PETALING JAYA: The highest temperature ever recorded in Malaysia was at 40.1°C in Chuping, Perlis, a small town known for its large sugar cane plantations.
According to the Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia), the high temperature then – recorded on April 9, 1998, – was due to the global El Nino phenomenon that struck that year.
That was 21 years ago. Fast forward another three decades and in April this year, 21 areas were put under heatwave alert by MetMalaysia for having temperatures of between 35°C and 37°C for three consecutive days.
Cities like Kuala Lumpur are projected to see more dramatic changes in weather patterns.
A study of 520 cities in the world named tropical metropolis such as Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Singapore as those that would see unprecedented climate conditions by 2050. The study by scientists in ETH Zurich, Switzerland, was published last month.
According to news agency AFP, the study looked at the variability in temperature and precipitation, among others.
Cities closer to the equator will likely see more extremes of droughts and rainfall.
Klima Action Malaysia representative Reza Abedi said the country was projected to witness an increase in average annual temperature of 0.6°C to 1°C by 2030, adding that extreme climate change would affect the Malaysian economy and the population’s livelihood.
“Oil palm, an important crop in Malaysia, will be affected by climate change. A study by the University of Minnesota found that oil palm yields have already decreased by 13.4% due to climate change, ” he said. Reza said in a report by Malaysia to the United Nations in 2018 on climate change, the flood areas of river basins in Peninsular Malaysia were likely to increase in the coming years.
On the other hand, he said, states such as Pahang and Sarawak would likely face more severe droughts and dry spells.
Some measures that should be taken against climate change, added Reza, included reforestation, restoring ecosystems and having a climate resilience assessment as a precondition for approval of new infrastructure projects.
Organisation for the Preservation of Natural Heritage Malaysia president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said Malaysia would experience extreme climate change if the environment was not cared for.
“If Malaysia does not put a stop to existing unethical logging and mining practices, the trajectory of its climate will head into extreme dry and wet climate conditions.
“If present conditions prevail, we will see more and more extreme incidents of tropical weather, ” she said, adding that this would mean more extreme heat as well as more massive, torrential downpours.
As such, she said, measures to tackle the issue should include replanting trees, implementing recycling programmes and ceasing uncontrolled logging activities.