WITH rice harvests cut in half and islands disappearing as sea levels rise, Southeast Asia will be hit hard by global warming, the Asian Development Bank warned in a study released yesterday.
The bank identified the Philippines and Indonesia, with large coastal populations facing rising sea levels, and Thailand and Vietnam, where rice yields could drop 50 percent due to water shortages, as especially vulnerable.
If the world continued with its ‘‘business-as-usual’’ approach, the average cost of climate change for Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam could be equal to “losing 6.7 percent of combined domestic product each year by 2100—more than twice the global average.’’
Already, climate change has led to extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones in the region in recent decades, the bank said.
“Climate change seriously threatens Southeast Asia’s families, food supplies and financial prosperity,” said Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, the ADB’s vice president for knowledge management and sustainable development. “If Southeast Asian nations delay action on climate change, their economies and people will ultimately suffer.”
If nothing was done to combat global warming, the report said, by 2100 the four Asian countries would see temperatures rise an average of 8.6 Fahrenheit (4.8 Celsius) from the 1990 level. They would also likely suffer drops in rainfall, leading to worsening droughts, more forest fires and more destructive tropical storms.
The sea level in the region is expected to rise 70 centimeters, or about 2.3 feet, causing flooding that could displace millions of people and lead to the destruction of 2,500 square kilometers of mangroves.
The economic cost, the bank said, would be 2.2 percent of gross domestic product by 2100 if only the impact on markets was considered, 5.7 percent if health costs and biodiversity losses were factored in, and 6.7 percent of gross domestic product if losses from climate-related disasters were also included.
That far exceeds the projected cost globally of climate change, estimated at 2.6 percent of gross domestic product each year by the end of the century.
Currently, governments are working to lay the groundwork ahead of a UN conference in December in Copenhagen that will attempt to draft a new agreement on regulating carbon emissions. It would replace the 1998 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. –AP, Bloomberg, AFP