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“InnoFriday” Talk #2 Review: A Contemporary View on Climate Change and Social Disorders

What is the relationship between climate change and social disorders? The answer may be found from our 2nd InnoFriday Talk held on 14 August, where Dr Harry Lee, Assistant Professor from the Department of Geography, The University of Hong Kong, pointed out that geological studies illustrated links between monsoon changes and social and political upheavals in Chinese history, as well as racial conflicts in Africa in recent times. Mapping data gathered from stalactites showing different strengths of monsoons with historical times in China, Dr Lee has found that strong summer monsoons had given rise to a prosperous economy during the Northern Song Dynasty. On the other hand, when the monsoons were weak during the late Ming and Qing dynasties, political instability was frequent and we even see the downfall of dynasties. Based on lessons learned, Dr Lee projected the trends of climate change from present days to future times, giving plenty of room for reflection to our participants as to how our planet may look under severe climate change.

Another guest speaker Mr Amen Yee, Programme Director of Save the Children, told the audience how developing countries have suffered from huge economic and life losses caused by the increasingly frequent hits of extreme weather.  The Philippines, devastated by a super-typhoon two years ago, was used as an example.  In times of disasters, a formula for risk assessment will become useful to local communities, governments and NGOs involved in relief work.  Mr Yee brought up “Risk= Hazard x Exposure x Vulnerability/ Manageability”, a formula that can help identify and measure the risks of a specific region. Turning back to Hong Kong, Mr Yee shared with the audience the findings of his recent research project focusing on the impacts of extreme weather on people’s health.

In group discussions following the talks, guest speakers and over 20 participants joined together to examine how Hong Kong may be affected by climate change in three aspects – rainstorm, heat waves and flooding, and looked for possible solutions to help those most affected. During the 30-minute discussion, participants shared their observations and experiences at home and abroad and raise innovative suggestions. For instance, tree gazebos in Mexico were thought to be a good idea that can help Hong Kong’s local communities in hot weathers, and so was roof greening and community farming under collaboration between the local community and NGOs.  These measures, if implemented, will not only help to reduce the heat wave effect on buildings, but may also give rise to a new mode of community farming. From the discussions above, we can see that many people have their own innovative ideas in tackling climate change challenges.

Climate change is leading to more frequent extreme weathers. This affects our daily life and may even cost the loss of life and our valuable assets. Question 4 of our Challenge is “How to improve the comfort level of city living despite urban warming?”  You are most welcome to join COIL as a member and get the discussion rolling: what kind of climate disaster preventive measures does Hong Kong need to introduce at the stage of urban planning?