Sat, Sep 27, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Prize is great, now get back to work

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) on Monday accepted a Citizens’ Choice Award in New York City at the City Climate Leadership Awards ceremony, a story widely reported in Taiwan, as is any award won by the nation or Taiwanese. However, little attention was paid to another story out of New York on Tuesday, where the UN’s Climate Summit put the climate back in the top news cycle, along with the Islamic State militants and the Ebola outbreak.

Taiwan was included in a list of the top 20 countries most at risk from rising sea levels within the next 100 years in an analysis by Benjamin Strauss and Scott Kulp for Climate Central, an independent organization of leading scientists and journalists in the US.

The awards were designed to catch attention by focusing on the positive efforts cities make to reduce carbon emissions. They were established in April last year by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Siemens AG, with five awards open to only C40 cities and five more open to C40 cities and those belonging to the “Green City Index,” which Siemens runs with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Taipei was a finalist in the “air quality” category — along with London and Mexico City — for its “Clean Air: It’s Your Move” project, which promotes low-pollution vehicles, cycling and the use of public transit. London won for its plan to build a “zero emissions-capable” taxi fleet. While the winners of the 10 categories were chosen by a seven-member panel, Taipei won an award where voting was open to the public online. Nevertheless, Hau has a nice statuette to display in city hall.

It is difficult to raise public attention to a threat that might be decades off, even if planning steps to tackle that threat, like changing development strategies to account for rising sea levels and frequent flooding, must begin now.

The analysis by Strauss and Kulp gives country-by-country estimates for populations at risk of living below sea level or of regular flooding (at least once every three years) by the turn of the century, but only for those nations with populations of more than 1 million, which means that Bangladesh and the Philippines, which already suffer major flooding during typhoons and monsoons, were included, but not small Pacific Ocean nations such as the Marshall Islands and the Solomons.

Taiwan came in at No. 17 of the 20 most at-risk countries by total population, with 4 percent of its population at risk, and at No. 12 in terms of percentage of the country at risk.

Other nations in the region are also in trouble. China came in at No. 1 in the total population category, with 4 percent of its inhabitants, or 50 million people, at risk, while the Netherlands was No. 1 in terms of percentage of country at risk with 40 percent. Vietnam placed second in both categories, while Japan was third in terms of population and fourth in terms of land. Eight Asian nations placed in the top 10 large countries most at risk globally.

Strauss and Kulp said they took into account a range of potential emissions reductions as well as variations of sea level sensitivity due to climate change. However, they also said their estimates could understate the risks because they have found that global figures on elevation and population are neither as accurate nor precise as the state-of-the art data, noting that in a similar analysis conducted last year on the US’ risk of rising sea levels and flooding, “the net effect of global data was underestimation by a factor of 2 to 3.”

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top