ECONOMYNEXT – Climate change could decrease Sri Lankan living standards around 4.9 to 7 percent by 2050 and wipe out up to 50 billion dollars in gross domestic product (GDP), a new World Bank report said.
“In Sri Lanka, living standards will go down by around 5 percent, and in the worst-case scenario will decline by around 7 percent,” said Lead Economist Muthukumara Mani, who was one of the authors of the report, titled South Asia’s Hotspots: The Impact of Temperature and Precipitation Changes on Living Standards.
“Under the worst-case scenario, GDP will decline by 7.7 percent, a loss of 50 billion dollars,” he said.
Hotspots are areas which are highly vulnerable to climate change, which has caused rainfall patterns to change gradually, and causes extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and cyclones.
Mani said the severe hotspots in Sri Lanka where the impact would be mostly felt are around agricultural areas in the dry zone, such as the Northern, North Western and North Central provinces, where the living standards could fall up to 11 percent in a worst-case scenario.
In the severe hotspots, 12 billion dollars in GDP could be wiped out, he said.
Mani said non-agricultural jobs would grow resilience to climate change on agricultural families, while access to markets and increased education would help as well.
Most of Sri Lanka’s other provinces are moderate hotspots, where living standards would fall between 4-8 percent by 2050 at the worst.
Other industries would also be affected, Mani said.
“If you’re a construction worker, you would find it hard to work when the temperature increases,” he said.
Mani said that health and productivity would suffer, and people would try to migrate away from areas where effects of climate change is most felt.
He said governments would have to make choices on spending more on education and health or on preserving the environment and responding to climate change.
He said governments also have to choose when, where and how much to invest.
Since the government has limited resources, it should look at the costs of climate change and invest, prioritizing on people and regions most affected, Mani said.
He said extreme weather events can be mitigated to a certain extent with early warning and quick response.
However, implications of gradual changes, such as the rising sea levels, increasing temperature and rainfall changes as less known, Mani said.
“A one degree change in temperature could change what farmers should grow,” he said.
“A one week change in the monsoonal rain can have a huge impact.”
He said countries such as Sri Lanka which are near the equator are more vulnerable, and that the government should look at what can be done for communities to become resilient to climate change. (Colombo/Sept20/2018)