Climate Change Would Suffer 9pc of GDP Growth by 2100

Bangladesh economy would suffer annual losses of upto 9.0 percent by the end of this century without changes to the current global behavior, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) climate and economics report for South Asia.

The report, titled Assessing the Costs of Climate Change and Adaptation in South Asia, predicts the six countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka – will see an average economic loss of around 1.8 percent of their collective annual gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050, rising sharply to 8.8 percent by 2100 if the world continues on its current fossil fuel-intensive path.

The ADB released the groundbreaking report today (Tuesday) at a programme at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the city. Environment and Forests Minister Anwar Hossain Manju was the chief guest at the programme when Bindu Lohani, the ADB’s vice-president for Knowledge Management Sustainable Development was the special guest. There were also a presentation of the key findings of the report and panel discussions on the impact of the climate change on Bangladesh’s economy.

The report says low-lying areas of Bangladesh are at the frontline of “at-risk countries” from climate change and without changes to current global behaviour, the country would see annual economic costs equivalent to 2 percent of its GDP by 2050, widening to 9.4 percent by 2100. But if global mitigation actions are successfully implemented, those losses could be limited to just over 2 percent by 2100.

In Bangladesh, where agriculture employs nearly half the labour force, a rise in extreme floods, cyclones and droughts, heat stress, and shorter growing seasons could slash yields of rice, wheat, and potato by over two thirds of current levels in some cases-threatening food security. A coastal zone of more than 47,000 square kilometers, providing homes and sustenance to a fast-growing population of over 36 million, will face more storm surges and a projected sea level rise, which will worsen erosion and soil salinity and engulf increasingly large chunks of productive, densely populated areas of land.

The division with the largest area permanently affected by a 1-meter sea level rise will be Khulna, while Dhaka could see up to 14 percent of its territory temporarily inundated, and its large population facing the greatest risks. More extreme weather events will also damage forests, wetlands, and the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, which provides income and nutrition to millions of people and a cushion against rural poverty.

The costs of adapting to climate change in South Asia will depend largely on how the global community tackles the issue, the report says, noting that if the world continues on its current path, South Asia will need to spend at least US $73 billion, or an average of 0.86 percent of its GDP, every year between now and 2100 to adapt to the negative impacts. On the other hand, if countries act together to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2.5oC, the cost of the region shielding itself from the worst of the impacts would be nearly halved to around US $40.6 billion, or 0.48 percent of GDP.

The report does not provide detailed adaptation cost projections on a country or sector basis, although in the energy sector it notes that a rising gap between demand and supply could see Bangladesh face an annual adaptation bill of over US $89 million in the 2030s, rising to over US $363 million in the 2050s.

The report also details adaptive measures that the country could take to protect its sensitive agriculture sector, including the introduction of drought-, flood- and saline-tolerant crops, crop and aquaculture diversification, more capture and use of surface water for irrigation, more flood resistant infrastructure for riverbanks, raised earth beds for seasonal vegetable cultivation, and the adoption of alternative livelihood options including community-based fisheries and duck rearing.