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Preserving nature: Dr Xavier (second from right) looking at a preserved turtle after the launch of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Symposium and Red List Assessment at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu. With him is UMT vice-chancellor Datuk Dr Nor Aeini Mokhtar (fourth from right). — Bernama

PUTRAJAYA. Malaysia is aiming to do away with single-use plastic by 2030, as the country tries to shed its reputation as one of the largest producers of plastic waste in the world.

Read more: Yeo: Do away with single-use plastic

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Scientists have long feared that as Earth warms, tropical peatlands -- which store up to 10 percent of the planet's soil carbon -- could dry out, decay and release vast pools of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, rapidly accelerating climate change.

Read more: Natural mechanism could lower emissions from tropical peatlands

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A woman walks through floodwaters in front of the Grand Palace near the Chao Praya river in Bangkok on October 28, 2011. AFP

As Bangkok prepares to host climate-change talks, the sprawling city of more than 10 million is itself under siege from the environment, with dire forecasts warning it could be partially submerged in just over a decade.

A preparatory meeting begins Tuesday in Thailand’s capital for the next UN climate conference, a crunch summit in Poland at the end of 2018 to set rules on reducing greenhouse emissions and providing aid to vulnerable countries.

As temperatures rise, abnormal weather patterns – like more powerful cyclones, erratic rainfall, and intense droughts and floods – are predicted to worsen over time, adding pressure on governments that are tasked with bringing the 2015 Paris climate treaty to life.

Bangkok, built on once-marshy land about 1.5meters (five feet) above sea level, is projected to be one of the world’s hardest hit urban areas, alongside fellow Southeast Asian behemoths Jakarta and Manila.

“Nearly 40 percent” of Bangkok will be inundated by as early as 2030 due to extreme rainfall and changes in weather patterns, according to a World Bank report.

Read more: Bangkok struggling to stay afloat

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When Trin Gim first started her biogas digester business, she raised many eyebrows. In the little district of Ung Hoa, located south of Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, villagers were not accustomed to seeing a woman take the reins of a business. But eight years later, Trin Gim has achieved not only financial success,but has played a role in a larger fight in Viet Nam against the devastating impacts of climate change.

Ung Hoa is a lush pastoral paradise, where pig farms are a popular feature in most households. Waste from the pigs, usually feces and urine, can be converted into combustible methane gas with a biogas digester. That gas can be used as energy for cooking and household needs. Trin was initially involved in installing these digesters in homes but has since expanded her skillset.

On an average day, she is busy convincing potential customers of the benefits of a digester. Once households are on board, she negotiates a price and payment schedule, assesses the feasibility and size of the biogas plant, carts the required material to the house and, together with her team, installs the biogas plant.

With eight people in her employ, Trin has now installed about 3,000 biogas plants across 7 districts. 

Photo by Annette Wallgren

Read more: Pig pens power a solution to climate change in Vietnam

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The mesmerizing animals appear to be thriving even as coral reefs suffer.

Feather stars, those 200-million-year-old creatures that look like something straight from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book, maybe the next kings of the reef. The plant-like animals seem to be thriving, even as other reef dwellers, like corals, are dying from warmer waters linked to climate change.

Angela Stevenson of the University of British Columbia has studied crinoids, a group of marine creatures including feather stars and sea lilies, for over a decade. She’s currently stationed in Negros Oriental, Philippines, where her team is observing and experimenting with the abundant feather star communities that live on the reefs offshore. (See mesmerizing video of a feather star swimming.)

This feather star is one of the eight species being studied by Angela Stevenson and her team in Negros Oriental, Philippines. PHOTOGRAPH BY ANGELA STEVENSON

Read more: In a World of Warming Seas, Feather Stars Might be Winners

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Scattering aerosols in the sky would cool the planet, but it would block crucial sunlight for plants.

Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991, sending 20 million tons of sulfur compounds into the sky. Scientists studied the eruption to estimate the impacts of solar geoengineering. David Harlow/US Geological Survey/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

It’s been a dangerously hot summer. Just this week, Lisbon, Portugal, reported its highest temperature ever recorded, 111.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Chino, California, hit an all-time high of 120°F in July. In Quriyat, Oman, temperatures were stuck above 108°F for 51 hours straight. The heat has killed dozens around the world.

Read more: Volcanoes show why solar geoengineering can’t save our food from climate change

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(Image: Rendering of New Clark City. Credit: New Clark City on Facebook)

The Philippines has been called one of the most disaster-prone places on Earth. Typhoons sweep through regularly each year causing landslides and flooding. The country is in an earthquake zone and home to numerous volcanoes that could erupt at any time. Densely populated Manila, the capital, has notorious gridlock.

