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Khorat Plateau and Climate Change in Thailand

16.7N 102.5E

February 7th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Mountains

Thailand – January 24th, 2013

This image focuses on Thailand, namely on the Khorat Plateau, in the northeastern part of the country. The average elevation is 200 m and it covers an area of about 155,000 km². The saucer-shaped plateau is divided by a range of hills called the Phu Phan mountains into two basins: the northern Sakhon Nakhon Basin, and the southern Khorat Basin.

The plateau is tilted towards the south-east, and drained by the Mun and Chi rivers, tributaries to the Mekong that forms the north eastern boundary of the area. It is separated from Central Thailand by the Phetchabun mountain range and the Dong Phaya Yen mountains in the west, the Sankamphaeng Range in the southwest and by the Dongrek mountains in the south.

These together with the Truong Son Range in the north-east catch a lot of the rainfall, so the South-West monsoon has much lower intensity then in other regions—the mean annual rainfall in Nakhon Ratchasima is about 1150 mm, compared with 1500 mm in Central Thailand. The difference between dry and wet season is much stronger, which makes the area less fertile for rice.

Thailand has begun implementing interesting strategies to adapt to climate change, to mitigate some of the effects that are already felt, and to protect farmland, coasts and cities. Thailand is the home to 65 million people, the majority of whom live in rural, agricultural areas. Climate change threatens all three important sectors of Thailand’s economy: agriculture, tourism, and trade. The country is the world’s largest exporter of rice, and agriculture employs 49% of the population.

Today, Thailand produces only 0.8% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, and has a lower per capita emission rate than the global average (3.25 metric tons in 2002, compared with 3.97 per capita worldwide). However, Thailand’s total CO2 emissions doubled between 1991 and 2002 and the government recognized its contribution to global warming.

The effects of climate change, including higher surface temperatures, floods, droughts, severe storms and sea level rise, put Thailand’s rice crops at risk and threaten to submerge Bangkok within 20 years. The damage to agriculture, coastal tourism, and the capital city as consequences of climate change will have enormous economic, cultural and environmental impacts: one degree of warming will destroy the rice crops that are central to the economy, and a few centimeters of sea level rise will submerge the capital city and devastate coastal tourism.

Thailand’s mitigation and adaptation efforts include a slow shift to organic agriculture, a tsunami warning system along the Andaman Sea, the construction of a flood prevention wall around Bangkok, and an Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and energy use (click here for more information).

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