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close this book South-East Asia's Environmental Future: The Search for Sustainability (1993)
close this folder Part II - Climatic change and variability
View the document Introduction
Open this folder and view contents 6. Climate model predictions for the south-east Asian region
View the document Climatic change and public policy
Open this folder and view contents 7. Enso, drought and flooding rain in south-east Asia
Open this folder and view contents A successful prediction using unconventional data
Open this folder and view contents 8. Climatic change and agriculture: Problems for the Asian tropics
Open this folder and view contents Climatic change in Indonesia

Climatic change and public policy

Climatic change and public policy

SHAM SANI

BOTH Chapters 6 and 7 are basically related and are therefore equally relevant in terms of policy response considerations. The comments here are more apposite to the first of these chapters, but they do not refer to the detailed climatology discussed by HendersonSellers. They focus mainly on matters pertaining to policy responses-an issue which is raised in both chapters but not treated in any detail. However, with regard to sea-level rise, Tjia (1989), using more than 150 radiometrically dated shoreline indicators, suggested that actual sea level within the South-East Asian region is expected to decline in the near future at rates between 1.5 and 2.0 millimetres per year. This decline is expected to compensate for the projected 20-centimetre rise in sea level due to the greenhouse effect so that the net rise by 2025 will only be between 13 and 15 centimetres. Further, it is interesting to note that a number of the observations made in Chapter 7 have been similarly observed by the Malaysian Meteorological Service, and they were reported in its Technical Reports (Cheang, 1990; Quah, 1984, 1988).

It is evident that a great deal of work is needed not only to document the exact influence of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon in South-East Asia but also to improve the existing climate models. Consideration of the more important climatic features like tropical cyclones, monsoons and ENSO events which have so much influence on the region's weather is especially important.

It is doubtful that anyone would dispute the views expressed about the generally poor climate predictability in the region. Detailed and accurate predictions on the magnitude of climatic change at regional and local levels are not possible on the basis of the state of knowledge in the early 1990s, and it will take a long time yet before precise predictions can be achieved in this part of the world. However, it is important to note that the governments of at least some South-East Asian countries are aware of global climatic change and its likely implications on human activities. They are making efforts to improve understanding of the nature and mechanisms of regional climate, evidence of climatic change, the likely climate scenario given a doubling of CO2 by 2030, the impact of such a climate scenario on agriculture, water resources, coastal and marine resources and policy options.

Detailed features of the generated scenarios may be somewhat exaggerated, or even underestimated, but they are nevertheless useful first approximations upon which policies and strategies can be based. Such policies can gradually be refined as more information becomes available. One good effort towards such an objective is reflected in a recent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) project on 'SocioEconomic Impacts and Policy Responses Resulting from Climate Change: A Regional Study in Southeast Asia'. While this project is probably not going to be the answer to prayers regarding climatic change, it is certainly a step in the right direction. The UNEP project was jointly undertaken in 1989 by Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The objectives of the project were to generate the climate scenario, assuming a doubling of CO2 by 2030; to assess the impact of such a scenario on some important activity sectors; and to select appropriate policies and strategies in order to respond to future climatic change.

TABLE 6.2 Examples of Climatic Change Impacts

  1. Rice yield decreases by 12-22 per cent, but may be offset by CO2 increases.
  2. Maize production is not significantly affected. It is more sensitive to solar radiation changes.
  3. Palm-oil yield will be affected if dry seasons and several months of reduced sunshine occur.
  4. The limitation to rubber cultivation is negligible if temperature increases by only 2 °C. A 3-15 per cent decrease will occur if there is increased drought. A rainfall increase of 10 per cent can cause a 13 per cent decrease in yield.
  5. In the Kelantan River basin, an increase of flood peaks and duration is forecast. A 30-35 per cent increase in water deficits in the dry season can also be anticipated.

Source: Condensed from Chong (1990).

TABLE 6.3 Examples of Possible Policy Responses

Agriculture and Water Resources

  1. Breeding new crop varieties.
  2. Maintenance of broad genetic base.
  3. Policy on more efficient control and use of water resources.
  4. Review policy on subsidies; possible increase in subsidies.
  5. Encourage more intensive agriculture; reduce land fragmentation.
  6. Diversification of employment opportunities among farmers.
  7. Awareness programmes for planners and project implementors.
  8. Comprehensive monitoring programme regarding climate change.
  9. Water resource use and management policy-priority of water use; water pricing; water regulation and distribution.

Coastal Resources

  1. Review existing structural measures to prevent erosion.
  2. Relocation of population and important infrastructural facilities from areas likely to suffer immediate inundation.
  3. Monitoring and assessment.

Source: As for Table 6.2.

In Malaysia, as a result of the project, a number of interesting prognostications have now become available with regard to climatic change. Tables 6.2 and 6.3 provide examples.