Research has shown that Malaysians do care about the environment, climate change and its impact on our future. In fact, 9 out of 10 are already tackling it at an individual level.
According to the National Youth Climate Change Survey (NYCC), 92% of young Malaysians believe that climate change is a crisis requiring attention and action1. The survey was released in the report, ‘Change for Climate’, by UNDP, UNICEF and supported by EcoKnights.
The big 1.5°C and what a warmer world means for us
For years, environmentalists and climate change activists have warned of how serious things will get if our planet warms by 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Global warming, largely due to human activity and greenhouse gas emissions, has already reached 1.1°C and we’re experiencing its impact.
Impacts of a 1.1-degree increase are here today in increased frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events from heatwaves, droughts, flooding, winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires.The Intergovernmental Panel on climate change (IPCC)2
In December 2021, Malaysia experienced one of its worst flood disasters. Torrential downpours caused flooding in seven states, leaving 54 dead and 2 missing. Over 125,000 people were affected4 and climate change activist Shaqib Shahril estimated damages “could amount to RM20 billion”.5
But what if it keeps going up? If we reach 1.5°C, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recorded high confidence that we will see an increase in natural disasters and hazards, as our fragile ecosystems struggle to adapt to the effects of a warmer world. A 2°C rise is also possible; experts caution we could be heading there unless nations’ pledges and promises are kept.6
Air and water pollution and flooding top the list of climate-related effects felt by young Malaysians
It’s clear that we are facing a crisis, so it is reassuring that Malaysia’s Gen Z are realising its importance. A total of 1,393 youths and young adults in Malaysia were surveyed. Of the number, 91.3% stated they had experienced environment or climate-related impacts in the past three years. A whopping 71.1% experienced the effects of air pollution, including haze, followed by water pollution at 34.5%.
Angel Yong, 18, a student from Sabah, says we don’t need scientific proof to feel that the air is getting worse, and that our environments are becoming hotter and more humid.
“Climate change is important to me because it affects all of us in every way, our health, lifestyle and future. It is important because we need clean water; it is important because we have a right to breathe fresh air. If people are not taking climate change as a serious matter then the only victims will only be us as humans and innocent animals.Angel Yong, student
Interestingly, the report also found that personal experiences with a disaster or climate-related event had the potential to change youth’s opinions and spur them to action.
9 out of 10 are doing something about it, but many perceive it is an expensive lifestyle choice or lacks the awareness to act
Reduce, reuse and recycle — the repeated call over the years seems to be paying off amongst both urban and non-urban Malaysian youth. In urban areas, 79% said they have practised some form of 3R in the past three years while 74% of non-urban youth indicated the same.
At the same time, though, the survey found that 38.1% perceived a climate-friendly lifestyle to be expensive and 37.5% said they did not have enough information or knowledge on how to live greener3. This revealing data has caused experts to push for greater advocacy and platforms to educate and empower young people to be mobilised to action.
Youth bring with them incredible drive and commitment to change things for the better. We must utilize young people’s potential as powerful agents of change, involve and empower them in the development of policies, and support their participation in climate action at all levels.Niloy Banerjee, UNDP Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam1
Is the climate crisis important to young Malaysian Christians, and what are they doing about it?
We asked several young Malaysians their thoughts on the climate crisis, if it is personally important to them and what they’re doing about it. Here’s what they have to say.
No to plastic bags and yes to lifestyle changes – Ruth, 15
Ruth does not use plastic bags when running errands, to reduce pollution and “not add to the billions of plastic bags already lying around in public places, the ocean and others areas taking more than hundreds of years to decompose.”
She also warns that if environmental issues continue to worsen throughout the years, it will affect our health and the future generations. Without clean water or food, animals and people could die of malnutrition or become susceptible to diseases.
We need to be good stewards of God’s creation. The more we harm His creation, the more we harm ourselves.RUTH, 15
It may feel useless but every bit of effort counts – Jonathan, 18
Jonathan cares for his environment in little ways, such as picking up random trash on the ground and disposing of it properly. Although the litter is not his, he believes if everyone does their part, change can happen.
