The Asian Development Bank (ADB) warns of a 9% annual loss to the GDP of South Asia from climate change by 2100 if global fossil fuel usage continues unabated. While the global scientific community is divided on the exact cause and implications of climate change, it is advisable for policymakers to map possible risks and prepare mitigation strategies. This is where the ADB study becomes a precursor for preparedness. The report finds that the costs of climate change adaptation remain significantly elevated—at $73 billion per year by 2100—if the world continues with a business-as-usual scenario (which will cause global temperatures to rise by 4-4.5 degrees by then) as compared to the $41 billion annual expenditure necessitated if the provisions of the accord reached at the Cancun and Copenhagen summits of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are implemented (in which case, global temperature rise will be contained to 2-2.5 degrees).
While the report names the Maldives as the nation that would be affected the worst, other countries, including India, would suffer significant losses to their economies. The net effect could be of increased food and water deprivation, affecting millions in these countries. Given most of these nations are still developing economies—and are trying to pull nearly 500 million (ADB estimates) out of poverty—the business-as-usual approach is quite damning. Agriculture, especially, is set to suffer the worst, given rising temperatures could mean frequent drought and floods and increased salinity of soil, with Bangladesh and India, two of the region’s largest rice-producing nations, seeing a 23% fall in yield for the crop. India will see a 400 billion cubic metre shortfall in precipitation by 2100 if no action is taken at the earliest. Reduced precipitation will mean hydropower, driven by rain-fed rivers, would face depletion—Bhutan stands to lose the most from this considering 99% of its power supply is from hydel projects. The changing climatic conditions, the ADB says, will also make vector-borne diseases endemic to the region, resulting in significant outgo on public health overheads. The
report recommends many adaptation strategies, from the use of drought/flood resistant crops to ensure food security, to new thinking on urban design and planning for conserving surface water and checking spread of diseases.