Earlier this week, the State of the Climate report for the first half of 2015 was released, and Cambodia, along with a wide swath of other nations, was upgraded from light pink to fuchsia, demarking temperatures “much warmer than average”.
According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this year the climate increased 0.85 degrees Celsius on land, and 0.88 degrees at sea, making this period the hottest on record since temperature data were first recorded in 1880.
The NOAA findings also noted that while El Niño factors contribute to rising heat – wind patterns that experts fear could cause record draughts in Cambodia – the effects are parallel, but unrelated, to the rising heat triggered by climate change as a whole.
In Cambodia, a single degree can have serious impacts on agricultural output and human health, according to Socheath Heng, national programme manager for UN Women Cambodia.
“Declines in natural productivity due to climate change and disasters would have serious food security implications,” Socheath said, explaining that a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature during the dry season – nearly the amount seen so far in 2015 – causes a rice yield to decline 10 per cent, impeding production and increasing the risk of malnutrition.
“It is likely that [it is] the poorest [people], especially women, who would suffer most from ensuing food insecurity,” he said, adding that the uptick in malaria and dengue fever cases this year are symptomatic of climate-related disease risks.
Perhaps as a result, Cambodia saw an 80 per cent increase in dengue in the first quarter of 2015, according to the Cambodia National Malaria Center.
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