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SE Asia to be hardest hit as world heats up

SOUTHEAST Asia will be hit particularly hard by climate change, causing the region's agriculture-dependent economies to contract by as much as 6.7 percent annually by the end of the century, according to a study released yesterday.

The Asian Development Bank study identified four countries as especially vulnerable: Indonesia and the Philippines with large coastal populations facing rising sea levels, and Thailand and Vietnam where rice yields could drop 50 percent due to water shortages.

"You have to think about developing countries' capacity," ADB senior economist Tae Yong Jung said.

"They are not really well prepared. Their capacity to handle extreme events is much lower than the developed world."

He said climate change would cost the equivalent of 2.6 percent of global gross domestic product each year by the end of the century.

If nothing is done to combat global warming, the report said that by 2100 the four Asian countries would see temperatures rise an average of 4.8 degrees Celsius from the 1990 level.

They would also likely suffer drops in rainfall leading to worsening droughts and more forest fires, more destructive tropical storms and flooding from rising seas that could displace millions of people and lead to the destruction of 2,500 square kilometers of mangroves.

While rates of greenhouse gases emitted by Southeast Asia are minuscule compared to other big economies, the ADB report said they could do their part to help reduce heat-trapping gases.

The key for Southeast Asia would be protecting its remaining tropical forests which have fallen victim in recent years to widespread illegal logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations, the report found.

A United Nations conference schedule this December in Copenhagen attempt to draft a new agreement on regulating carbon emissions to replace the 1998 Kyoto Protocol which will expire in 2012.


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