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Saving the Sinking Boat of Mankind, Where is Malaysia at?

So 2 weeks ago i went down to Singapore attend Singapore’s very own Power Shift weekend workshop. It is part of Global Power Shift, an initiative of 350.org (read more here). It was a surprise appearance as well that the former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed joined us for an hour to share some of his insights towards climate change movement as well as some QnA session. You can definitely know why most of us are very excited to meet him, by just watching TheIslandPresident, which is a documentary of his presidency term fighting all out to lobby for 1.5 degree celcius instead of 2.0 in COP 15.

President Nasheed with 350.org Singapore

If any of you were at Maldives before, you will know why Maldives is one of the most vulnerable nation to climate change. Simply because the raise of sea level will eventually erase Maldives off from the map soon! Literally speaking. Anyways so he mentioned “Imagine a boat with all the nations on board, if one does not cut down his carbon emission, the boat will be overweighed and everyone else drowns together, and in this case, the signs are showing in Maldives, we are drowning, literally speaking.”  That made me think a lot on Malaysia’s very own voluntary reduction pledge at COP 15 during 2009 then. Are we keeping the boat afloat? Are we keeping to our promises to carbon reduction?

NajibGreenBudget

However one must clearly understand the difference of GDP carbon emission intensity levels in comparison with absolute carbon emission as illustrated in the graph below. In actual case, instead, we have a 100% increase of absolute carbon emission in the year of 2020 compared to 2005 level. On the other hand, Maldives has set targets to be the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2020. Does Malaysia’s 40% carbon emission reduction commitment signify any urgency or is it a play safe number that still prioritizes economic gains?

2014 0808 CO2Projection

Are We Doing Enough to Save the Drowning Boat?

Despite the targets, it is irrefutably true that there are some efforts in various approaches to reduce the carbon emission, be it governance, legislation and policy. In 2009, we see the establishment of Ministry of Energy, Green Technology, and Water as well as the National Green Technology Policy. Various institutes have been formed since then to assist the implementation of various policies, such as MGTC Malaysia Green Technology Corporation and GTC Green Technology Council to stimulate the growth of Green Technology; and SEDA Sustainable Development Authority to administer Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy efforts such as Feed In Tariffs. Green Technology Financing Scheme (GTFS) was announced in National Budget 2010. Various green township and building rating tools have also been used such as LCCF Low Carbon City Framework, Green Building Index, GreenRe, GreenPAS, and many more. Even recently, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and UNDP Malaysia initiated a 2-year programme for a National Corporate Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting Programme, also known as MyCarbon. Green Foundation, or also known as Ya Hijau, was also established with an initial launching grant of RM15 million to promote the development of Green Technology in the country. Despite there are many deliverables on the track, the question still remains. “Are these efforts sufficient to address our promise in COP 15 back in 2009?”

Is the Orchestra Team Delivering the Result?

We see many different agencies, ministries and level of governments having their own environmental sustainability agenda to dance along the call to reduce carbon emission. However, is there a dedicated task force supervising this? Did we duplicate our efforts as a nation in addressing the same problem? Where is our carbon reduction framework? We have many players in the orchestra team trying to outperform the others, but where is the conductor to ensure the deliverables can meet the expectation? Is there a 20-30 years long term planning to address this action plan? Even 10 years is seen by our policymakers as crystal ball gazing. We need a strong leadership, policy and mandate to cut across the red tapes and personal interests to prioritize the survival of our future generation. Aren’t we supposed to be held accountable to answer our future generations in the next 30 or 50 years on the opportunity for us to fix this problem?

Debating Environmental Issues in the Political Arena

There is no doubt that environmental issues and politics go hand in hand. It’s time to have frank debate between political parties on the sustainable growth context of energy security, water security as well as food security. The good news is that we do not have to reinvent the wheel, as we have the technology and experts in doing the deliverables. But, what we really need is the political will, the willingness of different policy makers crossing boundaries regardless of background and political stand to move things forward. It is time to move on from the secrecy culture and the government has to be brave in making the unpopular decisions for the better of the country.

Rakyat Needs to Involve for the Sake of Their Future

It is also important that the public needs to change its mindset that Malaysia is a land of abundance in natural resources. This is simply untrue and not sustainable as we are a nation of wastage when it comes to food, water and energy. The Rakyat has to play their role by practicing the democracy stand in demanding for answers from their leaders and participate in public engagement sessions, instead of just criticizing behind or being a keyboard warrior spreading hatred on social media. Most of us could be talking about the security of our future offspring, be it monetary or education or moral context, but why are we not taking in energy and water security issue which are equally important to be thought of?

Climate Change is Real, at least reflected from our Local Data

There are record breaking climate destabilization events happening all around the world. But what does this mean to the average Malaysian? It will be untrue if one who is the agriculture or fishing industry denies any direct effect. Malaysia has already felt the pinch. Although this year is regarded as one of the warmest, as strange as it may seem, Malaysia recorded the coldest temperature of 15.7°C in the northern states in February this year. The extreme weather Malaysians are experiencing today will become more frequent. This means that if it rains, it would be very heavy with severe thunderstorms. And if it is hot, the hot days would be longer and dryer. The extreme dry spell that affected greater Klang Valley earlier this year has put the urban population to a water rationing exercise too.

Malacca was without rain for 67 rains, while Subang and Petaling Jaya recorded 22 and 18 days without rainfall respectively. On the contrary, Kemaman had one of its worst floods in 40 years, causing more than 13,000 people to evacuate their homes in December of 2013.  And this has direct impact on the economy. During the drought, it was seen that 60% drop in local fruit production. During the water rationing exercise in Selangor due to the long dry spell, many business are affected due to the lack of water supply. On the other hand, there are infrastructure damages due to the flood in east coast. At least, these are what i know of.

Image credit to TheHeat Issue 039. Data retrieved from Meteorological Department
Image Credit to The Heat issue 39. Data retrieved from Meteorological Department

Proven Rising Temperature and Rising Sea Levels

The weathermen recorded an average of 26.7°C in Peninsular Malaysia during 1969. In 2013, 44 years later, more than 300 meteorological stations across the country gave an average temperature of 27.4°C, or an increase of 0.7 degrees. An analysis of the sea level variations for six areas in the Malaysian seas have been investigated using 15 years of altimeter data obtained from various satellites. The altimeter sea level time series revealed that since 1993, the mean sea level in Malaysian Seas has been rising at a rate of between 1.42-4.08 mm/year. ([1]). But what does this really mean? This can also be seen a rising of 0.02°C in the mean temperature annually, or 0.2 degrees every decade, as well as a rising sea level of 14 – 41cm in 100 years.

[1] “Sea Level Change in the Malaysian Seas from Multi-Satellite Altimeter Data” 2009 Ami Hassan Md Din, Kamaludin Mohd Omar

Malaysia Sea Level Graph

For more details on the tidal wave or altimeter data studies, you can read more from the attached paper below.

Download (PDF, 1.59MB)