In a race against climate change, the Philippines is developing a $14 billion metropolis larger than Manhattan called New Clark City designed to be resilient — and sustainable.

The 23,350-acre city on the site of Clark Air Base is expected to take 25 to 30 years to complete through several phases, ultimately housing 1.2 million people. The lowest point will be more than 177 feet above sea level.

“There’s no such thing as being too ambitious,” Vivencio Dizon, president of government-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) that is leading the New Clark City project told CNN this summer. “When we build this city, we are building for people, we’re not building for cars. It’s a big difference.”

Read more: The Philippines Is Building a Climate Change-Resilient City

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The village of Gowa in the South Sulawesi province of Indonesia has an agrarian history that dates back to the fourteenth century – an agricultural prominence it still maintains, in part due to the top-grade fertile soil in the region. In fact, the area is now serving as a center for the introduction of new mutant rice varieties that owe their existence to nuclear technology. Through the combined expertise of the National Nuclear Energy Agency of Indonesia (BATAN), the Joint FAO/IAEA Division and PB Salewangang, a certified seed breeding company, 18 Gowa farmers have planted their land exclusively with six new mutant rice varieties. But these farmers aren’t growing the new varieties as a food crop. They are using BATAN’s breeder seed material in their fields for seed multiplication. Once multiplied, PB Salewangang distributes seeds to other farmers interested in planting the new varieties to take advantage of their improved yield and quality.

Read more: Mutant Rice Varieties Help Indonesia Reduce Rice Imports

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When it comes to limiting CO2 emissions, the results are not always what you’d expect.

Debates about climate change often draw zealots on both sides. The common accusatory opener, “Do you believe in global warming?” betrays the binary, almost religious argument between those who think we’re wrecking the planet and those who don’t. Pragmatism is rare on either side.

The science of climate change is complex, and we won’t attempt to assess man’s contribution to global warming. For a thought-provoking view of the issue, read Alex Epstein’s The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels”. In one section, Epstein comments on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2014 plea for Indonesia to cut carbon emissions to fight global warming. From 2006-16 Indonesia’s CO2 emissions grew by 3.1% annually, the Asian average. It’s no coincidence that in 2016 Indonesian life expectancy reached 69, up by 17 years over the previous half-century.

As in much of the developing world, Indonesians are living longer. This is because increased energy use supports cleaner water and food, improved hygiene and better medical care, staples of developed country life. Because fossil-free energy is not yet price-competitive, its adoption implies using less energy. This, in turn, means shorter life expectancy for Indonesians and citizens of other developing countries. If the science around man-made climate change was unequivocal, it would imply acceptance of briefer lives today so that subsequent generations may live longer. But the science isn’t clear, and a warmer planet may be manageable. Moreover, climate prediction models have consistently overestimated actual warming. Epstein’s book offers a rare, stimulating perspective and seizes the moral high ground assumed by the anti-fossil fuel crowd. He defines improving human life as the standard against which to test climate change policies. By this measure, greater energy use has been a success.

The BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 reports on emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. It has some surprising facts.

Over the past decade, China has led the way in global CO2 emissions. BP STATISTICAL REVIEW OF WORLD ENERGY

Read more: Guess Who's Most Effective At Combating Global Warming

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STUNG TRENG, CAMBODIA- July night had just fallen over the tiny fishing village of Sdao, on the Sekong River in northern Cambodia, when a man on a motorcycle appeared with an urgent message, delivered by loudspeaker: “Evacuate now,” he called out to the few hundred families living here. “A flood is coming.”

A dam under construction some 155 miles (250 kilometers) upstream, in neighboring Laos, had collapsed the day before after heavy monsoon rains, sending a deluge of water down the already swollen, swirling Sekong. The floodwaters, villagers were told, could reach as far as Stung Treng, the provincial capital in northern Cambodia where the Sekong joins the even larger Mekong River.

Ey Bun Thea, a 24-year-old fisherman and farmer, had no idea that a dam was being built farther up the same river where he fishes every day. But he knew he had to get out quickly. He pulled together some valuables—rice, blankets, mosquito nets, some cash—and after releasing his animals he escaped with his wife and young child into the dark, in search of higher ground. “It was very scary,” he said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen.”

In 2012, when this photo was taken, construction of the Miaowei Dam was already underway. When finished next year, it will be the eighth dam on the Lancang River, China's name for its 1,300-mile stretch of the Mekong. PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID GUTTENFELDER, AP/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

Read more: Southeast Asia May Be Building Too Many Dams Too Fast

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