Afghanistan

Climate Risk Country Profile - Afghanistan

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KEY MESSAGES

  • Afghanistan faces rates of warming higher than the global average with a potential rise of 1.4°C–5.4°C by the 2080s and the 2090s, compared with the baseline of 1986–2005. The range in possible temperature rises highlights the significant differences between 21st century emissions pathways.

  • Rises in the annual maximum and minimum temperature are projected to be greater than the rise in average temperature, likely amplifying the pressure on human health, livelihoods, and ecosystems.

  • Changes to Afghanistan’s rainfall regime, and hence water resources, are highly uncertain, but an increase in the incidence of drought conditions is very likely, and the shifts in the runoff regime have already been documented. Over the long-term, loss of glaciers could fundamentally disrupt regional water and hydropower supplies.

  • Arid land-cover is likely to expand either side of the Hindu Kush, leading to shifts in ecosystems and potentially loss of biodiversity.

  • Events over the early 21st century show the extreme vulnerability of Afghanistan’s communities to hazards such as drought and flash flooding. This vulnerability is amplified by poverty, undernourishment, food insecurity, and inequality.

  • Temperature increases are likely to place strain on urban dwellers, outdoor laborers, and the country’s energy network, with increased risk of heat-related sickness and fatalities under all emissions pathways.

  • Comprehensive understanding of current and future climate risks across multiple sectors is severely constrained by a lack of data and research. This is an obstacle to adaptation and disaster risk reduction for Afghanistan.

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

Afghanistan is a landlocked nation at the juncture of the Central, West, and South Asian regions. Afghanistan’s land surface includes considerable mountain cover, the Hindu Kush, with peaks as high as 7,000 meters (m). At lower altitudes are large expanses of arid steppe and a significant desert region found in the southwestern plateau. Though lacking in vegetation, these drier areas of the country nonetheless support biodiverse ecosystems and unique landscapes.

Afghanistan’s communities are ethnically and culturally diverse, and generally less urbanized. As a result of longrunning conflict and political turmoil, Afghanistan’s population is among the world’s most deprived, with a national poverty rate exceeding 50% in 2017, and the population also faces very significant issues with undernourishment (Table 1). Afghanistan has high unemployment and relies heavily on the agricultural sector, which constituted around 44% of employment in 2017, yet only 23% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The country’s vulnerability is recognized by Afghanistan’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted in 2016. Not only does the document highlight the nation’s very modest contribution to the causes of climate change, but also the significant deficit in financial resources available to adapt to the diverse hazards already beginning to manifest as a result of human-induced climate change. Afghanistan’s Second National Communication to the UNFCCC (NC2) highlights the country’s commitment to increase its adaptation capabilities for the key sectors of agriculture, human health, energy and infrastructure as well as increase the population’s overall awareness about climate change.

This document aims to succinctly summarize the climate risks faced by Afghanistan. This includes rapid onset and long-term changes in key climate parameters, as well as impacts of these changes on communities, livelihoods and economies, many of which are already underway. This is a high-level synthesis of existing research and analyses, focusing on the geographic domain of Afghanistan, therefore potentially excluding some international influences and localized impacts. The core data presented is sourced from the database sitting behind the World Bank Group’s Climate Change Knowledge Portal (CCKP), incorporating climate projections from the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5). This document is primarily meant for WBG and ADB staff to inform their climate action and to direct them to many useful sources of secondary data and research.

Due to a combination of political, geographic, and social factors, Afghanistan is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts in the world, ranked 176th out of 181 countries in the 2019 ND-GAIN Index.8 The ND-GAIN Index ranks 181 countries using a score which calculates a country’s vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges as well as their readiness to improve resilience. The more vulnerable a country is the lower their score, while the more ready a country is to improve its resilience the higher it will be. Norway has the highest score and is ranked 1st. Figure 1 is a time-series plot of the ND-GAIN Index showing Afghanistan’s development progress.

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