Climate change will slash South Asia’s growth by up to 9% by the end of the century if the world continues on its current fossil-fuel intensive path, a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADP) warns.
The study predicts that by 2050, the collective economy of six counties – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka – will loose an average 1.8% of its annual GDP.
This could rise to 8.8% by 2100, the ADB warns.
The Maldives and Nepal would be hardest hit, losing up to 12.6% and 9.9% of their economies every year by 2100.
Bangladesh could lose up to 9.4%, India 8.7%, Bhutan 6.6% and Sri Lanka 6.5%.
Assuming a 4.6°C rise in global temperatures, it also warns that given the levels of uncertainty over the potential impacts of climate change, there could be a chance that annual loses rise as high as 24% by 2100.
South Asia is home to a fifth of the world’s population and is already vulnerable to climate extremes, with countries already hit with seasonal floods, cyclones and drought that wreck agricultural land and leave hundreds of thousands of people displaced each year.
Between 1990 and 2008, more than 750 million people in South Asia were affected by at least one natural disaster. Almost 230,000 people were killed by such extremes over the same period.
The ADB warns that the human and financial toll of climate change could be even higher than estimated if such extreme weather events were included in calculations.
Bindu Lohani, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge, Management and Sustainable Development said:
South Asia’s economy is under serious threat and the lives and livelihoods of millions of South Asians inhabiting the region’s many mountains, deltas and atolls are on a knife edge. Countries must respond individually and collectively to cope with rising sea levels, disrupted water, food and energy supply and increased disease.
All countries, excluding Sri Lanka, are expected to experience more frequent severe weather in coming years, damaging property, infrastructure, agriculture and human health, warned the report.
Coastal areas of Bangladesh, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka will see sea level rises that are likely to displace people and adversely affect the tourism and fisheries sectors.
The costs of countering climate change in South Asia will increase over time, warns the ADB, and will be prohibitively high in the long term.
But such costs will be significantly lowered if the world’s governments cut greenhouse gas emissions, and if the rise in global temperature can be contained to below 2.5°C.
Under these scenarios, the costs could be halved to around $40.6 billion – or 0.48% of GDP – according to the report.
It also called on the region to introduce flood and saline resistant crop varieties, better coastal zone management, improved disease surveillance, protection of groundwater and greater use of recycled water.