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CLIMATE INSECURITY AND THE CHALLENGE FOR MALAYSIA AND THE DEVELOPING COUNTRIES OF SOUTHEAST ASIA REGION
[ Khairulmaini Osman Salleh, ] - PhD Professor of Department of GeographyUniversity of Malaya
The IPCC 2007 report on the “Science of Climate Change” shows a small increase in temperature (~ 0.3 oC ) and rainfall (~ 3%) for the Southeast Asia Region in the last decade or so, however, there is general agreement amongst scientists that the changing behavioural patterns of the el‐Nino ENSO , Monsoons and to a certain extent the Indian Dipole Oscillation circulation systems are triggering weather extremes and variability to influence changing behavioural patterns of hydro‐meteorological and geomorphological events within the major river basins (for example, floods, droughts, haze pollution, slope failures and the emergence of certain diseases) in the country. In addition to these events, Malaysia would also be exposed to increasing threats (directly or indirectly) from low pressure atmospheric cells that develops in the South Indian Ocean (cyclones) and the Pacific – South China Sea Regions (typhoons). These events are triggered by the warming ocean surface waters due to the global warming – climate change effect. To this date the impact of these changes can still be absorbed by the strong foundations of Malaysia’s environmental management programmes and backed by stringent economic policies including effective poverty eradication and food production programs. However, it must be understood here that the environmental policies addresses only the environmental change threat and not specifically the climate change threat where in the long term the impact scenario would generally diverge, and the resilience of Malaysia to the climate change threat would generally decrease and her vulnerability increases. This scenario can change if the gradual increase in global warming is left unchecked and unabated because increasing global temperatures could lead to thresholds been breached where habitats and ecosystems could not recover to existing equilibrium and stable conditions. Ecosystems disequilibrium would influence human livelihood activities that are very much dependent on their stability. These changes would have a tremendous impact on low income economic systems especially, as they are very dependent on ecosystem resources and conditions such as those associated with coastal fishing, rural agriculture, urban commerce and many forms of rural cottage industries. These low income populations hovers just above the poverty threshold line and any change in their income generation activity would make them fall below the poverty line, and for Malaysia and many countries of the developing world this could compromise the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals Objectives (MDGs). Climate change could also trigger national and international distributional conflicts and intensify problems already hard to manage in the region (inter and intra regional conflicts). Malaysia and many countries in the developing world could be affected in future conflict scenarios as a result of climate change. Four conflict constellations can be identified in which critical developments can be anticipated as a result of climate change impact on Malaysia and the developing world. These are, conflict constellations on (1) climate‐induced degradation of marine and freshwater resources, (2) climate‐induced decline in food production capacities and other environmentally driven economic systems, (3) climate‐induced increase in certain hydro‐meteorological and geomorphological events and (4) climate change ethical – justice issues such as environmentally induced displacements and migration and the deprivation and sustenance of certain livelihood activities. The social impacts of climate change will vary in the different parts of Malaysia and amongst developing countries. “Security risks associated with climate change”, shows selected hotspots can be identified. The existence of these climate change conflict constellations threaten to overstretch the established national‐ regional ‐ global governance system, thus jeopardizing international stability and regional security. The last half decade had witnessed a number of threatening environmental events that are climate change induced. These events will steadily intensify and exacerbates existing environmental risks and have serious repercussions on Malaysia and the developing world. Climate extremes, variability and anomalies will threaten the bases of many of the countries populace livelihoods and their major economic systems, especially vulnerable are the poor and those living at the threshold of the poverty line. The low income economic systems are especially vulnerable as their practices are dictated and sustained by climate – weather behavioral patterns. Any changes to these behavioral patterns would seriously affects the daily practices and livelihoods of highland farmers, traditional fishing and agriculture practices of coastal regions, and other forms of rural cottage industries. Malaysia’s and many of the developing countries large scale economic systems such as agriculture, fishing, hydro‐electric power generation and tourism related activities are also vulnerable to climate variabilities and extremes as these industries to a major extent are environmentally driven. Climate change will hit Malaysia and the developing countries hard. Timely adaptation measures should therefore be an integral element of her national policies. However, most developing countries, lacks the skills and capacities to implement effective adaptation measures at all levels of systems been threatened. Moreover, the impacts of climate change will increase the vulnerability of weak and the more fragile systems and further reduce their adaptive capacities. The nature of vulnerability and resilience of these systems to the climate change threat needs to be assessed and understood. There’s not much that Malaysia and the developing countries can do in mitigating and curtailing green house gases emission, however there’s much that can be done in order to reduce vulnerability and resilience of the population and livelihood systems. In general it can be said that the greater the warming, the greater the security risks to be anticipated, and Malaysia and the developing countries need to adapt to these impending risks.
climate change stresses, vulnerable systems, low income populations, policy implications, Malaysia, Southeast Asia Region