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WEATHERING THE STORM: More studies need to be done if we are to cope
IN June, world leaders will again meet in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for a global discourse on the fate of the planet we all share. The first meeting there was held 20 years ago. The subject matter is still the same. What do we do about the state of the environment which is increasingly under threat. And the threat is by us.
Dubbed Rio+20, the meeting promises to be another platform for protests and pledges. Orators will have world attention with their rhetoric. Some may even be repeats of the last meeting, because admittedly, nothing much has changed. Will Rio+20 be a turning point for the world? Or will it be another merry-making event?
One thing is certain, though. The world's climate is definitely changing. The evidence put forward by climate experts are convincing. The trend of rising global temperatures can no longer be disputed. Melting of the Arctic ice is real. And extreme weather conditions have been occurring with disturbing regularity. Sadly, global greenhouse gas emissions have not been effectively arrested. Despite various attempts to police such emissions, international agreements on the mechanisms have not been successful. But one encouraging development is that more are now convinced that the change in climate is attributed directly to the activities of man. Earlier sceptics have virtually disappeared.
Many reports have been published on climate change. One often cited is the United Kingdom's Stern Report. This talks about the implications of climate change on the UK. I am not aware of a similar report for Malaysia. The Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM), for example, has recently shared a report on "Climate Change and the Nation's Water Resources". This is sector-specific. It may be time to conduct a more comprehensive and more detailed assessment of how climate change will influence the country's future.
Experts however, agree that the repercussions for the world can be devastating. It is even more worrying given the fact that the world population has not stopped growing. It will soon touch nine billion. This is bound to exert excessive pressures on the world's resources. At the rate the world is consuming, some say we may have to look for another planet. While demand for food and energy is rising, the supply side has difficulty keeping pace. Land for agriculture, for example, is fast depleting. This is exacerbated by pollution of the world's air and water resources. Many believe climate change will make the situation even worse.
Things are no different for Malaysia. Climate change is bound to impact on the country's agriculture. It is not clear how it will impact on oil palm, which is an important contributor to the country's earnings.
And what about the country's biodiversity? Do we understand enough about how global warming will effect the untapped riches of the nation's yet to be discovered flora and fauna? With the rise in sea levels, our coastal townships may have to move to higher ground.
Do we know to what extent will such coastal communities be affected? With the expected temperature increase, our energy demand may escalate. Since our own energy source is approaching its limits, we will soon end up as a net importer. What does this mean for the country's expenditure? Can we go on subsidising fuel?
It is clear there are risks involved. All the more reason why we need to undertake a comprehensive study.
But what we must remember is that climate change will also create opportunities for business. For example, the demand for green technology will increase. There may be novel ways to produce food which are less land-based. We need to understand what and where these opportunities are.
Recognising such needs, ASM is organising a public forum on Saturday on the topic "Climate Change, Are We Prepared?". This will be held at the Petaling Jaya Hilton at 10am.
This is an opportunity for those who are concerned about the impact of climate change on the nation's well-being. Come and share your thoughts and make a difference.