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Assessing the Impacts of Global warming 1.5°C and 2.0°C at Kelantan and Muda River Basins
Global warming is intensifying with the global mean temperature currently reaching 1.2°C above the pre-industrial level with annual CO2 emission peaking at 51 Gt.  It appears that the prospects of capping the warming below 1.5°C, or even 2.0°C, thresholds are diminishing. The IPCC AR5 Report provided strong scientific evidences on why it is very crucial to limit the global warming to below 2.0°C. This report provided inputs for the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change that aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. Furthermore, the IPCC SR 1.5°C indicated that significant reduction of impacts can be achieved if the warming can be capped at 1.5°C instead of 2.0°C. However, limiting the warming at 1.5°C comes with tremendous challenges to the world in terms of reduction of CO2 emission.  The report indicated that for limiting warming under 1.5°C, annual CO2 emission should be around 25 – 30 Gt by 2030 i.e. ~ 50% reduction of the current emission in a period of less than 10 years. However, under the Paris Agreement, by 2030, estimated world annual CO2 emission is between 52 – 58 Gt; Not sufficient to limit warming at 1.5°C. Indeed, the Our World in Data (see figure) with the current annual CO2 emission is at 51 Gt and current pledges under  under the Paris Agreement, the projected temperature increases are far higher than the intended targets of 2.0°C and 1.5°C. The prospect that the world capping the warming under the Paris Agreement targets seems dimming and diminishing. In 2020, the global mean temperature has already reached 1.2°C above pre-industrial level. Hence, for building climate resilience and strengthening adaptation measures, it is important for countries, especially least developed and developing countries in Southeast Asia to understand the kind of impacts these countries would be facing when the thresholds are reached. Climate in Southeast Asia region is projected to change significantly in future periods (Tangang et al. 2020; Supari et al. 2020). This Research Programme aims to assess and evaluate the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C and 2.0°C at two local river basins in Peninsular Malaysia i.e. Kelantan River Basin and Muda River Basin. This Research Programme is funded by the Malaysia Ministry of Higher Education Long-term Research Grant Schemes (LRGS/1/2020/UKM/01/6) starting 1 December 2020 for a period of four years. The findings would help in formulating evidence-based policies and adaptation measures towards increasing climate resilience and addressing Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3, 6 and 13.
Large CO2 Emissions propels global warming in future decades (Courtesy: Shutterstock)
The current Annual GHG Emissions of 51Gt CO2eq would have to be reduced drastically if the targets of the Paris Agreement were to be achieved.
This is less likely to be the case judging from the pledges and current policies (Courtesy: Our World in Data)

Projects

This Research Programme adopts a multidisciplinary approach and interconnects four Projects. 

Project 1
Climate Projection

Project 1 focuses on providing future climate projections over Peninsular Malaysia and the two river basins when global warming reaches the thresholds of 1.5°C and 2.0°C. In this project, a number of CMIP6 GCM models will be downscaling using RCMs to 25 km resolution over CORDEX Southeast Asia domain and further downscale to 5 km resolution over Peninsular Malaysia. These high-resolution climate projections Muda and Kelantan river basins would be come inputs to Project 2 and 3.

Project 2
Water Balance

Project 2 investigates the impacts of global warming under 1.5°C and 2.0°C on water balance in Muda and Kelantan River Basins using the SWAT+ hydrological model. The model will be forced with downscaled CMIP5/6 GCMs from Project 1 to assess the impacts of GW 1.5°C and 2.0°C. 

Project 3
Health

Climate change causes environmental changes which may trigger changes in patterns of diseases such dengue and leptospirosis. Project 3 assesses the impacts of Global Warming 1.5°C and 2.0°C on human health in Muda and Kelantan River Basins. Various diseases predictive models would be used and driven with inputs from Project 1 and 2.

