A new report published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that there is now a growing body of evidence that storms are becoming more intense as global warming heats the oceans; which would adversely affect supply chains in Asia. 

Strong hurricanes, typhoons and tropical storms will put global supply chains at significant risk across Asia. A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that there is now a growing body of evidence that storms are becoming more intense as global warming heats the oceans. This means Category 1, 2 and 3 storms will have fiercer winds, increasing them to Category 3, 4 or higher. Overall, the study’s modelling approach predicts a 40 percent increase in tropical cyclones of Category 3 and higher during the 21st Century.

The main message of the report is that we will see a significant increase in frequency and power of storms as we move closer to the middle of the century. Thus we have to continue to regard there being a not-trivial risk of increasing problems from tropical cyclones because of climate change, the report says.

Tropical cyclones feed off warm ocean water. In the ocean’s storm centres, heat rising from the ocean turns into water vapour. As the vapour rises and cools, it condenses into rain. This releases heat, which helps strengthen circulating storm activity. Warmer oceans mean more water vapour, and more intense storms.

In the new study based on climate change modeling, the North Pacific Ocean basin showed the strongest change in tropical-cyclone frequency and intensity. This means Asia and its global supply chains will be hit hardest by the changes, with higher-intensity storms striking more often. In addition, the model predicts that the South Indian Oceans will also see an increase in storm frequency and intensity.

One of the main implications of the research is that coastal cities (and ports) will need to improve their defences. Storms accompanied by sea level rises will increase the vulnerability of such areas to storm surge and potential disaster scenarios. The report represents a very significant upward revision of previous estimates of tropical cyclone activity in a warmer world, so it is unlikely that communities and states are prepared for, or even preparing for, the magnitude of future risks appropriately.

It is some of Asia’s most important manufacturing centres that are going to be at risk. Across Southern China, the Philippines, Japan and along the long coastline of Vietnam, for example, we are likely to see significant risks to the supply chains of large companies. India, Bangladesh and Myanmar are at risk as well.

Companies with supply chains in Asia need to start thinking about three issues:

  • Supply chain resilience: Ways in which outsourced manufacturers can be helped to prepared for climate related disasters and make their facilities more robust and less susceptible to storms and water inundation.
  • Business continuity planning: In the event of a major climate related disaster, companies will need to think about how they can prepare for recovery in a fast and efficient way that reduces supply chain disruptions.
  • Relocations and diversification of supply chains: Moving out of some of the highest risks areas is likely to be needed in worst cases. In addition, companies will need to make sure that they are not sourcing exclusively from one area in order to reduce the regional dependencies that can increase supply chain disruption risks.

Some of the worst storms will occur well into the future. But there are short term risks as well. The report reminds us that we better start thinking about supply chain risks sooner rather than later.




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