ADB Study Finds Annual Economic Losses in Southeast Asia from Climate Change Could be More Than Twice the Global Average
Southeast Asia, one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change—due to its long coastlines, high concentration of population and economic activity in coastal areas, and heavy reliance on agriculture, natural resources, and forestry—is likely to suffer more from climate change than the global average, according to a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) study, titled The Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia: A Regional Review.
The mean cost of cost of climate change for the four countries—Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam—under a “business-as-usual” scenario and if market and non-market impacts and catastrophic risks are all considered could be equivalent to losing 6.7% of combined gross domestic product (GDP) each year by 2100, more than twice the projected global average loss.
Climate change is already affecting the region, as shown by the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones in recent decades, the report notes. Climate change is exacerbating water shortages, constraining agricultural production and threatening food security, causing forest fires and coastal degradation, and increasing health risks.
Under a high emissions scenario, the annual mean temperature in the four countries is projected to rise 4.8°C by 2100 from the 1990 level on average; the global mean sea level is projected to rise by 70 centimeters during the same period, with dire consequences for the region; and Indonesia, Thailand, and Viet Nam are projected to see increasingly drier weather in the next 2–3 decades.
Using reviews of previous studies, impact assessment models and extensive consultations with national and regional climate change experts, the study examines climate change challenges facing Southeast Asian nations, both now and in the future.
Rice production will dramatically decline because of climate change, threatening food security. Rising sea levels will force the relocation of millions living in coastal communities and islands, and more people will die from thermal stress, malaria, dengue and other diseases.
Climate change seriously threatens Southeast Asia’s families, food supplies and financial prosperity, and regrettably the worst is yet to come. With the world mired in the current financial crisis, climate change risks being pushed down the policy agenda. If Southeast Asian nations delay action on climate change, their economies and people will ultimately suffer.—Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development
The report argues that Southeast Asian nations should address the dual threats of climate change and the global financial crisis by introducing green stimulus programs—as part of larger stimulus packages—that can simultaneously strengthen economies, create jobs, reduce poverty, protect vulnerable communities and lower emissions.
There are a series of cost-effective measures that can help countries protect themselves from the worst effects of climate change, including improving water management, enhancing irrigation systems, introducing new crop varieties, safeguarding forests and supporting the construction of protective sea walls.
The study also notes there are “win-win” mitigation options in the energy sector—particularly more efficient power plants, more energy-efficient lighting, appliances and industrial equipment, and cleaner transportation&mash;that could allow Southeast Asian nations to mitigate carbon emissions up to 40% by 2020 at a negative net cost.
The forestry sector is the largest contributor to Southeast Asia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and has the greatest potential to reduce the region’s emissions through reduced deforestation, the planting of new forests and improved forest management. Southeast Asia also has the highest technical potential to sequester carbon in the agriculture sector of any region of the world.
All four countries have adopted wide-ranging measures to counter the harsh impacts of climate change, but the study says they could do more to tap the broad array of global and regional initiatives that offer funding, technology and other support for countering climate threats.
At the same time, many climate challenges could be more effectively countered through closer regional cooperation, particularly in the areas of water basin management, shared marine ecosystems, extreme weather events and the containment of infectious diseases.
Since the negative impacts of climate change will continue to worsen, the study finds that only global action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions can effectively address the root causes of the current climate crisis.