From: Jason Szep, Reuters
Published November 22, 2004 12:00 AM

Asian CEOs Warned of Threat from Climate Change

SINGAPORE - More severe tropical cyclones, heatwaves and a dramatic shift in rainfall patterns could batter Asia by the end of the century as its factories boom, a leading climate expert told Asian chief executives on Friday.


The average temperature of major Asian cities could rise by 3 to 10 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, while longer droughts and flooding threaten rural areas, said David Griggs, director of the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.


"We expect to see more heat waves, more warm nights, that land areas will warm quicker than the global average," he told Reuters after speaking to the Asia Business Council, whose members include executives of some of Asia's biggest companies.


"We expect that sea levels will rise between 9 cm and 88 cm (3.5 to 34.6 inches), that we will very likely see more intense precipitation events, more floods, more droughts," he said.


The rare presentation on the risk of climate change to one of Asia's most powerful business groups represents the recognition that a severe deterioration in Asia's ecology and environment could accompany the region's rapid economic development.


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It also demonstrated that concern over global warming was spreading to the world's fastest growing economies, and was no longer regarded as primarily a Western issue.


"Everyone was fully engaged in hearing what he has to say," said Ruth Shapiro, executive director of the council, whose members include leaders from 52 major firms such as Standard Chartered PLC, Singapore Airlines Ltd and Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd.


"In Asia it has not been widely accepted that global climate change is a factor that we really need to be dealing with, although I think that among our members increasingly there is an awareness that this is the case," she said.


All at Sea?


Although Asian governments have rolled out unprecedented initiatives to tackle pollution -- underscored by a meeting of Southeast Asian environment ministers in Myanmar last year -- the policies are often badly enforced, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for the Asia-Pacific has said.


Six of the world's 15 most polluted cities are in Asia, and the region generates a third of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. In Asia's developing regions, around 785 million people lack regular access to safe water, UN statistics show.


Underlining the threat, Griggs said if sea levels exceeded the top end of predictions for the year 2100 by rising a metre, flood-prone Bangladesh would lose 17 percent of its land, according to preliminary indications.


"The companies are concerned about whether governments are going to legislate ways to build new power plants, or ways to build new industry which will limit the amount of emissions they can produce," said Griggs. "They are concerned about how that is going to affect their competitiveness, etc," he added.


At the heart of the fears lies economically booming China.


"China is proposing to build as many new power stations a year -- for at least the next 10 years -- as there are now in the UK," said Griggs. "There is a huge difference if they build highly fuel efficient power plants compared to if they build low technology, highly polluting power plants."


Shapiro said Asian industry was responding by finding quick fixes. "There was a discussion on the use of low-energy lightbulbs, for example. That's regulated in Europe but it is not here," she said.


Source: Reuters


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