Climate Change Threatens to Devastate Burma


Monks in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. Photo via Disposable Words

Sometimes we tend to fixate on the wider scope of threats posed by climate change, like the rising global temperatures, the melting ice in the Arctic, general sea level rise, and so on. But we also need to be looking at the regions and nations that global warming stands to hit the hardest -- those places are often the least well equipped to deal with adaption as well. Take Burma, for instance. A nation heavily dependent on agriculture, and extremely vulnerable to flooding and cyclones, a new report reveals how Burma stands to be devastated by climate change. The report comes from the fantastic news outlet the Democratic Voice of Burma, an organization that came to my attention during my ongoing pursuit to help get a refugee out of the camps on the border of Burma. The DVB is run by Burmese journalists on the ground and operatives in Norway, where the stories are published from. There's no free press in Burma, and this outlet provides the people with one of the only ways to get actual propaganda-free news. You may have heard of the DVB from Burma VJ, an Oscar-nominated documentary culled from footage of the journalists working during the bloody protests of 2007.

The DVB analyzes the most recent National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration report on climate change for the projected impacts on Burma. Needless to say, it paints a picture that's pretty grim:

Changes to global temperatures will make Burma's lowland delta region particularly vulnerable to flooding and the effects of rising sea levels. Cyclone Nargis in 2008 was a potent example of how heightened extreme weather conditions can impact on a coastal population.

The wider ramifications for Burma are worrying, given the country relies on agriculture and exports of rice to keep its economy afloat. The cyclone destroyed 1.75 million hectares of farmland, or 30 percent of the wet season rice area for Burma. Ironically it is those who are most vulnerable in Burma who have contributed least to the problem.

Drought in central Burma this year is a forewarning of what might come; extended dry seasons may lead to desertification as temperatures hit unprecedented highs and rainfall declines. This will lead to many areas of the country becoming virtually uninhabitable.

This nation is already at the whims of a hostile military junta that habitually oppresses its own people -- to add climate change to the beleaguered people of Burma's woes seems devastatingly unfair indeed.

More on Burma and Climate Change
Mangrove Loss Left Burma Exposed to Cyclone
It's Climate That Changes, But Weather That Kills You

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