Yayasan PETRONAS’ CEO, Lita Osman, shares her thoughts on how the issue of climate change presents an opportunity for youths to seed solutions which can help us all flourish.

In late 2018, as thousands of primary school students were preparing for the 2019 school year, the Malaysian government explored the feasibility of a Climate Change Act. 

The two occurrences may seem disconnected, but by the time the Act gets tabled and enacted in the coming years, any of the students could make the next big breakthrough in mitigating climate change. 

Studies already indicate that surface temperature, sea level and extreme weather events in Malaysia are trending upwards. 

Global warming and weather changes have caused droughts leading to water shortages, forest fires and floods that cause death and affected the livelihoods of hundreds of communities each year, especially in the East Coast. 

Thankfully, Malaysian students, when called on to innovate to help mitigate the effects of climate change, have been exploring a number of interesting approaches. 

Sludge, Trash, Exhaust and Muck: STEM?

The recent All About Youth (AAY) 2019, competition provided a platform for 1,000 secondary school students nationwide to put on their thinking caps to find solutions to protect the planet, and better the future for their communities.  

The solutions offered by the youngsters, from air pollution detecting drones, forest fire warning systems to beeping bins capable of differentiating waste types,  were quite exciting.

Other solutions offered by them include repurposing waste, biodegradable plastic compounds, solar-powered traffic lights system, carbon dioxide converters and a range of filters, detectors, sensors and automated systems which harness energy from natural sources.

All the solutions centred on one ultimate aim,  to create a flourishing future by reducing carbon emissions. 

As the climate change indicators for Malaysia point upwards, its citizens continue to grapple with the negative effect of rapid urbanisation, waste from neighbouring countries and a growing population – adding more sludge, trash, exhaust and muck to deal with alongside the development and economic growth.

The Need For More Malaysian Whizz Kids!

The current generation is obviously more conscious about how their actions may impact the planet, but the question is are we doing enough – to fix the effects of climate change, and mitigate its consequences? 

Tackling the issue of climate change will require more thinkers, investigators and stronger public-private partnerships that drive towards reducing the country’s carbon intensity through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

As we advance to a developed country status, Malaysia will need more students pursuing STEM. If the intensity and results from AAY2019 are anything to go by, I believe there is a ray of hope as more ‘planet-savers’ and ‘nature inspectors’ come to the fore.

We look forward to the day when Malaysian youths will helm discoveries in nanoscience and nanotechnology which increase the efficiency of solar cells, an important fossil fuel alternative or discover effective solutions to improve air pollution and acid levels in the oceans. 

Issues = Opportunity For Impact

Youths today will face the more severe impact of climate change and yet, also stand to benefit from the technology revolution and new jobs as a result of the challenges posed by climate change. 

They need to be involved in exploring the impact and importance of protecting the environment, to commit and take action, connect with others who are taking action as well as explore new opportunities. 

Students participating in AAY have shown how the next generation can lead in tackling climate action locally, nationally and even globally, as we shape a more sustainable future.

Green is, after all, the new gold.