Mitigating Impacts Of Climate Change
The famous American architect, inventor and futurist, Richard Buckminster Fuller, was quoted to say during the 50th annual convention of the American Planners Association on 16 October 1967, “…there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it.”
The view that the planet is a “spaceship” without an “instruction manual” invites the thinking that mankind can simply exploit the planet’s finite resources. Perhaps it is because of this thinking that led to the environmental predicament that we are in today, in particular regarding climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations is given the task of assessing the science related to climate change including its impacts, risks and suggestions for adaptation and mitigation.
One of the working groups set up under the IPCC has recently released a report entitled “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis” which will be a part of the more comprehensive Sixth Assessment Report to be published by the IPCC expected in 2022. The working group report is considered to be the most comprehensive as it is based on more than 14,000 studies on the physical science of climate change.
The data reported certainly paints a bleak future for the planet. There are many important points that can be drawn out from the report that certainly warrant attention from governments, policymakers, non-governmental organisations and most certainly every individual living on this planet.
Among others, the report states that the current temperature is already 1.1 degrees higher compared to the 19th century. As a result, humans are no longer able to stop global warming from becoming more intense in the next three decades. If efforts to stop carbon emission from increasing fail, then the global average temperature will continue to rise by as high as four degrees Celcius.
It has also been noted in the report that the past decade has been the hottest experienced by the planet in 125,000 years. The amount of carbon dioxide released since 2013 has also contributed to the planet having the highest concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide level in at least two million years.
In the past century, the oceans have risen by over 20 centimetres, and continues to rise, by another 90 centimetres, in part due to ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica destabilising as well as unprecedented melting and receding of glaciers in the poles. Even at 1.5 degrees Celcius of warming, the ocean levels are projected to rise between 30 and 60 centimetres this century.
Heat waves have become significantly hotter in the past seven decades and lasting longer. Today, a heat wave can be expected every ten years on average. At 1.5 degrees Celcius of global warming, there will be a hotter heat wave every five years. If the average global warming stands at four degrees Celcius, then we can expect heat waves to become an annual affair.
When we have global warming, we will also observe the intensifying of the water cycle leading to heavier precipitation. With every one degree Celcius in global temperature rise, rainfall will increase by seven percent which will result in more floodings across the globe.
Malaysia will definitely be impacted by global warming although we may not feel as such primarily because Malaysia has relatively uniform temperatures all year long. However by 2050, Malaysia is projected to be hotter by 1.5 degrees Celcius. The country is also forecasted to experience more torrential rainfall by the middle of the century, and more floodings are to be expected as well.
With the increasing ocean level, coastal areas in the country are the most vulnerable. Among the impacts will be seen in the resulting land loss, soil erosion, effects on coral reefs as well as depletion of fisheries resources.
It must be understood that many of the impacts of climate change are irreversible. Most of the changes to the climate were set in motion by our own doing, which can be traced back to the First Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. That this is mankind’s own doing has already been stressed upon in the Quran through verse 41 of Surah al-Ruum to the effect that: “Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of (the meed) that the hands of men have earned, that (God) may give them a taste of some of their deeds, in order that they may turn back (from evil).”
At best, we can mitigate the effects of climate change by undertaking certain actions in the here and now. Any further inaction would certainly be catastrophic. In November this year, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) will be held in Glasgow, Scotland. The summit brings together parties with the hope to accelerate action towards achieving the goals as set by the 2015 Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
As a country, Malaysia is not considered a major greenhouse gas emitter. Nevertheless, we must put priority in planning for a more sustainable climate resilient socioeconomic strategy. Mitigation measures must be in place consistent with the 2015 Paris Agreement. These mitigating efforts are course correcting actions that must be taken.
While there may not be a specific manual to tackle environmental degradation and climate change as Buckminster Fuller more than five decades ago, Muslims however firmly hold to the belief that Allah SWThas given us guidance in the form of the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad SAW. This guidance can be extracted from the two primary sources of Islam. It comes in many forms such as exhortations, warnings, examples and principles—all of which can be translated into meaningful actions.
The recent announcement by the Ministry of Environment and Water regarding the International Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCM) and Domestic Emissions Trading Scheme (DETS) is commendable, as the two are in line with the aim of ensuring socioeconomic growth in a sustainable manner without impacting the environment and the climate.
If measures to reduce our carbon footprint are successful, then they can effectively contribute towards mitigating the effects of climate change.