Climate Change – as viewed from Malaysia

Aaditya Rajaseharan

A flood-stricken family in Kota Tinggi.

Malaysia is a small but compact country located in South East Asia. It is divided into two parts: Peninsular Malaysia, the more urbanised region of the country, which includes the world famous Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Petronas Twin Towers and Sepang Formula One Circuit; and Eastern Malaysia which not only includes Sabah and Sarawak, two of the largest states in Malaysia, but also those that are populated by native Malaysians like the Kadazandusun, Kelabit and Ibanese people, who still practice their traditional beliefs today. Major cities like Kuching and Kota Kinabalu have very much become the soul of Eastern Malaysia.

Due to Peninsular Malaysia’s strategic location; not only being shielded from strong winds and tsunamis by Sumatera, a large island of Indonesia located just below the peninsular; but also positioned outside of the Pacific Ring Of Fire; Malaysia is generally said to be free from most natural disasters. What it does face annually though, is the arrival of two strong monsoon winds, especially the
Northeast Monsoon.

For those who are unsure what monsoon winds are, they are seasonal winds that
occur in regions situated in or near the Equator.

During most monsoon seasons, the easternmost states of Peninsular Malaysia, such as Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu are bombarded by heavy rains, which inevitably lead to flash floods. Occasionally, these regions are struck by ferocious winds, capable of damaging houses. However, the Northeast Monsoon was at its most destructive last year, displacing more than 160,000 people from their homes. To add salt to the wound of the affected residents, they not only had their homes destroyed but were also hit by floods 6-feet deep. Many of these unfortunate Malaysians could not even access basic necessities. In fact, one particular villager was trapped in her attic with her two children. They somehow
managed to survive for 2 days without food or water. She said that she was one of the lucky ones spared by God as the floods did not exceed the height of her attic.

However, not all people were that fortunate as in a separate case, a boy who had
tried to brave the flood with his sampan (a Malay traditional wooden boat), had his boat capsized and eventually drowned. He was never to be found again – one,
among the many innocent children killed during the monstrous monsoon that struck Malaysia in December of last year.

The Malaysian government reacted diligently and swiftly in dealing with this issue by allocating food and basic necessities, which were donated by other Malaysians from safer regions, to the residents who were housed in shelters. Many teams of firemen were also deployed in the water-swamped areas to bring more people to safety. These brave firemen even worked till the small hours of the morning, searching desperately for stranded victims. Prayers in the mosque were also held, with the Prime Minister himself even attending those services, to ask for mercy from the Lord. In addition, the Malaysian people and the Malaysian government worked hand in hand to restore the demolished villages after the tragedy, so that the dispirited and sombre residents there could quickly carry on with their lives.

In my opinion, these floods in Malaysia were not solely caused by the increase in wind speeds. They were caused by something else, something faced by the global population. Namely, climate change.

Now, let us just pause for a moment and think: What other reason could have possibly caused a country that is one of the most geologically safe regions in the world to be struck by these ferocious floods?

Climate change, which includes global warming, actually heats up the Earth as greenhouse gases are heat retentive. These gases are mainly emitted into the
air through the combustion of fossil fuels, which occurs in most transport vehicles. This then causes the polar ice caps in the North and South poles to melt, which further causes the global sea levels to rise, which in turn causes the sea levels in Malaysia to rise, which increases the effect of the monsoon floods. Hence, measures should be taken and implemented quickly to reduce and, hopefully in the future, eradicate the effect of climate change.

Despite this, the overall situation is not all doom and gloom. A recent study by
the International Energy Agency shows that carbon dioxide levels have stalled in
2014. In other words, there was no net increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases last year, which has only previously occurred in three separate years over the course of the last forty. Let’s not be complacent with this brilliant
achievement though, but carry on being green citizens because we are the Earth’s
keepers and our actions today will significantly determine the consequences that
we will face tomorrow.

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