Climate change: Snapshots from Malaysia, China and Pakistan

Glaciers in the Animaqin Mountains in the source area of the Yellow River are shrinking. -- PHOTO: LIU SHIYIN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Glaciers in the Animaqin Mountains in the source area of the Yellow River are shrinking. -- PHOTO: LIU SHIYIN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Malaysia: Telltale signs in the air

KUALA LUMPUR - Mr Kevin Tan, a member of Kuala Lumpur's burgeoning middle class, dreamt that he would see the day when he, his wife and his young son would have to endure months of dry taps in the bustling metropolis.

His household was just one among millions affected by an unusual, three-month-long hot and dry spell which struck parts of peninsular Malaysia in mid-January.

The extended drought followed a brief period of unusually cool weather in January.

Some experts believe these are signs of how climate change is affecting Malaysia.

Global Environment Centre director Faizal Parish said the three-month drought has been "quite unusual", as the dry spell that normally occurs around the Chinese New Year period early in the year usually lasts for just one to two weeks.

But others, like the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry's climate change expert Gary W. Theseira, are more circumspect, saying that there is no conclusive proof although there is a growing body of evidence of an increase in rainfall intensity, and changes in rainfall duration and frequency patterns relating to prolonged wet or dry periods.

Mr Gurmit Singh, chairman of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia, said that the country badly needed better data collection and a central depository for the study of climate change.

"Only then can we drive the concept of green cities. At the moment, there is a big knowledge gap. We have no hard data, so how do we instil urgency in Malaysians?" he said.


China: Rapidly shrinking glaciers

BEIJING - Glacier retreat is barely noticeable to most people but could affect millions in Asia who rely on glacial meltwater from China for a year-round supply of fresh water.

Experienced glaciologists like Professor Liu Shiyin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have gathered evidence of the loss. Two pictures of glaciers in the Animaqin Mountains in the source area of the Yellow River, one taken by him in 2002 and the other taken by his colleague Guo Wanqing in 2011, showed signs of obvious shrinkage.

"A large number of small glaciers have shrunk and disappeared in China in the past 50 to 60 years. Glaciers are very sensitive to global warming," he said, noting the stepped-up loss in many of the glaciers in Xinjiang.

As rapid development in the form of new factories, roads and mines contributes to rising temperatures, more small glaciers will disappear in the coming 20 to 40 years, a study by Prof Liu's team warns.


Pakistan: Too much rain... or too little?

ISLAMABAD - For several years, Pakistan has suffered repeated blows from a changing climate: erratic monsoon rains, rising temperatures leading to reduced agricultural output, glacial floods in its mountains, seawater intrusion into the Indus Delta and extreme weather events like major floods and droughts.

Pakistan was hit by floods in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and severe droughts from 1999 to 2002. The 2010 floods, triggered by unprecedented rainfall in the north of the country, were considered the worst floods in Pakistan's history. More than 2,000 people were killed.

Climate expert Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry says: "Extreme weather events in Pakistan are increasing. The super-floods of 2010 affected around 20 million people in the country; and in 2011, five years of rainfall fell in just four weeks in Sindh."

Drought is also a problem in some areas. In Balochistan, the largest province, only 2.1 million hectares out of a total of 19.4 million hectares are cultivated due to shortage of water.


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