Project 4
Socio-Economics

Future changes in climate related hazards — floods, droughts, heatwave, increase in disease incidences, would impact the socio-economic and well-being of the population. Project 4 assesses the socio-economic impacts of Global warming 1.5°C and 2.0°C in Muda and Kelantan River Basins. Various socio-economic predictive models will be used and driven by inputs from Project 2 and 3.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Most frequent questions and answers

The IPCC Assessment Reports concluded that the higher the GHG emission, the higher increases of global mean temperature would be in future periods and the higher the risk of impacts is expected. The IPCC AR5 report indicated that warming must be capped at 2.0°C by the end of the 21st century, otherwise the world would be be facing higher risks of greater impacts.  This became the basis of the Paris Agreement. However, during the formulation of the Paris Agreement, small island nations had successfully included “1.5°C” in the agreement although at that particular time there was not much physical understanding of global warming 1.5°C. In the AR6 cycle, IPCC was tasked to produce a special report on 1.5°C. The IPCC SR 1.5°C indicated that a significant reduction of impacts if global warming can be capped at 1.5°C as opposed to 2.0°C. However, the world faces huge challenges in capping the warming at these thresholds given the fact that the current pledges under the Paris Agreement are not sufficient but likely to cause the warming above 2.7°C by the end of the 21st century.

A confusion is quiet common in the meaning of “climate forecast” and “climate projection”. Both are produced by similar tools. However, “climate forecast (or prediction)” refers to the estimate of the actual evolution of the climate (initialization of the model is important) where “climate projection” refers to a  response of the climate system to different  greenhouse gases scenarios, which are quiet uncertain. Climate projection usually refers to plausible climate scenarios over many decades. In that sense, we can’t really say that based on a climate projection that the weather over Muda and Kelantan river basins in the afternoon of January 1, 2050 will be raining heavily. However, it is perfectly alright if we say, based on weather forecasts, there will be heavy rains over these areas in the next two days. For climate projection, climate statistics (e.g. annual cycle, average rainfall, average temperature etc.) over a period (e.g. thirty years of mid century) is more important.

The main impacts of climate change on the water balance are mainly due to the increases of surface temperature and extreme precipitation events, which can lead to more frequent and intense water related disasters, e.g. floods and droughts. Intensification of global warming to 1.5°C and 2.0°C may alter the frequency and intensity of floods and droughts in Muda and Kelantan river basins.

A water balance model, which is also known as a hydrological model, is an  indispensable tool to understand the water movement and interaction of hydrological processes within a river basin. There are various type of hydrological models. They are commonly used for quantifying the responses of regional hydrological processes in response to climate change and anthropogenic activities. SWAT+ is an example of a water balance model.

Climate change affects human health in a variety of ways including by death and diseases. As described by the World Health Organization, climate-sensitive health risks by i) health outcomes and ii) health systems & facilities outcomes.  Health outcomes include injury and death from extreme weather events, heat-related illness, respiratory illness especially air-quality related, vector-borne diseases, food-water borne diseases, zoonotic diseases, non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, mental and psychosocial health. Climate change also has a tremendous impact on the healthcare facilities and health system which may jeopardize the delivery of  health services.  

Disease prevention is an important principle in epidemiology. Primary prevention aims to prevent the onset of new injury or illness (i.e. vaccination, seatbelt). Secondary prevention aims to detect disease early and provide prompt treatment to control the disease advancement (i.e. pap-smear screening). Tertiary prevention occurs once disease is diagnosed; it aims to reduce morbidity, avoid complications, and restore function.

The same principle is used in addressing the health impacts of climate change. Primary prevention relates to mitigation—attempts to halt or reverse climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Mitigation efforts occur mostly in sectors other than health, such as energy, transportation, and architecture. However, the health sector does contribute useful information for this effort. Secondary and tertiary prevention corresponds to adaptation—these efforts are closely related to clinical and public health practices. The aim is to predict and prepare for the health impact of climate change, thus reducing the associated health burden. This set of practices is jointly called as public health preparedness

Yes, there is one. The National Policy on Climate Change, published by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, has as its main aims mainstreaming climate change through sensible resource management and better environmental conservation. The strategy also intends to improve institutional and implementation capability to effectively coordinate opportunities to mitigate adverse climate change impacts. The policy is founded on the ideas of long-term sustainability, coordinated execution, effective participation, and shared but differentiated duties. It includes 43 important actions organized into ten strategic thrusts, such as making development climate-resilient and promoting knowledge-based development.

Indeed, the most vulnerable groups are those who rely heavily on environmental  stability for operating their daily routines, such as the fishermen, farmers and aquaculturists etc.   

They can respond effectively by adapting to these impacts. Generally, adaptation practices related to livelihood diversification, government support, environmental conservation, and social support can strengthen community adaptation practices.

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