Heavy rainfall is more than an unpredictable century event; it is a reminder that the changes to our climate are more severe than policymakers make known to the public. The flash flood that stormed Selangor by surprise last year was severe. However, the state was not an outlier when compared to other states located on the east coast, which have gone through the seasonal flood since 2014 due to the monsoon seasons.
While the monsoon floods are usually predicted to happen at the end of the year in certain hotspots, flash floods in urban areas are unforeseen and have broad impacts, from the disturbance of everyday life to the spread of waterborne diseases. As it is commonly associated with climate change, the lower and middle income families are hurt the most by urban flooding, for their capacity to prepare and rebound from loss and damages is particularly weaker (OECD, 2021)
However, the rakyat’s perception of the tragedy in Selangor brought a different degree of awareness and urgency to issues around the lack of flood management in the country as a whole and more importantly, the science of climate change.
The IPCC Report
In August 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an extremely crucial report on the physical science of climate change. The report has given us the latest information on climate change and is relevant not only for every member of the civil society but most importantly it gives a chance for policymakers to set the right policies in place to save our planet earth from further deterioration (IPCC, 2021).
According to the IPCC report, as a result of climate change Southeast Asia has already seen heat extremes, less frequent but heavier rainfall, lesser but far more severe tropical cyclones, and agriculture and ecological droughts. Although our region will not warm up as much as the rest of the world, rising temperatures will increase rainfall, river flood levels, monsoon wetness, and have an impact on coast shorelines owing to rising sea levels.
Developing Disaster Management for Malaysia
As Malaysia sits close to the equatorial line, we have experienced extreme weather events many times before. With the predicted increase of temperature and higher precipitation by 2030, Malaysia’s climate vulnerability is at stake and will continue to experience extreme weather patterns if these warnings are ignored.
In 2021 alone, flooding itself has taken lives, destroyed homes and businesses. In each of the past years, floods caused an exorbitant amount in damage and economic losses across the country (Latiff, 2022). The signs are clear that mitigation and adaptation plans for disaster management must be set in place. To develop a framework for flood management, policy makers should adopt ‘Loss & Damage’ (L&D) which is defined by the UNFCCC as the actual or potential manifestation of impacts associated with climate change that negatively affect human and natural systems. When a risk assessment on L&D has been identified, pertinent adaptation and mitigation plans are easier to push for ruling.
Policymakers are responsible for addressing disaster management when making decisions regarding a country's development and safeguarding population from disasters, therefore responsiveness on the matter is heavily reliant on top-down decisions. Addressing key issues such as income inequality and environmental deterioration is part of this. It is important that policymakers comprehend and believe in the science of climate change in order for smooth implementation of legislation.
Adaptation and Mitigation
Adaptation and mitigation plans should be considered through the many researches and scientific studies carried out by academics specialising in the relevant field. From evaluating the current flood risk assessment, considering nature-based solutions to enacting state laws as prevention strategies – mitigation actions would help tremendously in slowing down the effects of climate change.
If all hope is lost, adaptation action would play a huge part in ensuring that quick and efficient transitions occur during and after the event. Irrigation and drainage systems that are sustainable for urban areas should be invested in to control where rain water flows. Local communities must also be provided with knowledge on preparedness to face challenges that may arise during such events.
Extreme weather and natural disasters will become much more of an issue as the effects of climate change become more apparent. Policymakers must learn to cope with the rapid changes that make Malaysia vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Disasters strike hard at civilisations, economies, and governments if swift action is not taken, causing the most vulnerable groups to suffer the most.
As a community, we may concentrate our efforts on responding by staying informed and giving back to disaster relief charities. However, the most successful actions are made with proper government intervention. Flooding is a long-standing problem for which we already have agile and effective solutions. Policymakers would have to mobilise all forces to halt climate change impacts .
We will risk risking far more lives, development, and advancement as each year's floods get worse. How much longer do we have until all of our country's achievements are wiped out? It is past the time for both state and federal governments to take a stand against the problem and put a stop to the unnecessary losses.
IPCC, 2021: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press
Latiff, R., 2022, Malaysia floods caused nearly $1.5 billion in losses, government report says, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/malaysia-floods-caused-nearly-15-bln-losses-govt-report-2022-01-28/
OECD, 2021, Approaches to reducing and managing losses and damages from climate change, OECD Publishing, Paris