Global Climate Change
Global Climate Change, Impacts and Adaptation of ASEAN
Global climate change is a result of continuous emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) since the Industrial Revolution which has been rapidly increasing until the present. We see no end to this phenomenon in sight as long as humans cannot shift away from the consumption of fossil fuels. Despite ceaseless attempts to use global governance through a number of international agreements to control GHG emission (e.g. Kyoto Protocol), the outcomes are only minimal and the reduction targets seem far away.
The impacts of climate change pose an enormous challenge to ASEAN as a whole. The impacts are increasingly intense in all aspects including environment, health, agriculture, security, and economy. Moreover, the poor are the most affected. Climate change, thus, widens the economic gaps within and between countries in the region. This is a truly critical obstacle to the success of ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
United Kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UK Meteorological Department, and Hartley Center have prepared an interactive “4 degree” map that shows potential impacts if the average global temperature rises 4 degree Celsius above the pre-Industrial Revolution average. This map focuses on the changes occurring in Southeast Asian region (1)
Since ASEAN is one of the major food production sources of the world, 4 degree temperature increase will directly impact the farming, fishery, water resource, and livelihood of ASEAN’s people. Weather and precipitation patterns will be altered. Summer storms, cyclones, and typhoons will inevitably double in intensity. Philippines will be the worst affected with thunder storms all year round. El Nino and La Nina phenomena will occur more frequently with increased strength. This will cause irregular patterns of floods and droughts in various areas. An immediate impact will be losses of crops and agricultural products due to extreme heat as well as changes in seasonal wet and dry patterns. Food production may be inadequate even for intra-regional consumption.
Additionally, insufficient farm land can be a serious issue since flood plain areas may be fully inundated. For example, Bangkok according to the “4 degree” map will be a “water city” by 2111 due to 65 cm. sea level rise. The same fate will be seen in Manila, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, and coasts of Singapore.
Impacts on fishery are also not trivial. Sea water, brackish water, and fresh water will increase in temperature as well as acidity. Aquatic animals and plants that are sensitive to the changes will be decreased and at risk of extinction. This could mean an annihilation of fishery industry which will be difficult to recover.
Likewise, human health will be worsening because rising temperature will degenerate air quality especially in mega cities like Bangkok, Manila, and Jakarta. The quality of air in these cities are already poor, yet climate change will aggravate it to the level that human cannot tolerate. Abnormally hot weather is also an origin of many diseases, including heatstroke, stress, blood circulatory system failure, and insect-borne diseases. Heat allows better reproduction of disease-carrier insects which means that there may be a widespread pandemic of Malaria and Denki in the region.
For Thailand as number 1 global rice exporter, the rising temperature will certainly have impacts on rice farming due to higher risks of more frequent floods and droughts. If there is no measure for adaptation, the consequences can be seen from the seeding to harvesting. During seeding, rice sapling is vulnerable to drastic temperature change. If the temperature exceeds 35 degree Celsius during the grain budding, the production will dramatically decrease. Tumbling rice production will not only damage Thailand’s economy, but will threaten global food security as well.
Climate change issue makes it difficult for ASEAN to achieve its goals of poverty alleviation and sustainable development. We need to solve this issue promptly. Although it is very complicated and cannot be resolved immediately, the international negotiations in the UN and Kyoto Protocol are currently the only way towards disentangling this problem globally. Therefore, it is urgently necessary to push this attempt further because climate change cannot be solved by any state or individual alone.
At the Conference of Party 16 (2010) in Cancun, Mexico, ASEAN showed its standpoint asking for developed countries to reduce 40% of their emissions by 2020. However, the outcomes of COP 16 did not specify any particular targets for developed countries. Moreover, there were no clear targets for each party to take part in controlling the global temperature rise to less than 2 degree Celsius as stated in Kyoto Protocol which ended its first commitment period in 2012.
The issues that ASEAN needs to recognize are global climate change is inevitable; changes in the future are potentially different from what we see at present; ASEAN must prepare to adapt to the living conditions in the future; It has to increase risk management capacity. Thinking about global climate change by emphasizing the global warming awareness may not be enough. Small individual’s efforts (using cloth bags and turn off the lights) might be inadequate. We need to shift the attitude of the whole society towards changing the lifestyle and policies of individuals, countries, companies in accordance with the prospective changes of the future, so that we are better prepared to cope with them.
- (1) จากเว็บไซต์ของสถานทูตอังกฤษ http://ukinthailand.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=PressR&id=723765782
- สำนักข่าว AP Photo/Gurinder Osan