Regional bank estimates of WST$60 million (US$25.8 million) annual costs from climate change damage are too low, according to a response from the region’s main environmental programme.
“I think probably more than that,” said Espen Ronneberg Climate Change Advisor from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
He was responding to questions about estimates released this week by the Asian Development Bank.
The ADB estimates climate costs at almost $60 million tala a year by 2100 if countries contributing to the problem fail to reduce global warming.
That figure was among a range of estimate for the Pacific region.
However, Ronneberg says this prediction is an underestimation.
“If you look at Samoa’s infrastructure it is almost entirely along the coastline and very close to the coastline, not too high above sea level either.
“The possibility of even thinking about moving that infrastructure is just daunting.
“Trying to climate proof the entire coastline of Samoa is going to be an incredible undertaking.”
The new study, Economics of Climate Change in the Pacific, the Asian Development Bank predicts that a potential 2°C rise in temperature, a pickup in extreme winds and tropical storms, and a possible sea level rise of up to 1.25 meters could cost Samoa’s economy as much as 3.8% of its annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2100, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) study.
Currently Samoa’s GDP is $1,574,657,761 tala, about US$677,000,000.
Most of that economic activity takes place near sea level.
He said this was the reason why it was so important to do “both sides of the climate change equation.
“On one hand we have to reduce green house gasses and on the other hand we have to protect and preserve the integrity of the islands through adaptations measures,” he said.
“Which could include things from hard structures like seawalls.
“They’re are not perfect but in some cases they are necessary.
“Two softer options are the planting of mangroves or maybe even retreating where it is possible to retreat to give your self more of a buffer zone.”
The region must look at natural solutions that may help, he said.
“Protecting the coral reef by reducing the amount of run off or sediment nutrients from fertilisers for example,” he said.
“That can help promote the reef as a protective barrier but it is not going to be effective past a certain amount of sea level rise.
“A healthy reef will protect us now and probably for quite some time but if sea level rise accelerates then the reef will not be enough.”
But it’s not just the threat from rising sea levels and more severe storms.
ADB also estimates that climate change will have a huge impact on human health.
“The human health costs are valued in terms of forgone income as well as additional expenditure for treatment of illnesses,” reads the report.
“Mortality and morbidity costs together are expected to reach 0.8% of GDP by 2100 under a high emissions scenario.
“Most of the estimated health costs would arise from respiratory disorders, followed by malaria, and deaths from tropical storms.
“By 2100, approximately 80% of total mortality cost is projected to be caused by respiratory disorders due to climate change, and 14% by vectorborne diseases, particularly malaria.”
Xianbin Yao, Director General of ADB’s Pacific Department, said it was critical that countries contributing to the problem of climate change step up to assist Pacific friends and neighbours in the fight to protect their countries against natural disasters, crop losses, and forced migration.
“Our findings show that if not adequately addressed, climate change could overturn the region’s development achievements,” he said.
According to the ADB, the report uses models to predict the economic impact of climate change for specific sectors and economies under various emissions scenarios.
It found that losses suffered by the Pacific region could range from 2.9 per cent to as high as 12.7 per cent of annual GDP by 2100.
“The report notes that the negative effect on agriculture contributes to most of the total economic cost of climate change in the Pacific, and estimates that the Pacific region could require $447 million on average until 2050, and up to $775 million or 2.5 per cent of GDP per year to prepare for the worst scenario,” an ADB spokesperson said.
“The cost of adaptation would be significantly less under lower emissions scenarios.
“The report recommends policy leaders take urgent action to mainstream climate change mitigation into development planning and develop forward-looking adaptation strategies.
“The report also recommends climate-proofing infrastructure to improve long-term sustainability and boosting capacity of Pacific countries to deal with climate change on their own.
“Pacific countries will also need dramatically improved access to global and regional climate change funds.”
Source: Islands Business
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