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How Has Climate Change Effected Cambodia Environmental Sciences Essay

4409 words (18 pages) Essay in Environmental Sciences

5/12/16 Environmental Sciences Reference this

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Nowadays the world has encountered abundance of challenges such as terrorism, transnational crimes, environment issues and weapon mass destruction (WMD) proliferation. As a matter of fact, these issues cannot be solved by one state; in order to overcome these problems, international cooperation and increasing non-state capability are required. For me, the most anxiety and interesting challenge is environment issue especially climate change and global warming due to two main reasons.

First, this issue is a contemporary issue that has affected the world especially agriculture based countries. As we know, about 80 percents of Cambodia population are farmers, and most of them still practice old traditional farming rather than using new technology to assist them. Furthermore, farmers usually rely on water during rainy season to provide water to their fields and harvest on dry season; however, because of climate change and global warming the issue occur when there is not enough water in rainy season plus the irrigation system in Cambodia does not adequate to provide water to everywhere in the country as well, so some farmers cannot plant anything and end up with debt. Thus, this research can show the effects on Cambodia as the agriculture based country.

Second, I want to do a research plan on this issue in order to apply for scholarship to study abroad when I graduate. By doing the research on this topic, I can know more about the grass root causes-effects, current solutions and obstacles of these issues.

In conclusion, since this issue is beyond my understanding in some aspect, I will use this opportunity when I study the global governance course to analyze this topic, and I hope this individual reflection paper can share knowledge to other students as well.

IRP outline:

MC#1: Introduction

MC#2: The causes of climate change and global warming MC#3: The effects of climate change and global warming MC#4: Responses and challenges

MC#5: Conclusion

(Note: this outline might be altered according to the research)

Topic: Climate change, global warming and its effect on Cambodia as a nation

Mini Composition #1: Introduction

Global warming and Climate change have been the environmental issues facing humankind for such a long times, and these issues has attracted the international attention during the 1970s. Because these issues are quite a complex subject, cooperation between states and increasing capability of the relevant non-state actors (NSAs) are solutions to deal with these issue. Over the past decades, leaders from states have

negotiated to seek a comparative solution for all parties; the institutional framework provided by the

UNFCC, the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change, in 1992 and plus the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, yet these fragile frameworks do not contribute much to alleviate the problems due to realism ideas, lacking in private morality and uncertainty of states. Furthermore, its impacts are far beyond human ability to control and monitor. we shall discuss in detail about the responses in Chapter4

Global warming is a term used to describe a persistent increase in the earth’s mean surface temperature relative to long-term average conditions (those that prevail over centuries). In fact, the world climate changes over period; however, in the late 19th century, the climate has changed considerably. Furthermore, it is difficult to distinguish the global warming and climate change since global warming results in climate change and the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, though climate change has a broader meaning and refers to changes in average climatic conditions (temperature, wind, rainfall, and other climatic variables) relative to their long-term average. Both natural and anthropogenic (human-caused) factors can causes global warming, but the overwhelming scientific consensus is that the increase in global temperatures over the past century is primarily due to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

In conclusion, the global warming and climate change is a wide range of issues that need efforts from each actor in international relation. In the next chapter, we will take a deep look to the causes of global

warming and climate change.

Mini Composition #2:

What are the causes of global warming and climate change?

Many scientists endeavor to determine preciously what key factors are behind the global warming and climate change, and they come up with different causes that are interrelated. We can divide causes into two categories increasing amount of Green house gases (GHGs) and urbanization.

According to “Time For Change” organization report, almost 100% of the observed temperature is being increased over the last 50 years has been due to the increase in the atmosphere of greenhouse gas concentrations like water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, ozone and other gases. However, the largest contributing source of greenhouse

gases is the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2). GHGs in the atmosphere act like a mirror and

Fig. 1: the relative of the major human-produced greenhouse gases to current warming


reflect back to the Earth a part of the heat radiation, which would, otherwise, be lost to space. The higher the concentration of green house gases like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the more heat energy is being reflected back to the Earth. Thus, what are the causes of increasing those gases? So far, the causes of variation of atmospheric greenhouse gases especially carbon dioxide are human-made activities and natural disasters. There are various kinds of human activities that increase the amount of CO2 such as burning fossil fuels, emission of smoke by factories, overpopulation, clearing forests for development (agriculture, industrialization or urbanization) and logging in the jungle. For instance, the emission of CO2

into the environment mainly from burning of fossil fuels (oil, gas, petrol, etc.) has been

increased significantly over the past 50 years (see the graph below).

