By PISA Program Assistant, Dr. Miriam Grinberg
Where for the other countries in Southeast Asia covered so far in this series sea level rise is a more recent concern, in Thailand, it has long been cited as an important factor behind the oft-discussed “sinking” of its capital, Bangkok. Local data from around the country has shown an increase in sea level of about 5 mm in the last 25 years, a rise that has been accompanied by increased incidents of cyclones, flooding, and deadly storm surges. The country’s devastating 2011 floods, for example, not only impacted over 1.69 million hectares of land, resulting in economic losses of over $2 billion — it also caused global industrial production to decline by 2.5%, as seven major industrial parks and the 800+ companies therein (largely producing automobile parts and electronics) were inundated.
“Globally, the new research makes clear that some of the recent weather damage resulted not from an increased likelihood of extremes, but from changes in human exposure and vulnerability. The 2011 floods in Thailand are a prime example.
An analysis by Dutch and British scientists found that the amount of rain falling in Thailand last year, while heavy, was not particularly unusual by historical standards, and that “climate change cannot be shown to have played any role in this event.”
China is not a ‘status quo’ power but one that would like to alter Asia’s balance of power in its own favor – Condoleezza Rice, 2000
As the 14th ASEAN summit gets ready to kick off in Pattaya, Thailand this week, climate change may be an unlikely source of debate. The role of climate action in ASEAN nations is intricately linked to the looming presence of China, and lately China-ASEAN cooperation has bloomed. Chinese sources in particular stress the importance of “mutually beneficial cooperation” with ASEAN on economic and climate issues. In fact, the ASEAN secretariat and China’s environment ministry recently inked a draft environmental protection strategy (see sidebar) focusing heavily on climate change. Moreover, last September ASEAN secretary general Surin Pitsuwan praised a memorandum of understanding between ASEAN and China’s Guangdong province.