There are significant impacts of climate change already occurring in Malaysia. In recent years especially, we have experienced increased frequency of droughts and floods as well as a rise in sea levels in coastal areas.
These extreme weather changes are expected to have numerous environmental and socioeconomic effects which not only worsen existing environmental issues but also reduces quality of life.
Existing environmental pressures on natural resources are expected to intensify as we progress into the future. Agriculture will be further threatened by droughts and floods while rice yields are expected to decline by 60%. Other potentially impacted products include rubber, palm oil, and cocoa. Annual drought probability which currently lies at 4%, may increase to 9%.1
Major contributors of climate change
One of the major contributors of climate change is the increasing need for electricity. Demand for electricity grew 64% in the decade prior to 2017 while fossil fuels remain the primary fuel for electricity generation. In 2017, over 44% of electricity was produced from burning coal and 38% from natural gas. Besides that, deforestation, particularly for palm oil and natural rubber production, is also a major contributor to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. 2
Temperatures are rising rapidly
Greenhouse gases, or GHGs, are compound gases that trap heat or longwave radiation in the atmosphere. Their presence in the atmosphere makes the Earth’s surface warmer. This gives rise to more storms and extreme weather events which are closely related to temperature, such as heatwaves and extremely hot days.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. Scientific studies indicate that rising temperatures are likely to increase the annual occurrences and intensity of heatwaves with human-induced climate change. Climate warming also increases evaporation on land, which can worsen drought and create conditions more prone to wildfire and a longer wildfire season.3
Hot weather affects waste management
In countries like Malaysia with specifically hot weather, there are adverse effects on the biological processes of solid waste and the physical operation of landfills as well as the health and well-being of solid waste facility workers and populations exposed to solid waste.
The biggest problems are foul odours, pests and overflowing trash that wreak havoc on routine waste collection activities. Heat and humidity allow bacteria to grow faster and smells to travel further. The bad odour attracts pests which become a sanitary nuisance and property hazard for businesses.
Besides that, the hot weather can turn landfills into a real dumpster fire. During the COVID-19 pandemic, large-scale cleanouts of hazardous and flammable materials surged; and with that dumpster fires and explosions. 4
The high-speed, machine-heavy process of sorting trash from treasured recyclables is a known fire risk. Under high heat conditions, items such as aerosol cans, propane tanks, batteries, e-waste, fertilizers, liquid chemicals and other fluids can spontaneously combust. All it takes is a little heat and friction and in the driest conditions, a single cinder from a cigarette butt can ignite a blaze.
Between January 2019 to January 2022, the Malaysian Department of Environment (DOE) received over 19,000 complaints on open burning, as reported by The Star. 5
According to the DOE, the increased incidence of fires is associated with hot and dry weather. Some key initiatives by the DOE include:
- Stepping up enforcement on open burning by increasing compounds and investigations on offences under Section 29A of the Environmental Quality Act 1974
- Adopting smart enforcement by using technologies such as thermal drone monitoring to detect hotspot areas even at night
- Using technology for sampling of toxic gases using multi-gas analysers, mobile automated continuous air quality monitoring stations to detect air quality
- Fire Prevention Program – increased ground patrol and drone activities for monitoring and enforcement
What can we do as consumers to reduce our carbon footprint?
There are many ways we can be more conscious of our environmental footprint as consumers. A few simple ways as shared by The Grantham Institute 6 include:
- Cut back on air travel where possible. Consider video-conferencing options for work and trains for same country travels
- Walk or cycle. Car sharing options are also a good way to reduce GHG footprint
- Turn off appliances or lights when not in use. Replace light bulbs with LEDs or low energy lights. Ensure our homes are energy efficient
- Help to conserve green spaces like local parks especially in urban areas
- Avoid single-use items and fast fashion
- Repair and re-use where possible. Give unwanted items to charity or sell them.
Let us know what are some other ways we can consider to reduce our carbon footprint in the comments.