Climate change to cost East Asia 5.3% of GDP, ADB study says

Climate change could chop an average of 5.3 percent off annual gross domestic product in East Asia by the year 2100 if the four countries in the region don’t take measures to tackle it, according to the Asian Development Bank.

Rising temperatures in China, Japan, Mongolia and South Korea will spur more flooding and tropical storms in coastal areas and make northern agricultural regions more prone to drought, the ADB said today in its “Economics of Climate Change in East Asia” report.

The study underscores the risks of inaction on climate change faced by a region that was responsible for 30 percent of the world’s carbon emissions in 2010. China’s model of economic growth at all costs has made it the world’s biggest carbon emitter and has blanketed cities in smog that can surpass World Health Organization recommendations by almost 40 times.

“East Asia needs to shift toward a model of economic growth focused on low carbon emissions and more efficient use of resources,” the ADB said in the report. In China, “measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases should lead to significant improvements in local air quality, thus reducing the damage to the health of urban populations,” it said.

Current projections suggest that regional mean temperatures in 2090 will be 3.8 to 5.2 degrees Celsius higher than the 1961-1990 average, according to the report. The region is already vulnerable to once-every-hundred-years floods that could affect 12 million people in 23 cities, threatening $864 billion in assets, the report said.

Adaptation costs

The ADB said that under a mid-range scenario, the cost of adapting infrastructure to climate change would cost the region $22.9 billion a year in 2005 dollars. Coastal protection would cost $4.2 billion a year and adapting agriculture would cost $9.5 billion a year.

Climate-related natural disasters since 1970 have already cost $259 billion to China, $64 billion to Japan, $15 billion to South Korea and $2 billion to Mongolia. That amounts to less than 0.2 percent of gross domestic product over the period, it said.

The Asian Development Bank said its study area didn’t include Hong Kong or Macau. Maps in the report also didn’t include data for Taiwan, the self-governed island that China considers part of its territory.

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