Climate Change in Malaysia – CodeBlue

The UN Secretary General described the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on April 5, 2022 as “a litany of unfulfilled climate promises”, and reminded the world that it is “on the fast track to climate catastrophe”.

The Malaysian government has not provided much information on the effects of climate change in the country. As such, it is necessary to turn to the international organizations that have collected and collated these publications.

Data for this article was extracted from the 2021 publication of the World Bank and Asian Development Banks Country Climate Risk Profile – Malaysia and the 2021 United Nations publication Malaysia Disaster Risk Reduction Progress Report 2020.

Temperature

According to the World Bank, “Between 1970 and 2013, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak regions experienced an average increase in surface temperature of 0.14°C to 0.25°C per decade. Maximum surface temperatures have increased by 0.17°C to 0.22°C per decade over the same period, while minimum surface temperatures have increased by 0.20°C to 0.32°C per decade. decade “.

It is expected that the frequency and intensity of heat waves experienced will increase significantly due to global warming.

Rains and floods

The World Bank reported Mayowa et al’s 2015 study of rainfall trends on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia between 1970 and 2010, in which they observed a significant increase in annual rainfall during the monsoon period, as well as than an increase in the number of days classified. in the form of heavy rain (days with precipitation > 20 mm).

The UN reported research that found that the annual maximum rainfall intensity has increased significantly, that is, “one-hour, three-hour and six-hour rain periods between 2000 and 2007 increased by 17%, 29% and 31% respectively, compared to the period 1970-1980”.

Malaysia is particularly vulnerable to flooding, with the frequency and intensity of floods increasing in recent decades. Residents of the Klang Valley may recall severe flooding in the past two years, compared to years past when flooding was rare.

The UN reported research that found that around 29,800 square kilometers of land, in which five million people live, feel the brunt of annual floods. He warned that the affected area is projected to increase due to sea level rise, which could reach 0.25 to 0.5 meters, by 2100, in Peninsular Malaysia and potentially exceed 1 .06 meters in Sabah.

The World Bank has reported research that suggests that the median increase in population affected by an extreme (90th percentile) river flood by 2035 to 2044 due to climate change is about 102,290 people, representing a 140% increase in population. exhibited from 1971 to 2004.

According to the World Bank, the intensity of tropical storms in Southeast Asia is expected to increase due to climate change.

“This is likely to impact the frequency and intensity of storm surges Malaysia experiences. Dasgupta et al’s work assesses the potential increase in storm surge area over 100 years under a meter of sea level rise (the upper end of projected elevations by the end of the 21st century), suggesting an increase in the impact area of ​​about 24% and an increase in the affected population of around 34%”.

Deforestation

Anyone who takes a flight from Sabah or Sarawak to Peninsular Malaysia can’t help but be saddened by the sight of vast tracts of deforestation.

According to Global Forest Watch, “From 2002 to 2021, Malaysia lost 2.77 Mha (million hectares) of primary rainforest, representing 33% of its total tree cover loss over the same period. The total area of ​​primary rainforest in Malaysia has decreased by 17% during this period. From 2001 to 2021, Malaysia lost 8.67 Mha of tree cover, which equates to a 29% decrease in tree cover since 2000”.

Sarawak, Sabah and Pahang recorded the highest tree cover loss of 3.11 Mha, 1.74 Mha and 1.19 Mha respectively, compared to the national 542 kha.

Coastal areas

The World Bank has published a study which assessed “historic sea level rise over the period 1993-2015 at around 3.3 mm per year east of Malaysia and around 5.0 mm per year west of Malaysia.

According to the World Bank: “Sea level rise is expected to have significant negative impacts on Malaysia’s coastal zone, with the most felt impact being on the east coast. Some suggest that by 2040 potentially the entire mangrove area of ​​Malaysia could be submerged and by 2060 sea level rise could impact the country’s industrial areas. Below one meter sea level rise, about 7,000 km2 coastal lands would be threatened. About six percent of palm oil production and four percent of rubber production are currently threatened by rising sea levels.”

Food production

Climate change directly and indirectly influences food production, with adverse effects on crop growth processes. Direct effects include changes in carbon dioxide availability, precipitation, and temperature. Indirect effects include impacts on water availability and seasonality; soil organic matter and erosion; changes in pest and disease profiles; new invasive species; and decline of arable land due to coastal flooding.

According to the World Bank: “Modeling suggests that the occurrence of droughts and floods early in the rice growing season could reduce yields by up to 60%. Drought conditions can lead to an inability to grow rubber, palm oil and cocoa.”

Urbanization and energy

There is a relationship between heat stress and labor productivity, household consumption patterns and standard of living. This is compounded by urban heat island (UHI) situations, in which dark surfaces, residential and industrial heat sources, lack of vegetation, and air pollution can raise temperatures higher than in rural areas, generally between 0.1 and 3°C in the world’s megacities.

UHI temperatures of between 4 and 6°C have been recorded in Kuala Lumpur, usually peaking at night. This has a direct impact on human health and labor productivity.

UHI contributes to haze pollution events, which have considerable economic effects, for example haze damage in Kuala Lumpur in 1997 was estimated to amount to $321 million.

Additionally, research suggests that a one degree increase in ambient temperature can lead to an average increase of 0.5-8.5% in electricity demand, with its impact on climate change.

Summary

The effects of climate change are already affecting Malaysia. It would be pure myopia at best for any quarterback to claim otherwise.

It was reported on June 21, 2022 that the Malaysian Climate Change Action Council announced actions to prepare for climate change.

In order for the public to better play their role in adapting to climate change, we need to be informed about the effects of climate change in Malaysia. Where does public information go?

Dr. Milton Lum is a past president of the Federation of Private Medical Associations Malaysia and the Malaysian Medical Association. This article is not intended to replace, dictate or define the assessment by a qualified physician. The views expressed do not represent those of any organization with which the author is associated.

  • This is the personal opinion of the author or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Code blue.