Climate change big threat to East Asia: World Bank

Published on Mar 30, 2006 11:15 PM IST

Climate change is likely to significantly affect economies in Asia-Pacific region, threatening the coastal belt and hurting the region's poor, says the Bank.

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None | ByReuters, Singapore

Climate change is likely to significantly affect economies in the Asia-Pacific region, threatening the increasingly industrialised coastal belt and hurting the region's poor, the World Bank said on Thursday.

Rising sea levels, more intense storms and greater extremes of droughts and floods will probably cause greater loss of life and threaten the livelihoods of millions, the Bank said in a report.

Countries in the region are partly to blame, the Bank said, because of their dependence on fossil fuels, and they needed to do more to promote energy efficiency to cut the emission of greenhouse gases.

They also needed to become better adapted to the coming weather extremes to limit the damage and protect livelihoods.

"The region's GDP is likely to be significantly impacted by climate change, albeit in an uneven fashion," said the report, part of the Bank's twice-yearly review of East Asian Economies.

The region, home to about two billion people stretching from tiny Pacific island nations to populous Indonesia and powerhouse China, was also highly vulnerable to climate change.

"Due to its geography, it is one of the regions most at risk from natural disasters," the report adds.

Coastal areas were particularly vulnerable because of the huge investment in infrastructure, such as roads, cities and industrial complexes, and because many of the countries in the region were island nations.

"While the region is still largely rural, most of its GDP and its mega cities, especially in China, are located on the coast -- prime candidates to be impacted by sea level rise and weather-related disasters," it said.

Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia, along with China, could suffer sharp cuts in their gross domestic product as a result of a rise in the sea level, it added, citing a recent study.

Sharing the blame

"While most EAP (East Asia and Pacific) nations contribute minimally to greenhouse gas emissions, the region's industrialized countries are at least in part to blame for the long-run cumulative contribution to climate change.    Continued ...

"Moreover, the rapidly industrializing economies of the region are increasingly responsible for a significant share of current global emissions," the report said.

China, for example, is the world's second largest emitter of carbon dioxide after the United States. Carbon dioxide, produced from burning coal, oil and gas as well as burning forests, is one of the main greenhouse gases.

The region's poor will be badly affected because climate change will affect agriculture, forestry and fisheries, industries that underpin the livelihoods of millions of impoverished people in the region.

Planning for a future filled with greater uncertainty was crucial, the report said.

"A host of actions to adapt and mitigate climate change can be taken which are cost-effective and make economic and environmental sense," it said.

These included greater energy efficiency, increased use of renewable energy such as hydropower, water conservation and planting crops that can withstand drought, salinity and higher temperatures.

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