Saturday, May 2, 2009

Global Warming Will Hit Southeast Asia Hardest

Slash-and-burn agriculture in Indonesia. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

A new study from the Asian Development Bank has issued a dire warning for the nations of Southeast Asia. By the end of the century, Indonesia, Philippines Thailand; and, mainly Vietnam will face debilitating economic loss due to global warming. It is estimated that they could suffer an annual loss of 6.7% ($230 billion) in combined gross domestic product by 2100. This is more than double (nearly triple) the global average of an estimated 2.6%.

These countries are especially vulnerable with their large coastal populations facing rising sea levels, extreme weather, higher temperatures and rampant large-scale deforestation. The populations of these countries rely heavily on rice and other agriculture products which could be compromised by either water shortages or floods. The study paints a bleak scenario of this region predicting a 50% decline in the rice yields by 2100 with the Philippines seeing the majority of the decline with a 75% loss in its rice fields.

Annual mean temperatures are expected to rise an average of 4.8°C (8.6°F) from the 1990 level in the region by century’s end if greenhouse gas emissions are not regulated immediately. They would also likely suffer drops in rainfall, more destructive tropical storms and flooding from rising seas that could displace millions of people and lead to the destruction of 965 sq mi (2,500 sq km) of mangroves.

Assistant chief economist at ADB (Asian Development Bank), Juzhong Zhuang told Reuters that these nations “need regional-level activity and it is needed now. If the action is delayed then south-east Asia will suffer much more than most other regions of the world. What's needed is better government policy, better co-ordination between agencies and between central and local government, and better research by all countries."

Most of Southeast Asia’s carbon emissions are due to deforestation instead of the burning of fossil fuels. Approximately, 80% of Indonesia’s emissions are due to deforestation and the conversion of peat lands. This is occurring largely to make way for palm oil plantations. Worldwide deforestation accounts for nearly 20% of emissions.

Currently, governments are working to lay the groundwork ahead of a UN conference this December in Copenhagen. The intention is to draft a new agreement on regulating carbon emissions to replace the 1998 Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

Since most problems are very seldom comprised of just one component, an environmental advisor to the Indonesian government had this to say: "Most politicians are only looking at this from an environment view; but, this is wrong," said Emil Salim who also contributed to the report. "You would be forgetting that we have unemployment and poverty."

The study found that the key for Southeast Asia would be protecting its remaining tropical forests. This have fallen victim in recent years to widespread illegal logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations. Deforestation represents as much as 75% of the four country's emissions.

Among the recommendations were: investing in tree-planting programs; better forest management; programs that pay the governments for NOT deforesting; irrigation networks, flood-control systems, early warning systems and protection of the coastal mangroves.

The report also found that 40% of energy-related carbon emissions could be reduced by 2020 if the countries invested in more energy efficient buildings, fuel efficient cars and public transport. Another 40% could be reduced by switching from coal to natural gas and renewable energy like solar and wind for power generation.

1 comment:

Patty said...

Thanks for posting this. What's happening to the planet is very frightening. Yet Big Corporations, the Meat Industry continue to cut down forests and pollute with the governments blessings.