Maladives, Indian Ocean
Famous for its 1,200 tropical islands, snow-white beaches, swaying palm trees, and richly colored coral reefs, the Republic of Maldives stretches across more than 600 miles. With 80 percent of the country less than 3.3 feet above sea level, rising ocean levels and a potential increase in the intensity of tropical storms pose a serious threat.
Bangkok is a tropical metropolis where the traditional East meets the modernity of the West. But geography exposes it to flooding, especially during the monsoon season. The city is already sinking due to its soft underground, heavy urbanization, and excessive pumping of groundwater. Much of Bangkok could be underwater before the end of the century.
Komodo Island, Indonesia
The sea surrounding Komodo provides some of the world’s best diving, thanks to its spectacular fish and coral reefs. The island is also home to Komodo dragons, lizards that grow up to 10 feet long. Rising sea levels threaten to flood its mangrove forests and beaches, while increased acidification and rising surface temperatures may eventually kill the coral.
Mount Al Makmal, Lebanon
At one time the plains and mountains of Lebanon were densely covered with majestic cedar trees. Today, the remains of the immense forests are found on the high slopes of Mount al-Makmal in northern Lebanon. The last ancient cedars face a severe threat from rising temperatures and decreases in precipitation, which could leave Makmal’s slopes barren.
Ganges Delta, Bangladesh
Nutrients from the two great rivers of Ganges and Brahmaputra feed the soil of the paddies in the low-lying Ganges Delta. Some 300 million people depend on the crops produced here. The delta spreads over a massive 65,000 square miles. Climate change could increase rainfall and cause more frequent flooding and monsoons.
Tokyo is one of the world’s greatest metropolises. But it now suffers from a phenomenon known as “heat islands,” a characteristic of mega cities in which artificial heat from car exhaust and factory emissions creates a local greenhouse effect. If global temperatures continue to rise, the heat in big cities like Tokyo could increase.
Tian Shan, Kasakhstan
Farmers and cattle breeders at the foot of the Tian Shan mountain range have been dependent on meltwater from Central Asian glaciers for 3,000 years. But in the past 50 years, the glaciers have lost about 36 percent of their mass. With temperatures projected to increase, water may be limited at a time when demand is growing quickly.
Kushiro Marsh, Japan
Mergui Archipelago, Burma
Blue waters and white coral reefs are home to some of the last surviving nomadic sea hunters and gatherers in the world. Their very existence is now endangered by changes in ocean movement and rising sea temperatures, which also threaten the entire reef ecosystem.
Indus River, Pakistan
Nuwara Eliya, SriLanka
The hillsides here are perfectly suited for growing tea, which requires an even distribution of rainfall throughout the year, moderate temperatures, and a sunny climate. Yet increasing temperatures and drier weather are likely to create droughts that will reduce the yield and damage many of the plants. Heavier rainfall could also cause soil erosion and landslides.
Lake Baikal, Russia
Sulu Sulawesi Sea, Malayasia
Historically, the Bajau people have lived a nomadic seafaring life in this tropical monsoon climate. But traditional life is growing increasingly complicated. Overfishing and other illegal tactics such as blasting and poison-fishing are damaging the coral reefs. Rising sea-surface temperatures and increasing acidification only exacerbate this problem.
Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia
Bayan Olgii, Mangolia
Today, half of the nearly 3 million Mongolians still live as herdsmen. They lead a pastoral way of life, moving around in search of pastures for their livestock and sites for their gers, round, moveable dwellings. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns could expand the Gobi desert, threatening the nomadic way of life.
Altai Mountains, Russia
The Russian section of this mountain range is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List because of its diverse plant life, which varies from steppe to mixed forest to alpine vegetation. Temperatures have been rising over the last century and a significant reduction of the permafrost is expected in the coming decades, threatening this unique natural habitat.
Sagarmatha Himilayas, Nepal
Stretching for 3,900 miles from the Tibetan plateau to the East China Sea, the Yangtze is the longest river in Asia. Due to the diminishing of the Tibetan glaciers, the flow of the once mighty Yangtze could dwindle during the dry season in the future, reducing the availability of fresh water in large parts of China all year round and lowering rice yields.
Mount Chomo, Bhutan
The ruins of Sey Dzong, a 17th-century fortress monastery, lie at the foot of the holy mountain of Chomo Lhari. For centuries, the population has depended on meltwater from the glaciers of the high mountains to irrigate their farmland. As melt-off from the glaciers increases, the rapidly increasing flow of water could pose a serious threat.