Adaptation to Global Warming, a National Priority

Vehicles drive at an intersection near an overpass bridge under construction in Phnom Penh on June 15, 2023. Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP

“So, if El Nino is worsening the heat wave, this is first and foremost an effect of global warming attributable to human activity as experts in climatology have proclaimed for years,” we were writing at the end of last month as temperatures were in the vicinity of 40 degrees Celsius.  

As temperatures remain high, the results of a survey of climate experts published on May 8 by the British newspaper The Guardian are staggering.   

The newspaper actually interviewed 380 of the leading climate scientists and, according to most of them, the average temperature on the planet will rise at least 2.5 Celsius above preindustrial levels this century with disastrous consequences.

Many of the people interviewed, who have all been authors or editors in chief of the reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 2018, “envisage a…future, with famines, conflicts and mass migration, driven by heatwaves, wildfires, floods and storms of an intensity and frequency far beyond those that have already struck,” the newspaper story read.

The lack of political will and corporate interests—such as those of the fossil fuel industry—were quoted as the main obstacles to action on climate change. Overconsumption was also pointed out by the researchers. “Many also mentioned inequality and a failure of the rich world to help the poor, who suffer most from climate impacts,” the Guardian wrote.

According to the report “The State of the Climate in Asia 2023” released by the World Metereological Organization about three weeks ago, “Asia…has warmed faster than the global land and ocean average…The warming trend in Asia in 1991–2023 was almost double the warming trend during the 1961–1990 period.”

In other words, the region and therefore Cambodia are in the heart of the inferno.

The Cambodia Climate Change Institutional Assessment drawn up by the World Bank includes an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the government agencies that are essential for global warming mitigation and adaptation actions. This showed a lack of institutional capacity; an underestimation of the multidimensional nature of global warming; a lack of coordination and harmony of the planification and regulation policies; and the absence of parliamentarians and civil society pressure to hold the authorities accountable.

As global warming is endangering the country’s agriculture as well as the vulnerable populations, the new generation of leaders has a major, if not vital, challenge to take up, which should be elevated to the level of national priority.      

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