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Opinion

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

Climate change versus depleting resources

THE discourse on climate change has taken a new development especially after US President Donald Trump called it a big hoax.

With both sides of the divide boasting an equal number of highly reputable scientific minds, questions are being asked about whether there are other reasons behind the vigorous promotion of the climate change phenomenon.

There are also claims that climate change sceptics are being paid by the fossil fuel industry. This may sound plausible since the fossil fuel business has much to lose if the carbon emission principles are adopted as legislative instruments to mitigate global warming.

And with the climate change promoters bringing in the issue of deforestation, many other businesses would also be implicated. We recently saw this being played out in our country with the EU ban on the use of palm oil in biodiesel.

As a result, many are now beginning to ask whether the climate change issue is getting out of hand and are concerned that it is being used to pursue other agendas which could derail free trade between countries and even create bad blood between nations.

So is climate change being used as a front to bring to world attention other bigger concerns? Admittedly, promoting the climate change idea has been very effective in persuading the whole world to take notice despite the voice of the sceptics.

Even politicians have been converted to the cause, and why not? Climate change with its sea level rises, extreme weather conditions and threats to world food supply can be truly devastating for the world. Thus, these claims have become effective instruments in scaring the world into taking action.

But a recent analysis suggests that the bigger concerns for humanity are depleting critical resources and growing inequality among the world population, which will soon reach a staggering nine billion by 2050. Even now, we are already feeling the pain of declining resources with seven billion or so people.

Apart from energy and water, one resource which has raised a lot of concern is land, especially agricultural land to grow food. There is concern that the available land area is decreasing very rapidly. The over-exploitation of some areas has also led to desertification, further exacerbating the situation. Add to that the fact that a lot of land has also been allocated for urbanisation, and one can understand the growing concern.

This is where scientists have been actively researching new technologies to increase food crop yields. The world must salute their work, which has led to the development of technologies like genetic engineering and other breeding techniques. Many food crops have seen increase in yields as a result.

Talking about high-yielding food crops, oil palm must surely stand out. It requires less land to provide the same amount of edible oil for the world. Therefore, instead of persecuting oil palm under the guise of climate change, the world should pay tribute to this wonder crop.

It is clear that while the jury on climate change is still out there, the issue of depleting resources, especially land, is real and indisputable. It is time we get our priorities right.

PROFESSOR DATUK DR AHMAD IBRAHIM

Fellow Academy of Sciences Malaysia