Fig. 1: Carbon dioxide emissions in million tons per year over the last 200 years

[Source:] Another cause is urbanization. In order to transform lands from forest or natural to

urbanization, industrialization or agriculture, policy makers often face trade-off between development and environment. For example, in industrialized nations, they need fuel in fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gases in order to run their factories. Even though, the leaders do know that it will damage the environment, they have no choice rather than extract natural resources within their countries or other states. Moreover, small particles in the air (aerosols) may have warming or cooling effects, depending on their characteristics. Sulfate (SO4) aerosol, for example, is light-colored and reflects sunlight back into space. The cooling effect of volcanic aerosols from the Mt. Tambora eruption of 1815 caused North America’s “year without a summer” in 1816. The other interesting cause is overpopulation. According to the US Census Bureau’s Web site (15:41 UTC (EST+5) Nov 04, 2010), the number of people in the world is 6,879,418,535. When there are more people, there will be more demands, and it will lead to more supplies. Thus, in order that factories can increase their productivities, they need more energy and natural resources. Moreover, some products affect the environment because they contain greenhouse gases. For instance, refrigerators and

aerosols which contain chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) that causes damage to the ozone layer.

Case study

In this case study, we are going to explore the causes that Cambodia contributes to the climate change and global warming. There are three main causes which are deforestation, urbanization and industrialization. First, Deforestation is a hidden causes and controversial in the international stage as well. Between 25 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year comes from deforestation. For instance, Cambodia, located in South East Asia, was recognized as a green country that consisted of rainforest (70% all over country) in 1970s. Unfortunately, Cambodia becomes one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, third to only Nigeria and Vietnam, according to a 2005 report conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The percentage of rainforest fell dramatically from over 70% in 1970 to just 3.1% in 2007. There are some reasons behind this disaster such as war, fragile governance, development, lands incentive for investments, agricultures, and so on. Second, the Cambodia government has initialed to urbanize the city due to overpopulation and reform. Even though, this development does alleviate and give benefit to this country, it also affects the environment. For instance, when land is converted from forests or nature to urban environments, the regional climate system is altered because urban environments are also islands of heat produced by industry, homes, automobiles, and asphalt’s absorption of solar energy. Last but not least, in Cambodia, the number of factories, located in the cities and countryside, also affect to the environment. The disposal of waste on land, in water and air damage the ecosystems and leak abundance of green house gases especially CO2. Thus, even though Cambodia is a tiny country in the world, it also mainly contributes to the climate change and global warming as well.

In conclusion for this chapter, green house gases, that created by human-made activities and natural disasters, are the main causes of global warming and climate changes. In the next chapter, we will discuss detail about the effects of the global warming and climate


Mini Composition #3:

What are the effects of global warming and climate change?

Even thought global warming and climate change have many effects, these phenomena are interrelated, so to make ease for analyze the effects, I will categorized in six main impacts (1) increasing the temperature on the earth; (2) rising of sea levels; (3) changing landscapes; (4) increasing risk of drought, fire, foods and species extinction; (5) increasing heat-related illness and disease; and (6) economic looses.

Increasing the temperature on the earth simply means the earth becomes warmer and warmer, and this is not a new phenomenon, but due to global warming the temperature in the world has increased rapidly and upward. Because the amount of GHGs mainly CO2 increase dramatically in recent decades, Time For Change Organization makes a projection that the temperature of the earth will be increased by 3o to 50 by the year 2050.

As the world is heated, sea levels rise because warmer water takes up more room than colder water, a process known as thermal expansion1. Furthermore, the glaciers in the polar melt leads to raising sea levels. Rising seas threaten to inundate low-lying areas and islands, threaten dense coastal populations, erode shorelines, damage property and destroy ecosystems such as mangroves and wetlands that protect coasts against storms. A logical consideration is a 36-inch increase in sea levels would swamp every city on the East Coast of the United States, from Miami to Boston. Moreover, sea level rise associated with climate

changes could displace tens of millions of people in low-lying areas especially in developing countries. Inhabitants of some small island countries that rest barely above the existing sea level are already abandoning their islands, some of the world’s first climate change refugees.

