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NEWS UPDATES 21 June 2009

Philippine rice output may fall 75% due to global warming

Starting 2020, rice production in the Philippines will decline by as much as 75 percent if it is not quick enough to adapt to and put in place safeguards against climate change, the Manila Times newspaper quoted the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as warning Saturday.

The decline starts in 2020, according to a study made by the Manila-based Asian lender and released this week during a high level regional meeting on the impact of climate change in Asia and the Pacific.

The fall in rice production in the Philippines is the highest in the four countries—Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam—covered by the study. Indonesia will have the lowest decline at 35 percent.

Rice riots could happen if nothing is done beginning today. By 2100, the average decline for the four countries will be half of the 1990 rice harvests.

These are scary scenarios considering that Thailand and Vietnam are among the world’s major rice producers, while Indonesia has over 230 million rice eaters and the Philippines not far behind at 96 million consumers.

The Philippines, according to the study, will increasingly see more rains “for most of this century.” The western part of Southeast Asia is predicted to become hotter.

A large part of tropical forests and woodland, which are “huge” absorbers of carbon dioxide, will be replaced by tropical savanna and shrub land with little or not much potential for carbon sequestration.

In the coming decades, diseases and health-related deaths from heart and respiratory ailments will increase. They will be caused by heat stress and communicable diseases such as malaria and dengue.

For the four countries, the eco¬nomy-wide cost is pegged from a low of 2.2 percent to a high of 6.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)—figures that are much higher than global averages.

This is because these countries have relatively long coastal lines; high concentration of population in coastal areas; high dependence on agriculture and natural resources; relatively low adaptive capacity and mostly tropical climate compared to the rest of the world, the ADB study observes.

By 2020, adapting to climate change will cost about $5 billion a year for the four countries. This involves mainly the construction of sea walls and the development of drought- and heat-resistant crops.



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