AT a recent forum on climate change, organised by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM), many issues became clear.
One observation which stood out from the discussion is that the world remains helpless in global efforts to arrest climate change. It has been difficult to reach a consensus on mitigation measures and commitments.
This is evidenced in the many years of international negotiations which have yet to be rectified. The Kyoto Protocol, which was touted as the best international instrument to deal with the issue, is now regarded as a dismal failure.
Big emitters of greenhouse gases use all kind of excuses not to ratify. Why? Because the impact on big businesses involved in fossil fuels and related activities is simply unbearable.
The fact that man is largely responsible for climate change is no longer doubted. There are many groups with vested interest unwilling to embrace the low-carbon protocol in business. What is clear is that it is, in fact, man's uncontrolled appetite for resources that has contributed immensely to the build-up in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which fuel global warming, a key driver of climate change.
Is Malaysia prepared for climate change? What should we do to adapt to the rising temperature and other consequences of climate change?
An air of pessimism permeated the forum. As long as man everywhere harbours this ambition to pursue the so-called "American Dream", the consumption of scarce resources will continue rising unabated.
Imagine highly populated countries such as China and India achieving per capita consumption of goods and services at the current levels of the American and European consumers.
First, there will not be enough resources to satisfy the expansion in demand. Second, the conversion of those resources into consumer products will consume a lot of energy and produce large amounts of waste and, of course, the greenhouse gases that cause the climate change problem.
Unless this natural human greed is addressed, finding solutions to climate change will be a futile exercise. The conclusion is that the capitalist economic model will eventually prove unsustainable in the long run. It is not easy to manage greed. So what should we do?
Many countries have embarked on comprehensive studies to assess the impact of climate change on their well-being. One that is often quoted is the United Kingdom's Stern Report.
Only through such studies can we begin to articulate the appropriate strategies to adapt to climate change. We should invest on a similar study. ASM, through its vast international network, is well positioned to anchor such a study.