Developing countries in Asia, like Thailand and the Philippines tend to suffer most from the catastrophic impacts of global warming unless alleviation measures are taken with urgency.
Asian scientists today revealed studies which detail the region's economic losses as well as severe threats to human life and the environment due to climate change. Scientific publications authored by Dr Kansri Boonprakob (Thailand) and Dr Leoncio Amadore (Philippines) each confirm earlier predictions that developing countries in Asia, like Thailand and the Philippines, stand to suffer most from the catastrophic impacts of a warming planet unless mitigation and adaptation measures are taken with urgency.
In the new report "Crisis or Opportunity: Climate Change and Thailand", Dr Kansri said Thailand suffered more than Bt70 billion (around US$ 1.75 billion) in economic losses related to floods, storms and droughts in the period between 1989 and 2002. Majority of these losses came from the agricultural sector where crop yield losses amounted to more than Bt50 billion (around US$ 1.25 billion) during 1991 to 2000.
"Climate-related catastrophes will increase and intensify under climate change. This will cause reductions in agricultural production, and consequently retarded economic development and increasing social problems," wrote Dr Kansri, vice-chair of Working Group 1 of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Among the most serious environmental threats cited in her study is "irreversible changes among ecosystems along with the extinction of many species." Preliminary Thai studies on forest ecosystems under climate change show that about 32 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, including the World Heritage Site of Thung Yai Naresuan, are now climate change hot spots.
In addition she warned that sea level rise "may cause the extinction of coastal species." Thailand's coasts are economically important for fisheries, commerce, recreation and tourism but further to sea-level rise, "more intense storm surges may damage commercial and recreational areas," she said in the report.
The worsening trends of climate impacts are also felt across the region. Research by Dr Amadore, one of the Philippines foremost meteorologists, shows that the Philippine archipelago suffered far worse from extreme weather events. His report "Crisis or Opportunity: Climate Change Impacts and the Philippines", indicates that from 1975 to 2002 intensifying tropical cyclones caused an annual average of 593 deaths and damage to property of 4.5 billion pesos (around US$ 83 million), including damage to agriculture of 3 billion pesos (around US$ 55 million).
"Sadly, vulnerable countries in the region are not well-poised to respond to such disasters," said Dr Amadore. "Countries must combine both adaptive strategies such as disaster-preparedness programs and continuous vulnerability assessments along with greenhouse emission reduction measures such as displacing fossil power with renewables and energy efficiency."
"It is imperative that Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and the Philippines prioritize combating climate change and put it at the heart of economic, environmental and energy policies. Otherwise, the region stands to lose its economic development to climate change," concludes Tara Buakamsri, Climate and Energy campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.