Asean climate risk high

By Cai U. Ordinario – The effects of climate change will significantly impact Southeast Asia, particularly hurting two countries, the Philippines and Indonesia. It could cut the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) by around 6 percent, according to the latest report recently released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The ADB’s “The Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia: A Regional Review” is the result of a 15-month ADB technical-assistance project, funded by the government of the United Kingdom, which examines climate-change issues in Southeast Asia, with particular focus on Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The report said the Philippines will need around $1.6 billion in order to bring down carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions to healthy levels or around 0.6 percent of the country’s GDP in 2020. However, if the country does not take action now, the cost to the economy and, consequently, the cost of investment, could increase even further.

“For the four countries covered in the modeling work, the potential economic cost of inaction is huge: if the world continues “business-as-usual” emissions trends—considering all market and nonmarket impacts and catastrophic risks of rising temperatures—the cost to these countries each year could equal a loss of 6.7 percent of their combined gross domestic product by 2100, more than twice the world average,” the ADB said.

“Without further mitigation or adaptation, the four countries—Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam—are projected to suffer a mean loss of 2.2 percent of GDP by 2100 on an annual basis, if market impact only (mainly related to agriculture and coastal zones) are considered, well above the world’s 0.6 percent,” the report added.

Agriculture in the Philippines will be severely affected and could cut rice yields by 75 percent in 2100. This is higher than the average for all the four countries included in the study, estimated at 50- percent cuts in yield. Indonesia will have the least projected decrease in rice yield at 34 percent.

By the end of this century, the ADB said, there would be a trend toward decreasing rice production potential, with areas such as Mindanao in the Philippines likely to be the most affected.

Increasing temperatures due to global warming will also convert a large part of the dominant forest/woodland into tropical savannas and shrubs with low or no carbon sequestration potential.

“The agriculture sector would suffer severely under climate change. In the four countries, the yield potential for rice will decline by about 50 percent on average, relative to 1990, toward the end of this century. Corn and soybean production would also decline. Water stress or shortage and the decline in agricultural production would pose a serious threat to the region’s long-term food security and to lives and livelihoods, especially of the poor,” the report said.

Climate change, the ADB said, would be the biggest development challenge of the 21st Century, especially for countries in Southeast Asia. This is partly due to its reliance on agriculture and its rich natural resources, as well as the fact that millions of its people—around 563 million—live along coastlines that measure 173,251 kilometers long. These people will be exposed to rising sea levels.

A projected 30-centimeter rise in sea level in the Philippines by 2045 will affect 2,000 hectares and about 500,000 people. If sea level in the country will rise by 100 cm by 2080, this will inundate over 5,000 hectares of the Manila Bay coastal area and affect over 2.5 million people.

“Sea-level rise in combination with land subsidence due to overexploitation of groundwater will definitely move the coastline inland in many key cities in Indonesia and the Philippines, with an associated higher risk of floods,” the report stated.

The study covers three main areas that serve as the basis for formulating climate change policies for Southeast Asia: impact assessment, adaptation analysis, and mitigation analysis. Impact assessment looks at how Southeast Asian countries have been and will be affected by climate change, individually and collectively.

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