Climate change conference: How much of Asia will be left?


Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island was struck by an 6.0 magnitude earthquake 11 AM yesterday while the United Nations conference on climate change was in session. Meteorologists said the quake did not pose a tsunami threat.

“There are no reports of damage for the time being,” said Yusuf, a spokesman from Indonesia’s meteorological agency. “We are still looking for damage and casualties from civilians.”

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UN conference delegates are still trying to hammer out a new treaty on global warming. Delegates from 190 countries attending the conference, several small island nations including Singapore, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Caribbean islands will disappear due to rising sea levels.

“Island states are very vulnerable to sea level rise and very vulnerable to storms, especially Indonesia,” said Nicholas Stern, author of an acclaimed report on climate change and global warming.

“Even large islands are at risk,” added Stern, who said global warming might shrink their land mass. “Coastal communities will be forced out of their homes, depriving millions of a livelihood.”

The omens are not good for Indonesians with over 17,000 islands, as they will be hardest hit should it ever come true. Rising sea levels will swamp three of Indonesia’s best known cities, Jakarta, Surabaya and Semarang as a result of rising sea levels.

A week ago, coastal barricades had to be reinforced when tides burst through sea walls, cutting a key road to Jakarta’s International Airport.

“Java island, including Bali will be the worst hit, its infrastructure and industrial plants destroyed.” The island is home to half of Indonesia’s population of 226 million people,” the report said.

If sea levels continue to rise, Indonesia could lose up to 2,000 islands by 2030.

Indonesian scientists have predicted by 2035 Jakarta’s airport will be flooded by sea water, and further on by 2080 the Indonesian president’s palace will be on a 10 kilometer island.

According to Rachmat Witoelar, chairman of the conference, tens of millions of people would have to move out of their homes. “There is no way this will happen without conflict.”

It’s not just about building better infrastructure, said Rachmat. “The cost would be very high. We would have to relocate people, and change the way they live.”

But, not all the news on climate change is doom and gloom.

According to latest news reports from Beijing, China, which has been accused as being one of the world’s biggest polluters, and Japan have agreed to participate in constructing a new framework for tackling climate change following expiry of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.

Both countries have pledged to cooperate in expanding “experimental zones” for recycling. China will improve water quality in its Yangtze waterways, prevent illegal cross-border waste disposal and air pollution.

“The post-Kyoto framework should be an effective mechanism with the participation of all major economies with responsible attitudes,” Xinhua reported, quoting a communique from Beijing. “Both countries acknowledge the effectiveness of multi-field cooperation in the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.”