Another effect is changing landscapes. We can divide it into two different issues land degradation and desertification. Land degradation simply means soil quality is worsening. This phenomenon is a result of over-farming and poor land-use practice. On the other hand, desertification means the growths of deserts and sand areas. Each year according to the United Nations Environmental Program, an area of land about the size of Australia, approximately 31000 square miles, turns into dessert.

Another major effect is increasing risk of drought, fire, foods and species extinction. Climate change makes the circulation of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth causing drought and floods to be more frequent, serious and widespread. In 2010, according to Pakistani government data the floods directly affected about 20 million people, mostly by

destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure, with a death toll of close to 2,000.2

Due to the overpopulation, people need to increase the food productivities to meet the demand. Unfortunately, because of land degradation and desertification, most of the soils in the world become poorer and it leads to food insecurity in the world. Moreover, According to The Nature Conservancy group, experts predict that one-fourth of Earth’s species will be headed for extinction by 2050 if the warming trend continues at its current rate. Not so long, the world already experiences some lessons. For example, in 1999, the death of the last Golden Toad in Central America marked the first documented species extinction driven by

climate change3.

Another effect is increasing heat-related illness and disease. When the ozone layer becomes thinner, more amount of sun light will come to the earth. Consequently, people will get skin disease because of Ultraviolet. Moreover, Climate change may increase the spread of infectious diseases, because warmer temperatures let diseases carrying insects, animals and microbes to survive in areas where they were once thwarted by cold weather. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that climate change may have caused more than

150,000 deaths in the year 2000 alone, with an increase in deaths likely in the future.

Last but not least, global warming prevail the economy loose. Globally, serious change in weather (more serious hurricane, storm etc.) could cause billions of dollars in damage to property and infrastructure. Plus, declining crop productions due to prolonged drought and high temperatures, especially in Africa, could put hundreds of thousands of people at risk.

Thus, the effects of global warming and climate change are varies and interrelated. After we have look through to the major effects of these phenomenon, then we shall analyze on the certain country, Cambodia.

Case study

In the previous chapter, we have examined the causes that Cambodia has contributed to the global warming and climate change. In this case study on the other hand, we shall prevail and analyze the impacts of global warming and climate change in this country. Cambodia’s temperature would increase up to 1.35 – 2.50C in 2100. Annual rainfall would increase between 3 and 35% from current condition; lowland areas seem to be more affected than highland areas4.

Map of flood-prone communes

Map of drought-prone communes

Source: WFP (2005)

Floods and drought are recognized as one of the main contributors to poverty. In these pictures above, Cambodia is vulnerable to floods and droughts. High dependency on rain-fed farming makes agriculture sector particularly vulnerable.

In Cambodia, the impact of climate change has become apparent, yet the public does not feel alert due to limited knowledge and other. There are six implication suggestions on Cambodia.

First, recall memory of economy loose. Floods caused 70% of production losses of rice, while drought 20% between 1998 and 2002, and the floods caused USD 205 million

damage between 2000 and 20025. Second, According to Allison, he claims that Cambodia’s

economy is rated as one of the most vulnerable to impacts of climate change on fisheries. Third, if the sea level rises, it will affect areas near the sea. The research of ministry of whether shows that 1m rise can submerge 56% of Koh Kong City. Consequently, it will damage to infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, and livelihood. Fourth, as an agriculture country, when the food productivities decline, it leads to food insecurity in the country since Cambodian highly depends on single crop and low processing capacity within the country. Firth, another effect is water quality degradation and sanitation. Finally, increase in water- related / tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue. The Ministry of the Environment estimates that under changing climatic conditions Cambodia may experience increasing incidences of malaria, up 16 percent from its current rate. Natural disasters have upset fragile ecosystems, which in turn have triggered other changes that have affected issues such as rising poverty and malnutrition in children.

