Climate change will worsen flooding in Malaysia

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Malaysian fears the recent extreme events that took place around the world.

The record-breaking heatwaves in America and Canada in June and July this year, the flash floods in Europe, Japan, China, and India, forest fires in Turkey, Greece, and Italy, and the U.S., and the flash floods in four U.S. states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania and New Jersey that killed more than 40 people, is a sign for the worst flooding to come to the country late this year during its wet season.

Like most neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, Malaysia remains vulnerable to floods, landslides, haze, and water pollution.

According to an article in the ASEAN Post, in the last two decades leading to 2018, Malaysia has experienced 51 natural disaster events that claimed 281 lives, affected 3 million people costing the country around US$2 billion in damages.

The IPCC 2021 report revealed that average global temperatures from 2011 and 2020 have already become 1.1C degrees warmer than they were between 1850 to 1900. We are on a trajectory to exceed the 1.5C threshold by 2040, a temperature limit agreed upon in the Paris climate deal and a point where climate scientists believe irreversible changes to our climate will happen (Climate home, 2021).

In Malaysia, a related issue to climate change but less talked about is rapid urbanisation. According to the article, urbanisation produces an urban heat island effect (UHI) phenomenon, creating scorching temperatures, especially during the summer seasons, particularly in Kuala Lumpur.

Urbanisation also leads to poor air quality and causing haze and pollution in cities. Malaysia also has an abysmal rating when it comes to having climate-resilient infrastructures, effective warning and evacuation systems to cope with extreme weather events. The article says that the country ranks second to the last in the Swiss Re Institute’s April 2021 report, ‘The economics of climate change: no action not an option.’

Climate-related extremes can also affect the country’s GDP and propose climate adaptation and mitigation actions to cope with extreme natural events, which includes:

  • installing pedestrian walkways and cycling pathways for its citizen’s recreation and enjoyment,
  • converting empty spaces into urban farms to tackle food security,
  • encouraging renewable energy for industries,
  • market-based incentives for restoring degraded forest and increasing penalty for illegal logging, reforestation, and launching of carbon taxes.

Malaysia is one of the Asian countries vulnerable to climate change that governments of these countries must take urgent action to prepare and prevent further temperature increases.  The IPCC report comes with a summary for policymakers that highlights the catastrophic consequences of climate change if governments don’t take action.

These include more heatwaves, heavy rains, agricultural droughts, more tropical cyclones, diminishing Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.

The summary recommends that the world needs to reach  “at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions. Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in CH4 emissions would also limit the warming effect resulting from declining aerosol pollution and would improve air quality.”

In November, the upcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow, UK, will significantly decide the carbon emissions trajectory the world will be in as world leaders determine their National Determined Contributions. These refer to their GHG reduction targets and strategies to transform their economies.

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