Page last updated at 01:42 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Thailand's rising tide of problems

high sea levels in Thailand

In a three part special about climate change, BBC Scotland's social affairs reporter, Fiona Walker, looks at what Scotland could be like in 2080.

In this first piece she writes about her trip to Thailand to see how areas of that country have disappeared under the sea and she asks whether the same fate could befall parts of Scotland.

Thailand's coast is best known to many Scots for its beaches and backpackers.

But just round the corner from the sunbathers is a world where the rising sea level has taken their homes.

Not just once - some families have had to move 11 times to escape the encroaching water and the increasingly ferocious storms. Now they've run out of space and the original village is under the sea.

telegraph poles in sea
Sea levels rose on average by 1.7mm a year during the 20th century
Since 1993 levels have been rising by 3mm a year, according to the IPCC
The average temperature of the oceans is also rising, and has increased by 0.1C over the period 1961-2003
Higher sea levels are partly explained by water expanding as it heats up and partly by melt-water from ice sheets and glaciers finding its way into the oceans
This rise in sea levels has obvious consequences for people living in low-lying coastal regions

A guide to what lies beneath the surface is a line of telegraph poles marching out to sea - they mark the route of the road now a few metres under water.

This is what climate change can look like according to the researchers trying to work out what can be done to prevent further erosion and rising water.

They've already lost 1km of land and scientists say the monsoon waves are now two to three times higher. It's too late to save the village here so they want other countries - including Scotland - to learn from their experience.

Professor Dr Thanawat Jarupongsakul from Chulalongkom University says it's down to global warming and coastal erosion which he believes we all need to prepare for.

He said: "If your house is not located in a coastal area like in Thailand you can't imagine what the effect of climate change will be on yourselves. The effects of climate change have come very close to our society so there's no time to discuss whether it's real or not. I think it's time now to do action."

When the sea started to threaten the Buddhist temple, the monks refused to move so they have built a walkway so villagers can come for prayer.

The monks chant each morning as the water laps at the door then they get to work repairing the temple from the last storm's destruction.

"The temple is no longer on the official map," said Abbot Somnuek Athipomyo.

walkway to submerged temple
A walkway enables worshippers to pray at the submerged temple

Khamron Deedok is a fisherman. He has rebuilt his house four times and each time he thought his family would be safe from the Gulf of Thailand.

He said: "My original house was a few kilometres away into the sea. Each time we have to move - it's with great sadness but we are also happy that we are then safe from the storms. Then we move again. It is an endless cycle"

But has this got anything to do with Scotland? Aideen McLaughlin from Oxfam Scotland believes it does.

She said: "I think at home we haven't got our heads round what the impact of climate change is but when you see it here actually visiting people's doorsteps and destroying their lives and their livelihoods every day it really is a reality and I want people to see that we have to do something about it.

"Obviously people here are being hit first and worst but people in Scotland will be hit. The poor in Scotland will also be hit first because they have the least resources to cope in our own country so it's not just a struggle abroad it's also a struggle at home - that's why it's crucial for us to campaign at home.

"Next month, we're holding Scotland's biggest ever demonstration in support of climate change in Glasgow."

climate change graph

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