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ASEAN ANALYSIS  11  August 2010

Climate change signs in Asia

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   10 August 2010

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There are those who believe that there is no climate change happening on the planet. They contend that the apparent warming of the globe is based on short-term time methods, after all the earth is thought to be 4 billion years old.

Often the symptoms of climate change, skeptics maintain, are mere tools in the hands of “environmentalists.”

This week has brought a seeming deluge of climate-change related news. A large ice island, about the size of four Manhattans, has broken off and is headed south and may interfere with shipping lanes ands offshore oil rigs.

However, the prospect of declining food production has this writer very concerned. Yes, I was raised in a rural setting, where people were not necessarily wealthy but there was always food.

This week’s news that rice production in four Asian countries, Thailand, Vietnam, India and China, was declining due to higher nighttime temperatures was most disturbing. However, after last week’s Save Our Planet-Malaysia, I should not have been surprised.

One of the event’s most impressive speakers was M.R. Chandran, who spoke forcefully and eloquently about agriculture a subject that he himself admitted was seldom discussed.

In his talk, Chandran led off with how the old capitalist system had failed to address a host of problems from climate change through primary education and of course, poverty. He then quoted Nicholas Stern, “The risk of inaction over climate change far outweighs the turmoil of global financial crisis.”

He noted that the only countries that seemed to grasp the future reality were South Korea and China, who have pegged renewable alternative energy sources as supplying 50 percent of their future energy needs.

He noted that the world was in a “catch 23” with the three being: economic prosperity, environmental regeneration and social equity. He stated there could be no progress without profit and that increased food production could be obtained only through increased yields or increased acreage. Agricultural sustainability is the issue he said.

On the latter, he observed that since 1922 there had been an 80 percent decrease in arable land and the “days of cheap food are over.”

Such a talk was perhaps depressing but I thought it was encouraging that there are experts, like M.R. Chandran, who have a grasp of the food issue.

As he said, “without food, humans won’t be around very long.”

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