Awareness crisis in climate change

PETALING JAYA: Most Malaysians are still unaware of climate change and its effects due to the lack of the public education and reading materials on the issue, say experts.This comes after 61% of respondents in a survey said they either “know a little” or “have never heard” of climate change – despite many ‘extreme weather’ events.


Climatologist Prof Dr Fredolin Tangang of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) said more needed to be done to educate the public by making sure information on climate change was accessible.

“I agree that the level of awareness on climate change-related issues is considered low among Malaysians.

“If we look at reading materials on climate change, we’re lacking those in Bahasa Melayu as they are mostly written in English,” he said when contacted.

He also said that most of the information available was too technical and scientific, making it hard for the general public to understand the issue.

“We need to educate the masses. We need information that can be easily understood by laymen,” said UKM’s Earth Sciences and Environment Department chairman.

The International Public Opinion on Climate Change 2022 survey, held via Facebook last year by the Yale Programme on Climate Change Communication, also found that only 36% of the 1,153 Malaysian respondents “know a lot or a moderate amount about climate change”.

However, 78% of the respondents agreed that climate change was happening, referring to the rising global average temperature.

Kolektif Iklim founder Aidil Iman Aidid said if this lack of awareness was not addressed, Malaysians would face consequences.

“Low levels of awareness on the matter can be attributed to the lack of environmental education.

“This might lead to apathy and an inability to take action,” he said.

Aidil added that the level of awareness varied among people from different generations and backgrounds.

“For example, the National Youth Climate Survey led by UNDP, Unicef and Ecoknights found that 92% of young Malaysians acknowledge climate change as a crisis.

“In this survey, young people’s exposure to climate change is heavily reliant on social media.

“This might be a factor that differentiates between generations’ access to information on climate change,” he added.

The youth environmental activist said ‘climate-smart’ education would be helpful in raising awareness.“Currently, climate change or environmental education is not a compulsory, standalone subject.

“But climate change goes beyond textbooks. It requires schools to have resilient infrastructure that can withstand the challenges of the climate crisis such as floods and strong storms,” said Aidil.

Klima Action Malaysia co-founder Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar agreed, saying that the climate change education in school was merely on its science, but should also include its implications.

“There is almost no disaster education (in schools). Even in universities, we’re not offering climate change undergraduate degrees.

“We need to start offering climate change courses, in addition to focusing on mitigation, due diligence, and governance in terms of the business aspects,” she said.

In its recent report on Climate and Energy Transition Reporting, Klima Action recommended the government ensure that data related to the environment and climate change be accessible to the public.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia senior researcher Hilary Kung said the government should introduce climate change and sustainability education in the school syllabus.

“The level of awareness on climate change is considered low among Malaysians.

“This is due to many factors. One of them is because climate change and sustainability education is not (part of the school syllabus).

“News media also play a role in communicating climate change within the local context,” she added.

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