Signs of An Ailing Earth - Climate Change ( By Carolyn Khor )



Much has been said about climate changes in the last few decades with not much being done to address the escalating problem. This is especially unfortunate when the environmentalists are up against corporate giants who silence the policy makers into submission with their huge funding by reaping profits from nature.

Climate changes is a term used to acknowledge weather patterns over a period of time and is commonly linked to environmental changes including global warming and the greenhouse effect, significant flooding and even storms – the most recent being Superstorm Sandy.

Jeffrey Sachs, a renowned economist mentioned in his address during a recent visit to Penang that the term ‘climate change’ was not even uttered once by the re-elected President of the United States during his nationwide election campaign. This shows the severity and the clout of apprehensiveness in acknowledging what deserves to be approached in a more aggressive manner to save the environment. However, an agency known as EPA or The United States Environmental Protection Agency collects data and keeps track of greenhouse gas emission to assist the United States government in addressing the challenges of climate changes.

In Malaysia, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment together with the Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI) undertakes the task to study climate changes in compliance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC). The 18th UNCCC was held in Doha, Qatar this year from 26 November till 8 December, and had a participation of 195 nations.

The most outstanding outcome from this convention was that a historic pledge was made by the rich nations to fund the developing countries to “repair the loss and damage incurred”. The Guardian reported that the phrase “loss and damage from climate change” was the first time developing countries received such acknowledgement and assurances and that it has been enshrined in an international legal document.

According to a report by a Malaysian National Agency NAHRIM (2006), there is a possibility of a 2% temperature rise in Peninsular Malaysia between 2041 and 2050. The implication of the temperature rise relates to the water level which in turn affects the crop yields and national food security. As an agricultural based country, this will result in economic loss which then translates into infrastructure problems leading to repairs and reconstructions.

Ir. Jaseni, the CEO of Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang (PBAPP), was quoted as saying that rainwater collection was 2000mm ten years back but has dropped to 1400mm in 2012. This drastic drop in rainfall is yet another proof of global warming. A report submitted by the Malaysian Government to the UNCCC in 2007 states that the Sea Water Level was 1.3 mm/year (1986-2006, Tanjung Piai, Johor) and is expected to rise another 0.5m or 10mm/year by 2050 in its worst case scenario.

The rainfall collection recorded at Bukit Bendera at gauge no. 6 and gauge no. 8 registered significant drops of between 65% - 70% between 2002 and 2012. In 2002, 1917mm/year and 1988mm/year were documented respectively while the latest report for 2012 indicated only 715mm/year and 673mm/year.

Notably there are several local agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) that are actively engaging the government for policy changes and educating the general public on the environment. Among which are Aliran, Water Watch Penang (WWP), Malaysian Nature Society and Sahabat Alam Malaysia.

Prof. Dr. Chan Ngai Weng, President of WWP opines that women are the main water managers both at home and in the office as they wield tremendous influence over the ways families and businesses use and conserve water.

Although there has not been any proven links between fossil fuel consumption and climate changes, the detrimental patterns are not easy to ignore. As fuel consumption rises, so does the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which naturally contributes to the global warming. With the shift in temperature and air pressure, it does not take much to connect the dots to the increasing natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis. The Malaysian Government recommends renewable energy solutions, biofuel utilization, reforestation programmes and studies to be made on carbon emissions.

At this stage, the policies which have been put in place thus far needs to be effectively implemented on all levels – from the government agencies, businesses to the individual households. The key to building resilience to the long-term climate impact and future climate variety is sustainable development which gives importance to an in-depth regard towards conservation and workable solutions. Each of us must do our part so that proactive measures can be taken to lessen the effects of global warming.