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Climate Change Could Force Bangkok to Move, Know Why

Bangkok, which is experiencing extreme effects from climate change and increasing sea levels, may have to move if subsidence and flooding worsen.

Saurabh Shukla
Climate Change Could Force Bangkok to Move, Know Why (Photo Source: Pixabay)
Climate Change Could Force Bangkok to Move, Know Why (Photo Source: Pixabay)

While some may question the reality of climate change, the undeniable effects of it are evident in Bangkok. Thailand might need to relocate its capital from Bangkok, often referred to as the sinking city, due to rising sea levels, according to a senior official in the climate change office. Projections consistently indicate that low-lying Bangkok faces the risk of ocean inundation before the century concludes.

Pavich Kesavawong, the deputy director-general of the government's Department of Climate Change and Environment, has made a stark warning. He highlighted that with the world on its current warming trajectory, adaptation strategies might fall short for Bangkok. While the idea of moving the capital is not yet official policy, it reflects the severity of the threat facing the city.

Bangkok is facing similar challenges to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, as both cities are sinking. This year, Indonesia will officially inaugurate Nusantara as its new capital, a move to replace the sinking and polluted Jakarta. This relocation, costing an estimated $35 billion (€32.3 billion), highlights the drastic measures some countries are considering in response to climate threats.

Thailand's challenges extend beyond Bangkok. The nation is experiencing climate change effects across multiple sectors. Farmers are grappling with heatwaves and drought, while the tourism industry is reeling from coral bleaching and pollution. These changes underscore the broader impacts of global warming on the country's economy and lifestyle.

Since record-keeping began in 1880, the average global sea levels have risen by approximately 23 centimetres. The pace of rise is accelerating due to global warming. Climate scientists warn that sea levels around the Pacific and Indian Oceans could rise by nearly one meter by the century's end. This poses a significant threat to Bangkok, which sits only 0.5 to 1.5 meters above sea level. To make matters worse, Bangkok has been sinking at a rate of 1 to 2 centimetres annually due to subsidence.  

The city is already prone to urban and river flooding, exacerbated by its location along the Chaopraya River. During high tides, especially following flood events, the river can rise to three meters above sea level. 

The combination of rising sea levels, more intense rainfall, and the city's subsidence presents a dire situation for Bangkok's 11 million residents. As climate change intensifies these issues, the city's vulnerability becomes increasingly apparent.

In response to these looming threats, Thailand is striving for carbon neutrality by 2050 and aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2065. However, the immediate challenge is to manage the existing impacts and prepare for a future where relocation of the capital might become an unavoidable reality.

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