Sometimes it may feel pretty useless but I believe every bit of effort counts towards a better environment for everyone!Jonathan, 18
Reducing waste is the place to start – Jeremy, 31
Jeremy is committed to reducing waste and disposing it properly. “Climate change is important to me because it thoroughly changes the life around the world,” he says, adding that unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change have brought catastrophes to countries, also causing temperatures to rise to an uncomfortable level in Southeast Asia.
With that, I always commit to reducing waste and throwing them in designated places. I love to clean up the public spaces as It is always nice to be able to grow and enjoy a nice and healthy environment.JEREMY, 31
We must learn the true impact of the climate crisis on nature and people – Juah, 14
Juah is passionate about nature, animals and the environment. She believes climate change has to be on the agenda because it’s endangering all life. “Sea levels are rising by approximately 3mm every year, which means it could cause flooding, soil contamination, marine life losing their habitat and even land animals going extinct,” she said.
For example, ice melting can cause polar bears to constantly move to different parts due to the temperature rise which causes ice to melt. The different type of fish they have to find may not fit into their food chain which can cause them to starve and eventually die. Also the weather change can disrupt food chains and food webs which will affect bioaccumulation and biomagnification too.JUAH, 14
Juah also highlighted the issue of plastic pollution as one of the causes of climate change. “It builds land fills and threatens marine life but also accelerates climate change as plastic releases greenhouse gases when breaking down,” the young eco-warrior said.
Use the fan more, the airconditioning less – Ivan, 18
Ivan’s contribution to the environment is simple and straightforward, a reflection of how simple lifestyle changes can help all of us inch closer to the goal of saving our planet.
I care for the environment by turning off the airconditioning before I sleep.IVAN, 18
I care for the environment and it cares for me – Joel, 22
Joel says he cares for the environment by making changes to my life everyday, including collecting and disposing of recyclables properly. When he has to order takeaway, he reuses the disposable containers twice or thrice before recycling them.
I care for the environment today because if I don’t, there won’t be an environment that can care for me in the future.Joel, 22
A signal to action for everyone involved – Dillon, 18
Dillon says that climate change is sending a strong message that the health of our planet is in decline. He also believes that as a global citizen, the climate crisis is something that should be on our agenda.
Climate change is important to me because it shows the declining health of Earth; it is a signal for action to all who are involved.DILLON, 18
Start simple: practise the 3Rs, plant a tree, volunteer – Angel, 18
Angel believes the climate crisis is important because it affects every part of our lives. As human activity is largely responsible for the growing crisis, it is our responsibility to protect the environment today.
I care for my environment by doing the little things that we learned from a young age. For instance, the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse & Recycle, plant a tree, and volunteer to clean up the beachside. Now it is more important than ever that we speak using our actions. So I pass back the key question to you: what will you do to care for the environment?ANGEL, 18
What can you do to care for the environment? Ruth shares some practical tips.
- Say no to plastic. Use reusable bags, and don’t collect those either
- Bring reusable containers and bottles in baazars or food markets
- Use biodegradable rubbish bags
- Collect rainwater for gardening and watering plants
- Avoid tissue paper. Handkerchiefs can be used to wipe/dry our hands
- Collect food waste for composting
- Use bar soaps instead of bottled ones
- Switch off electrical appliances when there’s no one around
- Take showers and not baths
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. Psalm 24:1. Let’s be good stewards of God’s creation in small and big ways.
1. 9 out of 10 young Malaysians are already taking individual action to address climate change, 2020, UNEP
2. Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C, 2018, IPCC
3. Change for Climate: Findings from National Youth Climate Change Survey, 2020, UNICEF
4. Malaysia floods hit seven states forcing thousands to evacuate, 2022, CNN
5. Flood losses ‘could amount to RM20 billion’, 2022, Free Malaysia Today
6. Study finds nations can keep global warming to 2 degrees is pledges are kept, 2022, PBS News Hour