Climate-proofed Infrastructure Would Help Japan Avoid Hefty Losses

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TOKYO, JAPAN – Japan could avoid hefty economic losses from fierce climate-change induced cyclones and rising sea levels if it improves its infrastructure and protects its coastal areas, a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says.

“Almost 10% of Japan’s population could be hit by cyclone damages costing about 1% of the country’s gross domestic product if infrastructure isn’t climate-proofed,” said Jörn Brömmelhörster, Principal Economist in ADB’s East Asia Department and one of the main authors of the Economics of Climate Change in East Asia report. “The cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of climate change adaptation.”

Osaka and Kobe – key industrial and business centers in Japan – are among the 10 cities around the world considered most vulnerable to the impact of a rise in sea levels.

The report projects that severe weather related to climate change will intensify, with once-in-20-years flooding predicted to occur as frequently as every four years in East Asia by 2050. When combined with rising sea levels, this is expected to cause massive swaths of land to disappear, forcing millions to migrate, and wreaking havoc on infrastructure and agriculture.

In Japan, the cost of recovering from climate-related natural disasters has already reached $64 billion since the 1970s.

Losses for households and the economy can be avoided if infrastructure – including roads, sewers, and water supply networks – is properly designed and constructed to withstand severe storms and rising seas. The report estimates the cost of climate-proofing infrastructure in Japan at $2.5 billion per year between 2010 and 2050, or about 0.6% of total infrastructure spending.

Building dikes, upgrading ports to prevent flooding, and building up beaches to limit erosion could avoid households having to move from vulnerable areas as well as shield key assets.

The report examines how the People’s Republic of China, Japan, Republic of Korea, and Mongolia can respond to the challenges of climate change through a combination of adaptation and mitigation. It gathers analysis from experts from 10 leading universities and think tanks in Asia, North America, and Europe, who drew on the best available databanks and climate change models.