaningful rooms to curate collective resilience to reap the harvest of coordinated climate adaptation across the globe.

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