Might a Storm Surge Threaten the City of Angels?

Perhaps I am wrong – perhaps I am wrong about everything, I often think so – but the re-election of incumbent Apirak Kosayodhin as Governor of Bangkok seems a terrible waste. For the past few years, Khun Apirak seems to have done little or nothing to prepare the city for the threat of global warming and environmental change. We all know the tales of the sinking of the city which, combined with rising sea levels, means that by the time I have finished paying our mortgage the house will be standing in one metre of water.

A story yesterday in the Bangkok Post discussed the possibility of increased storm surges which might affect the city and its hinterland. The Director of the National Disaster Warning Centre (NDWC) Khun Smith Thammasaroj has been pondering the possibility that such a storm surge could be felt in the Gulf of Thailand, pointing out that Cyclone Nargis, which killed scores of thousands of people in the Irrawaddy Delta region of neighbouring Burma might well be replicated. This is of course not something that government officials are willing to hear, especially when it means substantial thought and investment at a time when the country is already menaced by the international credit crisis and internally by the violent anti-democracy movement. Readers might recall that Khun Smith noted the possibility of a tsunami prior to the 2004 disaster and was roundly dismissed, in some cases as little more than a crank.

The problem is that there is still some denial of climate change, often for politically motivated reasons. There is also the problem that collecting and analyzing data concerning climate change is complex, owing to the interaction of so many variables and the fact that the short period of time in which phenomena have been studied makes analysis more anecdotal than systematic.

In any case, it is to be hoped that Khun Apirak can, over the period of the next four yers, keep himself awake long enough to oversee the various disaster management and evacuation plans that exist and devote sufficient resources to understanding and guarding against likely future environmental changes affecting the city.