Tomorrow, the fifth of June is World Environment Day and the theme this year is “Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level”, focusing on small islands and climate change. According to the recently released IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, land and ocean surface temperatures have increased globally by nearly 1°C since 1901 (0.89°C global average), mainly as a result of human activities.
Should we in Malaysia be worried about climate change and sea level rise? With a coastline of 4,800 km, we in Malaysia should indeed be concerned because sea-level rise is expected to intensify inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards. Over the past few years, Malaysia has already experienced increase in intensity, duration and frequency of storms, floods and drought.
The National Coastal Vulnerability Index (NCVI) Study (2007) assessed the vulnerability of coastal areas in Malaysia to sea level rise. Data on sea level rise collected over a 20 year period (1986-2006) at Tanjung Piai in Johor, showed a rate of increase of 1.3 mm/year. When the NCVI study results are superimposed on the global-high (worst case) projection for SLR of 10mm/year (1 meter by the end of the century), an estimated 1,820ha of coastal land at Tanjung Piai and 148ha at Pantai Cenang, Langkawi will be inundated.
Climate change is one indication of a much larger problem, which is humans’ unsustainable consumption, production and lifestyle. This is demonstrated by the use of dirty, non-renewable energy; our exploitation of forests and natural ecosystems; our unsustainable ways of farming, fishing and consuming food; our craze over development; our unsustainable habits of consuming the Earth’s resources and discarding them as wastes.
Human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution have increased atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2) concentrations. Deforestation and other land use changes have also released carbon from the biosphere. Thus as mitigation measure, we need concerted action to limit the growth of energy demand, improve energy efficiency, increase use of renewable energy and find means to minimize emissions from land-use change, for example, by ensuring low-carbon, chemical-free agriculture.
The waste management sector which is a source of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can become a major contributor to climate change mitigation. Composting is one vital strategy for curbing GHG emissions. When discarded materials are recycled, they provide industry with an alternative source of raw materials from which to make new products. This results in less demand for virgin materials whose extraction, transport and processing are major sources of GHG emissions. Recycling thus reduces emissions in virtually all extractive industries: mining, forestry, agriculture, and petroleum extraction.
Food is a key driver of climate change. Food production, excessive packaging, processing and transportation accounts for around half of all human-generated GHG emissions. Chemical fertilizers, heavy machinery and other petroleum-dependent farm technologies contribute significantly. A new food system by restructuring agriculture and the larger food system around food sovereignty, small scale farming, agro-ecology and local markets can greatly contribute to reducing global emissions.
Sand and gravel are mined world-wide and account for the largest volume of solid material extracted globally. They are being extracted at a rate far greater than their renewal. Our increasing dependence and the significant impact that extraction of natural resources has on the environment, has been mostly ignored.
For example the land reclamation projects in the coast of Penang such as in Jelutong, Tanjung Tokong, Batu Uban requires millions of tonnes of rock and sand.
With rapid urbanization, more roads are being built to facilitate movement of people and goods. There is an increasing trend of motor-vehicle ownership and thus the transportation sector is also a significant source of GHG emissions. Fuel consumed by aircrafts, marine vessels and the rapidly growing international trade are also major sources of global emissions. A variety of measures are needed to reduce the growth and impact of these emissions such as efforts to encourage energy-efficient vehicle technologies, promote efficient patterns of travel and land use, and develop alternatives to petroleum-based fuels.
Generally, the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are continuing to increase. It is clear that the future climate will be warmer, sea levels will rise, global rainfall patterns will change, and ecosystems will be altered. High level international agreements alone are not going to stop climate change.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) call for concerted action by all sectors to reduce GHG emissions and combat climate change. The needs of vulnerable poor communities must also be addressed so that they can adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Raise Your Voice for Climate Justice!
S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS
President Sahabat Alam Malaysia & Consumers Association of Penang
 Malaysia’s Second National Communication (NC2) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
 Food and Climate Change: The Forgotten Link. GRAIN 2011