- By Khin Maung Myint
For many years, since the scientists recognized the presence of the climate change: its causes identified and its effects anticipated, they had been endeavoring to address those problems. However, we haven’t seen much improvements. Resolutions to curb the global warming and hence, to control the climate change are already ratified and in force, thanks to the United Nation Framework Conference on Climate Change for getting the Paris Agreements ratified by 195 nations. However, some large emitters of the greenhouse gases are still dragging their feet to abide by them.
If this trend continues, the goal to maintain the temperature at 2° Celsius and to eventually bring it down to 1•5° Celsius above the pre-industrial period average, as required by the Paris Agreement would be quite difficult to achieve. That would place us in dire situations and the consequences unthinkable.
The planet’s climate has constantly been changing over geological time. The global average temperature today is about 15°Celsius, though geological evidence suggests it has been much higher and lower in the past. However, the current period of warming is occurring more rapidly than many past events. Scientists are concerned that the natural fluctuation, or variability, is being overtaken by a rapid human-induced warming that has serious implications for the stability of the planet’s climate. The most common human involvements are: over-logging, excessive use of fossil fuels, slash and burn agricultural practices, etc.
Today, we are experiencing the severe climate changes around the world. As the climate change dictates the weather patterns, we are being subjected more and more to extreme weather conditions. The two most prominent weather patterns are the El Nino and the La Nina phenomena affecting us alternately. Due to these freak weather patterns, we are experiencing weird weather conditions, such as: extreme temperature rises, extreme colds, heavy rainfalls, severe droughts, unprecedented snowfalls in places where there were no snowfall in the past and decreased snowfalls where there were usually heavy snowfalls, storms becoming more frequent and more stronger, extraordinarily extreme hot and cold weathers, severe and frequent earth quakes etc.
The consequences of these freak weather conditions led to desertification, extensive flooding, depletion of arable land, shrinkage of inhabitable space for humans. These are causing the pastures, grazing grounds and habitats for domestic animals and wildlife to disappear fast, people to suffer from poverty and starvations, and the number of displaced persons are on the rise. Natural disasters and social woes are becoming more pronounced.
The rising temperatures, severe droughts and human induced degradation of the land dried up the natural water resources and are rendering the land to become arid and in extreme cases causing desertification. Severe desertification is now affecting 168 countries across the world, according to the new research released by the UN Desertification Convention (UNCCD). The figure, based on submissions from countries to the UN, is a marked increase on the last analysis in the mid-1990s, which estimated 110 states were at risk. The hardest hit are Africa, America, Australia, China, India and Mongolia. The desertification also led to the depletion of pastures and grazing grounds for domestic animals and habitats for the wildlife. Further more wildfires are becoming more frequent and severe, depleting the once lush rain forests around the world. These incidents deprive Earth of carbon absorbing abilities and contribute much to the worsening of the climate change.
Due to the world’s temperatures rise, the Arctic keeps losing its ice. This winter, the area covered by sea ice was the second smallest on record — after last year. And many experts believe that this summer, the Arctic ice cap will shrink to record lows. Similar melting are taking place on the Himalayas and other Alpine glaciers. Due to heavy melting of the ice glaciers everywhere around the world and the heavy rainfalls brought on by the extreme weather patterns, are causing extensive inundating in low lying places. They cause erosion of the shorelines and the land masses are shrinking, decreasing the areas of arable land and habitable spaces.
According to one group of scientists, the global temperature rise of 1.5°Celsius (2.7 °F) above current levels would be enough to start the thawing of permafrost in the Artic, especially in Siberia. The permafrost is an earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rocks of which it is ccomposed, and the processes by which they change over time. Permafrost accounts for 24% of exposed land in the Northern Hemisphere. When the permafrosts thawed, the earth and rocks, which are bound by freezing water become loose and the structures built on them are rendered unsafe. Today in many places in the Artic regions are facing those problems and settlements had to be move to firmer grounds.
