Please Stop Loving Our Corals to Death

The new airport for Tioman has been averted. Now, tourism needs a good relook, writes Reefcheck Malaysia’s Julian Hyde.

AS SCIENTISTS grow increasingly concerned about biodiversity loss and the accompanying loss of critical ecosystem services, the time has come to revisit tourism policy – and practice – in Malaysia.

This is particularly relevant following the recent decision by the government to abandon plans for a new airport on Tioman. The plan projected a four-fold increase in visitor numbers – from 250,00 per year to a million.

(Feature pic: Seeing fish or people? Tourists galore at a snorkelling site in Tioman |  Pic by Alvin Chelliah/Reefcheck Malaysia)

Continue reading Please Stop Loving Our Corals to Death

Unlocking Rare Earth Riches in Malaysia

The world wants a lot more rare earths to power its green technology and meet climate goals. This offers lucrative opportunities for Malaysia to tap into its subterranean rare earth deposits of 16.1 billion tonnes. But first, the country wants to develop guidelines for a rare earth mining method said to be safer for the environment. Can Malaysia produce rare earths for the world’s green technology, and keep itself clean too?

(Image: A rare earth mining  facility in Perak; satellite image taken in January 2022. | Image: Google Earth)

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As Disasters Rise, Climate Change Act Clearly Needed

While its towns bear the consequences of extreme weather, experts and politicians push for a long-awaited climate bill to be signed into law.

MANY Malaysians remember the floods of December 2021, when roads turned to rivers, and homes were swept away or submerged by rising water. 

The disaster claimed 50 lives, at least 400,000 people had to be evacuated and financial losses were estimated at RM6.1 billion, according to a 2022 analysis by Serina Rahman, an environmental anthropologist.

Young Syefura Othman, the member of parliament for Bentong district in Pahang, recalls how three consecutive days of pelting rain inundated her constituency. The flooding happened “of course because of climate change,” she said.

(A man walks through floodwaters in Taman Sri Muda, Malaysia, December 2021  | Image: Alamy)

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Securing Water in a Harsher Climate

El Niño sparks concerns of dry taps in Malaysia. And as global temperatures increase, so will droughts and heatwaves, experts say. In response, government agencies are coordinating water assets and integrating water management for better water security.

EL NIÑO is back, casting its fiery spell upon Malaysia once more.

Last observed in 2019, this natural phenomenon is often synonymous with hot and dry weather in Malaysia. During particularly strong El Niño events in 1997 and 2015, millions of Malaysians endured water rationing – some for months – as dams dried up.

Now, experts are sounding the alarm as they predict this El Niño weather might last until March 2024 and intensify. To shield ourselves from the impacts of El Niño, it is now more vital than ever to ensure our water resources are well prepared. But can we?

(Photo: Air Hitam Dam is one of three dams on Penang Island. Authorities had to do cloud-seeding in June 2023 to replenish the dropping water levels at the dam. | Image from Google Earth Pro, June 22, 2022)

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Explainer: El Niño and Southeast Asia

Weather happens because nature seeks stability. Excess heat, moisture or pressure in one place will move to fill gaps elsewhere. Imagine pouring water into a pool: the water level will rise instantly at one end before it flows to the lower ends of the pool.

What holds true for a pool also holds true for the oceans. At the Pacific Ocean, heat, winds and moisture interact in a major climate phenomenon called the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO alternates among three phases, of which El Niño is the warm phase. 

(Image: This year, sea surface temperature in the eastern Pacific Ocean has been warming up more than average. | Image by European Space Agency)

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What’s in store, El Niño?

El Nino reliably warms up Malaysia but its impact on rainfall is more nuanced and spotty. Still, as global warming drives more extreme weather events, experts foresee El Niño causing more droughts too.

LAST MONTH must have felt like a furnace for many people across the world. Hundreds of millions suffered heatwaves in India, Europe and the United States. Dozens died. Since 1850, humans have waged world wars and landed rovers on Mars, but we have never stifled in a warmer month than July 2023.

July also marked the return of a natural climate phenomenon called El Niño. Last observed in 2019, El Niño tends to lead to warmer and drier months in tropical Asia. Scientists expect this El Niño to last through March 2024. 

(Photo: At its Weather Operation Centre in Selangor, the Malaysian Meteorological Department constantly monitors the country’s weather using satellite and radar data. | Pic by YH Law)

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大自然的堡垒——抵御风暴的关键

珊瑚、红树林和海草共同构成了坚固的天然堡垒,抵御风暴潮和海平面上升等气候变化的影响。 这个生态系统应该共同保护。 本文于 2023 年 6 月首次以英文发表,是我们的 #SeaWorld 系列的一部分。

A Malaysian Environmental Journalism Site

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