The Woodrow Wilson Center's ECSP and China Environment Forum received a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to investigate Asia's most serious environmental challenges by bringing together global experts to hold discussions that will enable us to identify trends and opportunities to improve Asia's future environment. The report is now available online.

Asia's Future: Critical Thinking for a Changing Environment

The phenomenal economic development across much of Asia in recent decades, along with its integration into global markets, underlie the greatest threats to the region's environment in the next 20 years. Rising living standards over a relatively short time frame, at an uneven rate across the region, have greatly increased both the demand for Asia's natural resources and the ensuing environmental wastes. As the new "producer for the world," the region requires as much energy, freshwater and raw materials as can be obtained both for domestic consumption among growing populations and to fuel export markets. Projected effects of climate change such as rising sea levels, melting glaciers and emphasis on renewable energy sources will only compound these stressors. Even Asia's impressive growth in science and technology, including manufacturing, communications technology, biotech and nanotechnology and its nascent, yet growing, environmental awareness are inadequate to keep up with the pressure of development. Although the global economic crisis has provided a slight respite from the environmental consequences of economic growth and international trade in Asia, many of these countries are predicted to recover more quickly than their Western counterparts. Therefore, the window of opportunity for establishing and incorporating environmentally sustainable practices and policies into economic development is brief before the onslaught against the region's rich biodiversity again accelerates.