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Graphical representation of the effects of global climate change on Bangkok

As the negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris are ongoing, the following column analyses the effects of various global climate change scenarios on Bangkok. The planet has already experienced a 1ºC increase since the industrial revolution and is expected to reach 5-6ºC warming in a business-as-usual situation (BAU) (which incorporates the 1,600 planned coal-fired power stations globally) by 2200 at the latest. Even a 4ºC increase in temperature would be incompatible with organized human activity, as pointed out by Professor Kevin Anderson, a well-reputed climate scientist: “a 4ºC future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems and has a high probability of not being stable.”

It would also be incompatible with Thailand as we know it surviving as it would see the abandonment of Bangkok by, at the latest, 2200, and at the earliest, circa 2045-2070. For useful charts showing the increase in global sea and land climate anomalies as well as who is responsible for most CO2 emissions (mainly the West), see this article.

The fact that BAU is incompatible with human civilization is why the UN Climate Change Conference must succeed in its negotiations in providing funding for renewables in developing and countries-in-transition like Thailand, transferring technology such as patents for solar photovoltaic and battery technology, and supporting capacity building. However, the current pledges at Paris see a temperature increase of 3ºC. The present negotiations are an attempt to bring this down to 2ºC. However, as this analysis shows, a 2ºC increase would also be catastrophic for Bangkok. This is why Thailand, as the leader of the G77, must work towards a 1.5ºC goal – something that is not even on the radar at present and a task which the present government may be incapable of envisioning.

Picture 1: Input = 4ºC Increase (BAU Plus) = 8.9 meter increase in sea levels
Picture 2: Input = 3.3ºC Increase (BAU or RCP8.5) = 7.1 meter increase in sea levels
Picture 3: Input = 3ºC Increase (Present Pledges) = 6.4 meter increase in sea levels
Picture 4: Input = 2.3ºC Increase (RCP6.0) = 5.0 meter increase in sea levels
Picture 5: Input = 2ºC Increase (Conference Goal) = 4.7 meter increase in sea levels
Picture 6: Input = 1.7ºC Increase (Bangkok at Risk or RCP4.5) = 2.6 meter increase in sea levels
Picture 7: Input = 1.1ºC Increase (RCP2.6) = 2.4 meter increase in sea levels
Picture 8: Input = Now (Historic Carbon Pollution)

As they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Note that these projections are only based on carbon dioxide and not all greenhouse gases. All images courtesy Climate Central; a full report is available here.