Climate change has become an increasingly pressing matter across the globe, yet many locals think that Malaysia could do better as a country to address this dire issue.
Recently, news broke of how our country was not invited to the Leaders Summit on Climate in the U.S.–a conference which underlines the urgency and the economic benefits of stronger climate action as described on The White House’s website. According to Environment and Water Minister, Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man,
“It needs to be understood that the main objective of this summit is to encourage big global economies which collectively contribute 80 per cent of greenhouse gases (globally) to increase their commitment in achieving the goal of maintaining the maximum temperature rise for global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius
“(The summit) is also related to countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as Vietnam and Indonesia. Malaysia is not included in either category.”
He stated that many other countries were not invited as well such as Sweden, Switzerland and Thailand. In another statement, the minister reassured that,
“The summit is a one-off event, and does not affect negotiations and resolutions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This needs to be seen separately from the recent issue on the importation of plastic waste into Malaysia from the US.”
The exclusion led many Malaysians to voice concern about the handling of the environment. According to DAP Secretary Lim Guan Eng,
“Malaysia’s exclusion from a climate action summit featuring world leaders from 40 countries, including neighbours Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam has become a sad joke on the declining state of Malaysia’s previous leading activism on promoting climate change.
“Malaysia’s exclusion from the United States Climate Action Summit confirms that Malaysia is viewed as more of a dumping ground for plastic waste than a strategic environmental partner.”
Lim also pointed towards Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) failure to implement more ‘green policies’ thus allowing Malaysia to continue to accumulate plastic waste from the U.S.
Tuan Ibrahim responded by asking the public to view these issues as separate matters unrelated to one another.
While there is public awareness of the issues mentioned in Lim’s statement, we should also take into consideration the population and greenhouse output of Malaysia versus that of other countries.
A quick search online reveals that Malaysia’s output for greenhouse gas emissions is 161 for production-based emissions (MtCO2e) in 2016 according to the Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT). Top countries on the list that year include Indonesia (2,229), India (3,235), the US (5,833) and China (11,576).
Although Malaysia ranks low on greenhouse gas emissions and our exclusion from the Leaders Summit on Climate in the U.S is unrelated to our current environmental issues, many Malaysians still believe that we need to start our own conversation regarding climate change.
It is evident that Malaysia has been going through several alarming changes throughout the years and denying the matter will definitely lead to deterioration.
Looking at only 2021, Malaysians had to ring in the new year with massive floods and landslides that led to the deaths of several locals, not to mention how Malaysia was also predicted to be one of the countries that will suffer the hardest impact from climate change by the year 2030.
To the people who were forced to spend 10 hours on the roof beam of their house and endure 500-metre high murky waters due to a flood that engulfed and destroyed their homes, who are we to deny the blatant effects of climate change to their faces?
A recent report by the Malaysia Red List has stated that 567 plant species out of the 1,600 Peninsular Malaysia plant species have been classified as threatened which signals biodiversity loss in Malaysia at an alarming rate.
Biodiversity is integral to ensure food security since it provides various resources for food and helps fight against fungi and diseases that may wipe out crops. It is also used for creating both traditional and modern medicine.
Due to excessive logging and blatant ignorance towards the effects of climate change, the degradation of our forests have persisted causing the endangerment of several species as well as the perpetuation of floods and landslides that will inevitably lead to the uprise of diseases like malaria and dengue.
Jailan Simon, the Director-General of Jabatan Meteorologi Malaysia (MET), revealed in an interview with Rojak Daily in March 2021 that his job is solely focused on weather forecasting, which means he needs to know Malaysia’s current ecosystem like the back of his hand.
In the interview, he revealed that extreme changes in weather in Malaysia has definitely aroused concern for MET as it is a definite harbinger of significant climate change. He said,
“In terms of monitoring the climate, we have the data that tells us that temperature is increasing. The temperature for Peninsular Malaysia is increasing by about 1.6°C per 100 years. Sabah and Sarawak’s increase are slightly lesser. The rising temperature which also leads to rising sea level is also a clear indicator of climate change.
“We should be worried because as the temperature increases, there will be more extreme weather. For example, there will be more drought or there will be more heatwave. And those areas like Cameron Highlands where it used to be cool would become warmer. We cannot plant our vegetables there anymore.
“If it (the rise of sea level) is very bad, then, we will sink – especially in the coastal areas.”
Speaking of unpredictable weather, Malaysia is ping-ponging between rainstorms and heat waves. Based on a study by Think City, Malaysian cities have gotten significantly hotter within the past few decades. MET has also corroborated this by saying this heat spell will last until mid-April, in tandem with the northeast monsoon period.
Despite that, Malaysians are all aware of just how scorching our weather can get with the daily maximum temperatures sometimes reaching up to 35c to 37c. Clearly, climate change has been further exacerbated with the reckless abandon of erecting more concrete jungles instead of preserving the ones we were originally gifted with.
According to The Star in 2019, Malaysia has yet to finalise a National Adaptation Plan, which is used to reduce the country’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. This is done through integrating climate change into existing policies, programmes and activities in all relevant sectors of different levels in Malaysia.
Its importance is stark yet two years later, there’s still much to be done.
While we’re not a big contributor to climate change via greenhouse gases, we suffer from the effects just like any other nation, and that deserves a conversation by itself.