In conclusion, Cambodia’s weak social infrastructure will affect the poor, and it will be a heavy burden for Cambodia’s next generations, who will have difficulty in bridging its ecological deficit. Thus, the government and all others relevant must come up with strong policies and fast action to combat climate change. In the next chapter, we shall examine the actions undertaken by international actors and Cambodia itself.

Mini composition #4

Responses and challenges of global warming and climate change

After severe suffer from these environmental issues, states have recognized that they are in troubles. Consequently, two key environmental conferences were held during the

1990s, namely Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and Kyoto Environmental Summit in 1997.

Held under UN auspices, the Rio Earth Summit brought together thousands of delegates and representatives from state actors and non state actors. According to Time reporter, Philip Elmer-Dewitt, published in “Rich Vs Poor” in 1992, the Earth Summit was “the largest and most complex conference ever held- bigger than the momentous meetings at Versailles, Yalta, and Potsdam”1. In this summit, 178 states signed two treaties, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Changes (UNFCC), addressed global warming issues and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), addressed to protect endangered species and biodiversity. The UNFCC sets the basic objective “to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. Regarding this summit, the great success is that it gathered many people from different part of the international community that had never assembled to discuss a particular issue. Moreover, Earth summit also raised global consciousness about environmental issue; however, throughout the Rio meeting, a conflict between environmental protection and economic development was reveal because the

insistence of many Developing World states that feared that stronger wording might adversely affect their economies.

Following the Rio Earth Summit, the Kyoto Environmental Summit in 1997, Japan, intended to address the global warming issue. Despite reduction in the emission of green house gases (GHGs) mandated by the Montreal Protocol and Rio summit agreements, states in the world still released too many of GHGs into the atmosphere, so the atmosphere remained at risk. This Kyoto protocol provided economic incentive for developing states to meet their targets through trade and clean development mechanism, and urged for cooperation between developed and developing states over “environmentally clean” projects. Nevertheless, only seven out of 84 countries who signed the protocol ratified it in 1999 all of which were small islands or low lying states particularly concerned by global warming and submerging them; however, the conflict between developing and developed states has

remained and it needs to be sort out through trust cooperation and mutual interests.


From these two summits, there are three suggested solutions carbon management, creating market incentive and alternative energies.

Among GHGs, carbon dioxide is the dangerous chemical substance that is the major cause of global warming and climate change. Since the industrialization era, the demand of fossil fuel has increased dramatically, so oil production become inelastic. In order to cope with the carbon budgets, we do need to face head-on six importance activities, (1) slow or stop deforestation, (2) reduce emissions from electricity production, (3) reduce emissions from automobiles, (4) clean up industrial processes in a few major sectors, (5) economize on electricity use through more efficient motors, appliances, lighting, insulation and other electrical demands; (6) convert point-source based systems powered by low-emission electricity. Considering the challenges of reducing emissions from the electricity generation are complicated, there are three major avenues to reduced emissions from the power sectors: greater efficiency in the use of electricity, a greater proportion of electricity generation with non-fossil fuel sources of energy and special engineering processes to capture the carbon dioxide from fossil fuel electricity plants and to store it by using a technology called carbon

capture and sequestration (CCS) 1.

The Kyoto protocol has accomplished one major advance: the start of a market price on carbon emissions, in the form of tradable carbon permits, albeit only in Europe. This strategy more or less provides incentive to the emitters to limit carbon emission from their factories. Furthermore, there is an urgent need to increase funding for climate science in the poorest countries to help those countries understand how adapt to the climate change, and science also needed to enable those countries to participate effectively in global mitigation efforts by reducing the rate of deforestation and by adoption low-carbon energy strategies in the course of economic development.

Last but not least, we can expect non-fossil energy sources to provide a good and growing fraction of the world’s energy supply. While fossil fuels will predominate for some decades more, in the longer term non-fossil alternatives are likely to come to preeminence. Wind, hydroelectricity, ocean waves, bio-fuel, geothermal and nuclear energy will be more favored although each of these is limited by local condition and not applicable as global solutions. Due to popularity and profits, states attempt to gain the nuclear energy, but it can pose threat to the localized and internationalized because of nuclear radiation and nuclear


Prepared by SAY VORTANA 2 email: [email protected]


From my perspective, there are two main challenges implementation and the inequity between developed and developing states.

