Environmental crisis heating up, urgent action needed


PETALING JAYA: On Earth Day today, environmental activists are calling for greater climate action especially as the world, including Malaysia, has been recording hotter temperatures in recent years.

Global Environment Centre director Faizal Parish said from 1969 to 2015, the annual minimum temperature in Peninsular Malaysia had risen by 1.4°Celsius.

“Sea levels have risen by 5cm (on average) from 1993 to 2015. It is predicted to rise by 50cm in Peninsular Malaysia and 1.06m in Sabah by the year 2100, ” he said, adding that this would lead to coastal flooding and erosion.

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“Storms and extreme events such as droughts will increase. Peatland and forest fires will become frequent, and incidence of transboundary haze will also increase, ” he said.

Ordinary Malaysians could also do their part by reducing electricity use at home, buying energy-efficient devices, planting more trees, and lobbying for their MPs to speak up on climate action, added Faizal.

Greenpeace Malaysia public engagement campaigner Nur Sakeenah Omar said the evidence of global warming effects on Malaysia was clear, with 2019 recording the second warmest average temperature in the country.

“Everyone in Malaysia is experiencing the effects in our day-to-day life, especially lower income families that feel the brunt of the effects the most, ” she said.

Nur Sakeenah added that Malaysians could adopt a “refill and reuse” strategy to reduce consumption and the usage of single-use plastics, such as eliminating plastic straws.

“It is a start, but we are not yet anywhere near the finish line as there are currently not many systems in place within Malaysia to accommodate the refill and reuse lifestyle, ” she said.

Nur Sakeenah pointed out that Malaysian individuals could not do it alone.

“It requires a concerted effort by the government and corporations to limit the impacts of climate change, ” she said.

Urging Malaysians to manage their waste better, she also warned that municipal waste in landfills contributed to the country’s carbon emissions.

“Malaysians waste about 16,688 tonnes of food a day. We should start planning meals, keeping track of our trash, composting, avoid throwing away leftover food and understanding expiry dates, ” said Nur Sakeenah.

Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the climate crisis was becoming increasingly dire.

She gave the example of global mean sea levels rising by about 21cm to 24cm since 1880, adding that Malaysians could do their part to mitigate climate change.

“We can use less electricity and encourage the government to switch to renewables for power generation.

“Next is to reduce waste by choosing reusable products instead of disposables. Buying products with minimal packaging will help reduce waste which ends up in landfills, ” she said.

The Coalition of Environmental NGOs (COEN) said no amount of economic progress could justify leaving future generations with a degraded environment.

“We, the adult population of Malaysia, must realise that we are now using natural resources of the future faster than we or nature can regenerate it, ” said the group.

The 23 organisations in COEN are calling for the government to put a stop to the unsustainable depletion of the country’s natural resources.

“These include the degazettement of several of our reserve forests, logging for agriculture, mining of rare earth and other minerals, as well as sand, and unnecessary infrastructure.

“We also call on the government to make amendments to our constitutional and forestry laws to upgrade the protection of our natural environment immediately as otherwise, it will be too late, ” they said.

The Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) showed data to The Star that the country recorded an increase of about 1°C in average temperatures from 50 years ago.

It urged Malaysians to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and switch to LED lights and energy-efficient air-conditioners, and encouraged people to recycle and plant trees.

MetMalaysia also warned them against open burning.

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