THE Saturday deluge in Penang is a signal that something is not right with the way we are treating the environment. This is not the only time we have been so warned.
Pendang in Kedah was similarly warned when a “mini-tornado” blew off rooftops in October 2014. Rare water-spouts had also been spotted in Kedah and Penang, giving a whole new meaning to the word “rare”.
Over the last 50 years or so, the sea temperatures have increased and climate experts say the rate is accelerating. This is not a phenomenon peculiar to Penang, but a global trend. The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa)’s statistics support this. Nasa’s data collected over 134 years show that all but one of the 16 hottest years have occurred since 2000. The hurricanes occur so frequently that weathermen are not able to name them fast enough.
If climate change deniers want proof, all they have to do is to see the pathetic state Antarctica is in today. Since 2002, the southernmost point of the earth has been losing about 134 billion metric tons of ice per year. Scientists warn that if we continue with our carbon footprint, sea levels could rise several metres in the next 50 to 150 years, swallowing several islands.
Why are we not taking heed of these signs? Climate change deniers may have put wool over our eyes, but there is ample evidence now.
Added to Nasa’s data is the authoritative voice of the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, which went on record last year stating that it is now possible to confidently attribute certain weather events directly to climate change.
There is only one way we can decelerate climate change, and, that is, we must change the way we have been doing things. Development at the expense of the environment must be halted immediately. The state and federal authorities have the power and they must enforce it without fear or favour.
But, that still leaves a wide gap in the climate change equation, and, that is, us — the you and I. Like charity, arresting climate change begins at home. Lighting and air-conditioning account for almost half of home energy use, and this is where we need to start. There are some seven million households in Malaysia, and, if each household makes its home energy-efficient, there will be enormous savings in terms of ringgit and carbon footprint.
Our cars, too, are big carbon emitters. The less we use them the better. One study estimates that one car less can save three tons of CO2 emission per year. Multiply that by two cars per family (which is the safe national average), and you get pretty good savings of carbon footprint. Light Rail Transport and Mass Rapid Transport or electric-powered taxis are good alternatives. For the long-term though, we must build walkable smart cities and towns that require less-to-no driving.
For climate to stop changing, we need to start changing — the way we do things, that is.