By Pongphon Sarnsamak
The British government will spend more than US$4.5 billion (Bt122 billion) around the world, especially in Southeast Asia, to support a shift to low carbon society and a green economic policy in a bid to tackle the impact of climate change on the economy and human beings.
“The UK government will sacrifice $4.5 billion to spend on climate change projects around the world in next few years. Some of this money we hope to spend in Southeast Asia and Thailand as well,” John Pearson, head of British government's Southeast Asia Climate Change Network told The Nation in special interview.
It is possible that a $10-million sum would be allocated to Thailand and other countries in this region.
This financial support is a part of the UK government’s programme to team up with countries in Southeast Asia to handle the impact of climate change by making progress on an international treaty and working with the business sector and civil society to adopt a low carbon society especially those countries that would like to become a green growth society.
It is also committed to provide non-financial support like building capacity training, designing a policy to reduce emissions from agriculture and changing internal legislation about green taxes, green budgetary reform, sustainable structure, sustainable consumption and production.
“Our country could suffer from the impact of climate change. Trade routes will be affected and supply of food to the UK will be affected. British nationals overseas will also be affected. These are the real reasons that we are getting involved with this issue,” he said.
“Actually, all countries will be affected one way or another,” Pearson
In his blog “Why Southeast Asia is so vulnerable to climate change?”, Pearson said that the impacts will not be just physical. The map shows that agriculture could be severely hit, resulting in a drop in rice production in countries like Thailand and Vietnam. Fishery stocks could be reduced significantly resulting in a lower commercial catch. And health problems, like malaria and dengue, will probably become more widespread.
A study conducted by Asian Development Bank in 2009 shows that climate change is already affecting Southeast Asia.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in 2007 that during the past several decades, the region’s temperature went up 0.1-0.3 degrees Celsius per decade recorded between 1951 and 2000. Rainfall has been on a downward trend and sea levels are up 1-3 millimetres per year. Also, the frequency of extreme weather events has increased: heat waves are more frequent, heavy precipitation events rose significantly during 1990–2003. These climate changes have led to massive flooding, landslides, and droughts in many parts of the region, causing extensive damage to property, assets, and human lives.
Climate change also worsened water shortages in many areas, constraining agricultural production and threatening food security, causing forest fires and degradation, damaging coastal and marine resources, and increasing the risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases.
In Thailand, while most are fretting about a return of flood disaster, farmers and industrial manufacturers in the East are alarmed by lower rainfall in the East, which could spark another drought crisis like the one in 2005.
Across the world, there are attempts to put a 2-degree-Celsius cap on the increase in global surface temperatures.
A map launched by the British Met Office’s Hadley Centre in 2010 shows the situation in the region if global temperature rises by 4 degrees. Southeast Asia is probably more than twice as vulnerable to climate change as the other parts of the world.
The rise in temperature will not be uniform across the region. Land areas will heat up more than the sea, seeing perhaps a 5 to 6 degrees increase. Tropical storms are likely to become more frequent, affecting areas like Philippines, and the sea level could rise by nearly one metre, which could result in flooding in low-lying areas like the Mekong Delta.
Here are country-specific forecasts for some countries, if global temperature rises by 4 degree Celsius.
If average global temperature increases 4 degrees Celsius, the average sea-level could rise by up to 80cm by the end of the century. This would submerge the lowest parts of the delta and could also increase the threat of saline intrusion and storm surge damage to rice crops across the region.
With the hottest days of the year as much as 6 degrees Celsius warmer over parts of the country, and without adaptation measures, the possibility of rice sterility is significantly greater. Rice crops may also be affected by an increased risk of drought. The potential of a relative sea-level rise of 65 cm across parts of the country brings an increased risk of salt water intrusion on vulnerable coastal agricultural land, also threatening rice yields. Because of the importance of rice to Thailand, significant reductions in yield could threaten national food security in addition to damaging the country’s economy. As rice is also the principal staple crop of Asia, any deterioration of rice production systems could prejudice food security in the continent as a whole.
As a result of a 4 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperature, tropical cyclones could be more intense. The potential rise in sea-level across Southeast Asia could further increase the country’s vulnerability to storm surges and other coastal flooding.
Global average sea levels could rise by up to 80cm by the end of the century, corresponding to a local, relative sea-level rise of around 65cm. For a small country with a high population density and surrounded by sea, this could have implications in terms of flooding, coastal land loss and salt water intrusion of groundwater aquifers. Water supplies may be affected in the future as parts of the region could see drought events occurring more than twice as frequently.
Higher global average temperature is expected to have negative implications. Warmer ocean temperatures can directly affect the physiology, life history, productivity and distributions of fish in the oceans. Furthermore, the availability of food for fish and shellfish is influenced by variations in nutrient recycling, a process controlled by ocean currents, coastal upwelling and the frequency of El Niño events – all of which could change under a warmer climate.