Ignore climate change at your peril

Algae grow on dead coral reefs in late August, left, after global warming turned them ghostly white at the end of May, right. (Photo courtesy of Asst Prof Thon Thamrongnawasawat)

A marine scientist warned that coral bleaching in the east, which endangers species inhabiting colourful sprawling colonies, is the most tangible evidence of climate change.

"A drone took these photos. On May 30, coral reefs turned white because marine heatwave increased temperature to 36-37C, which is equal to that of Japanese onsen (hot spring) in the shallow sea. On Aug 22, algae grew in large number on dead coral reefs," said Asst Prof Thon Thamrongnawasawat, deputy dean of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University, in the forum.

The forum, recently held by Chulalongkorn University, discussed the impact of climate change in the report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released last month. It confirms that global temperatures rose by 1.09C between 2011-2020. It will reach the 1.5C safe threshold by 2040 under all emission scenarios.

Thon said the multiplication of algae results from the disappearance of sea urchins and cucumbers that have been poached from coral reefs. The loss of these small creatures allows algae to grow unchecked. Another factor is the release of chemical fertilisers into the sea.

"The problem is that the tide normally ebbs between May and September. Coral bleaching occurs in this period, which coincides with the rainy season," he said.

Thon said the marine heatwave has brought about other changes. Coral reef structures will sustain damage from ocean acidification and extreme storm events. Polar seas will also suffer the loss of ice and habitat. Resulting consequences include the migration of marine creatures, some of which have economic value.

"If global warming causes short mackerel to migrate, what fish will we catch?," he asked.

Siriphob Boonvanich, a US-based climate data analyst, said climate change is "a bread-and-butter issue" because it poses financial risks to everybody. Global warming is more than physical damage from natural disasters. He drew attention to the 2011 floods in Thailand.

"At the time, we were the global hub of hard drives. The massive flood caused shortages and a price surge. If I were a manufacturer, would I continue to stay here or relocate? If the company faces a problem in the supply chain, it should diversify risks and invest somewhere else, which means that we will attract fewer investors," he said.

In the US, some companies recently filed for bankruptcy protection in the wake of climate-induced disasters. For example, an American power cooperative faced mounting bills after it bought wholesale electricity at a high price during the winter storm.

Buntoon Srethasirote, the energy regulatory commissioner, said the country has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2030. It will increase it to 25%, depending on further support. Above all, it is formulating a long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategy.

"We plan to reduce it by 52% from our current nationally determined contributions by 2050," he added.

Do you like the content of this article?
  COMMENT  (2)