The problem is not the framework or purpose but implementations. The Kyoto protocol commitments were very modest (only 5 percent reduction) and short term until

2012, and it shows the cooperation of the world on a carbon management trajectory. Even so this treaty is considered as failure when the U.S did not ratify this protocol in fear of economic development impacts. The US, far and away the biggest contributor to GHGs, indignantly telling poor countries bearing the consequences in famines, droughts, increased malaria transmission and more that the United States will not even start on emissions control, so how can other states obey and ratify this treaty?

Another important but controversial challenges is the inequity between developed and developing states. Development and environmental protection are dilemma for decision makers of individual states; developing countries who try to develop their countries are inevitable to exploit their natural resources, so when developed states who enjoyed their economic growth in the past decades tell developing states to stop exploit their natural resources, it is injustice. For example, when the US and Europe tell Brazil to stop deforestation business investment, and similarly China was criticized for air pollution.

In conclusion, as long as there is no strong support from super power P5 (security council); the south and north cannot reach mutual interests (efficiency and equity) plus trust each other, the global warming and climate change still remain unsure when will it can be sort out.

Case study

What are the possible solution for Cambodia to overcome global warming and climate change? There are three potential solutions low carbon economy/ enhance economy efficiency, carbon finance and promote environment awareness.

Cambodia’s government can improve and examine seven factors:

‐ Energy supply – improved supply and distribution efficiency, Renewable sources, security and access

‐ Transport – Hybrid vehicles, emission standards, bio fuels, Public transport, non- motorized transport

‐ Buildings – passive and active solar integrated buildings, improved insulation

‐ Industry – Upgrading of factories, processing lines / schemes etc.

Prepared by SAY VORTANA 3 email: [email protected]

‐ Agriculture – improved agricultural practices

‐ Waste management landfill methane recovery; waste to energy; composting;

recycling and waste minimization

‐ Forestry – Reforestation; forest management; reduced deforestation

For carbon finance Cambodia can enjoy with the extra paid by using clean development mechanism (CDM). According to UNDP based in Cambodia, a local power generator, Samrong Thom Methane-fired Power Generation reduce total GHG emission for 7 years 47,544 tCO2e; this generator can get total income at $15/tCO2e: US$ 713,160 from carbon finance2, so government should encourage this kind of investment in Cambodia.

Invest in Biogas Digester (source: UNDP)

Another solution is to promote environment awareness for Cambodian. The bottom- up strategy also provides a better option to overcome this issue. The government can work effectively with other Non-government organizations (NGOs) by providing environment education in the public school and local communities.

In short, besides protecting environment, Cambodia can enjoy low carbon economy through carbon finance; furthermore, the bottom-up strategy can promote environment issue awareness in Cambodia. In the last chapter of this paper, we will wrap up and provide brief conclusion.

Mini composition #5


Global warming and climate change are transnational issues that pose great challenges to the global governance. Nations has suffered severe disaster such as flood, hurricane, serious earthquake, drought and so on recently, and it would be great danger in the future if global warming and climate change are not sorted out effectively. Despite of cooperation between states through earth summit and Kyoto protocol, the issues remain widespread from day to day. Who will be responsible? Developed states or developing states? The controversial stances between developed countries and developing countries remain exists and pose a big challenge for Kyoto protocol. Furthermore, the decision maker, leader, head of states are inevitable face dilemma between development and environmental protection.

For Cambodia, Cambodia contributes little to climate change but almost all the provinces in Cambodia are vulnerable to climate change due to their low adaptive capacity and dependence on climate-sensitive livelihoods. Moreover, climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and windstorms as well as coastal inundation due to sea-level rise. Responding to climate change should start by linking efforts to reduce vulnerability to present climate-related disasters with those aimed at building longer-term resilience to climate change. Low carbon economy/enhance economy efficiency, carbon finance and promote environment awareness are the factors that will be alleviate and assist Cambodian through bright future in the next generation.

For both international and national level, implementation and commitment from the government or head of state is compulsory to ensure the sustainable growth with the green

economy policy.

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