A decade ago climate change was conjecture. This debate has come to an end. The world has gradually begun to accept climate change as an 'inconvenient truth'; and as the biggest threat to nature and humanity in the 21st century. The global debate is shifting to what and how we can deal with this phenomenon, how we can adapt to the unavoidable impact and how we can mitigate this phenomenon.
According to a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ASEAN states are expected to be adversely affected by the impact of climate change. This anticipated impact includes an increase in extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, severe storms, sea level rise, water shortages, decrease in crop yields and tropical diseases. Coupled with economies that are largely dependent on agriculture, fishery, fisheries and tourism, the effects of climate change can be devastating on the economies of ASEAN countries.
As climate change is a highly vulnerable issue, adaptation to climate change should be regarded as one of the region's priorities. Adaptation is a multi-dimensional process, integrating components such as awareness raising, priority setting, sound planning, capacity building, research and techonology development and transfer, and resource mobilization. On this regard, participation from individuals, businesses, civil societies and media as well as cooperation at governmental levels are needed in order to move adaptation agenda forward in ASEAN countries. The serious discussion on adaptation takes center stage within each country and at a regional level as soon as possible.
Southeast Asia is becoming a significant contributor ot climate change with its growing use of fossil energy to support economies. In mitigating climate change in Southeast Asia, we have to consider the effects of deforestation and the need for energy security and energy efficiency. Deforestation, due to wildfire and human activities associated with shifting cultivation, has become a major contributor of green house gases in Southeast Asia. To achieve energy security, ASEAN states have to meet growing energy demands to sustain development without significant increases in green house gases emissions. Southeast Asia also needs to eliminate inefficient use of energy in the region to reduce greenhouse gases emissions.
In a bid to combat climate change through adaptation and mitigation, ASEAN should engage a broad range of stakeholders, such as businesses, NGOs, media and individuals. The media and NGOs can play a crucial role in disseminating useful information to generate awareness. Businesses in the region should be encouraged to help shape new solutions to climate change by offering new choices and through innovation, knowledge, technology. Individuals should also be encouraged to take climate change problems more personally. A possible response of individuals to climate change is to first educate themselves of the issue, and to recognize the responsibility for their own contribution and then adjust their consumption accordingly.