These melting ice together with the rain water, collapsing rocks and earths from the erosions of the shorelines that are being dumped into the seas and oceans are causing the water level rises. Which in turn led to flooding of low-lying grounds close to the shores. The worst hit by the floods in the region is Bangladesh. That country is prone to flooding due to being situated on the Ganges Delta and the many tributaries flowing into the Bay of Bengal. Coastal flooding, combined with the bursting of river banks is common, and severely affects the landscape and society of Bangladesh. About 80% of Bangladesh is floodplain, and it has an extensive sea coastline, rendering the nation very much at risk of periodic widespread damage.
The disappearance of some low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean and elsewhere are being on the happening now. Rising sea levels that submerge entire islands were supposed to be a distant possibility of an apocalyptic future. However, that future is now, as five of the Solomon Islands have completely disappeared under water over the past seven decades, one was as recently as 2011, according to a study published in Environmental Research Letters. Another six islands have lost more than 20% of their surface area, forcing communities to relocate as the shoreline closes in on their homes.
Climate change and rising sea levels are already making life in low-lying tropical islands in the Pacific difficult. Increases in global temperatures mean that many of these islands are likely to be completely submerged in the coming years. A report published by The Center for Climate and Security in June 2017 titled “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene” highlights the plight of the small Pacific island nations of Kiribati, Tokelau, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands.
Climate changes will affect everyone, but some populations will be at greater risk. Countries whose coastal regions have a large population, such as Egypt and China, may have to move whole populations inland to avoid flooding. The effect on people will depend on how well we can adapt to the changes and how much we can do to reduce climate change in the world. After all, the climate changes are human-induced. The new NASA chief had expressed doubt about human-caused climate change in the past, but lately said that he knows Earth’s climate is changing, and that humans contribute to it “in a major way”.
Let us see how the deteriorating climate change could impact Myanmar. According to the Myanmar Climate Change Alliance ( MCCA) the following climate change hazards had been observed in Myanmar:–
* An increase in the prevalence of drought events – Drought were frequent in the 1980s and the 1990s, the severest drought was in 2010.
* An increase in intensity and frequency of cyclones/strong winds – Noteworthy cyclones include Cyclone Mala (2006), Nargis (2008) and Giri (2010). Cyclone Nargis hit the Ayeyarwady Delta in May 2008; caused 138,373 deaths and affected a further 2.4 million people. Cyclone Giri hit Rakhine State in October 2010; destroyed 21,242 houses and affected at least 224,212 people.
* Rainfall variability including erratic and record-breaking intense – Over the period 1960-2009, there were shorter rainfall seasons combined with erratic and intense rainfall that resulted in numerous flooding events; from July to October in 2011, there was heavy rain and flooding in the Ayeyarwady, Bago, Mon and Rakhine Regions/States.
* An increase in the occurrence of flooding and storm surge – From 1910 to 2000, 12 major floods in the country. In June 2001, a severe flash flood in the Wundwin Township in central Myanmar, swept away a number of villages. In June 2010, intense rains resulted in excessive sedimentation of paddy fields in Rakhine State. July and August 2015 flooding and landslides displaced 1.6 million people, caused almost 120 deaths, and damaged agriculture and infrastructure.
* An increase in extreme high temperatures – During summer 2010, 1,482 heat related illnesses were reported and 260 heat-related deaths occurred across Myanmar.
* Sea-level rise – Between 2001 and 2010, sea-level rise in coastal areas caused cultivated lands inundated, and ground water contamination.
Based on the preceding facts, I would like to conclude that the threats of the climate changes are real and imminent and thus no one should ignore or reject them. It’s undeniably evident that, we, the humans are most responsible in letting the climate go berserk. For that matter, we are the ones who must put the rein on the ravages of the climate changes. Thus, scientists, environmentalists, politicians, citizens and leaders of all nations must join hands to fight climate change. Though most of us living today may not be around when the world faced destructions of catastrophic proportions, we should at least do everything we can to leave our planet a liveable place for the future generations. Even now, there are already mass migrations of humans going on as a result of the climate change. If these situations couldn’t be addressed in time, the worst case scenarios, such as: social unrests and eventually flare up into wars, which the climate scientists had envisioned, will definitely become realities.
Climate Change – Wikipedia
Floods in Bangladesh – Wikipedia.
The vanishing islands of the Pacific – www.eniday.com.
Impact of Climate Change and the Case of Myanmar – Myanmar Climate Change Alliance report.