BANGKOK (Reuters) - Asia-Pacific countries face food and energy shortages, worsening poverty and declining crop yields if they ignore climate change, according to studies released on Wednesday.
The region will suffer major social and economic changes if countries fail to adopt new practices -- from liberalizing trade to introducing better quality seeds for crops -- according to separate reports by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), on agriculture, migration and energy.
Under some scenarios, food prices could shoot up as much as 70 percent in the next 40 years as crop yields shrink, leading to a rise in malnutrition in some Asian countries, the ADB said.
“The combination of poverty in rural areas and the expected impacts of climate change and its remaining uncertainty will require careful planning...,” the Manila-based ADB said.
“Targeted climate change investments and more flexible decision-making will be necessary to make the most of scarce budgetary resources,” it added.
The report warned that the countries where poverty was rife such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal were most at risk and least likely to respond to, or handle, the pressures of climate change.
It recommended new initiatives to reduce the chance of an agricultural disaster. These include trade liberalization, more state subsidies, distribution of improved seeds and being better prepared for environmental problems from land degradation to wetter and drier seasons.
Without changes in farming practices, prices would rise significantly in line with diminished agricultural yields, the ADB forecast. Rice output could fall 25 percent, wheat and maize by 40 percent, causing prices to rise by 40-70 percent in the next 40 years.
“This significantly negative impact of climate change on agriculture paints a very worrying picture,” said Mark Rosengrant of the International Food Policy Research Institute.
“It will worsen existing problems, adding to high malnutrition and the poor will be the most adversely affected.”
The ADB report coincided with the release of a study by the World Bank on Wednesday that estimated developing countries would need up to $100 billion annually for the next 40 years to adapt to a two-degree increase in temperature.
The ADB’s study also highlighted concerns about energy security, emphasizing that investment and financial support were required to steer poorer countries toward alternative energy sources and lessen dependence on fossil fuels.
“The region is well endowed with clean energy sources but faces constraints in developing them,” it said.
“International financial support is essential but has been completely inadequate. The flow of financing from the developed world...is of paramount importance.”
The report also highlighted potential problems of migration, internal and external, and warned about the dangers of people continuing to flock to coastal cities likely to be affected by rising sea levels.
Experts said plans needed to be drawn up to manage migration movements, with greater cooperation between neighboring countries and development of urban centers to ease pressure on swelling coastal cities such as Bangkok and Shanghai.
“We need to look at this with seriousness because of growing numbers of people moving into areas vulnerable to climate-induced impacts,” said Robert Dobias, a senior ADB climate change advisor. “It’s a very worrying trend.”
Editing by Jason Szep and Sanjeev Miglani