Climate Impact Asia

Climate Impact Asia is a documentary series made in collaboration with CuriosityStream and StarHub, available as both a one-hour TV special and a four-part mini-documentary series, it looks at the critical impacts of our changing climate systems on one of the most vulnerable regions in the world – Southeast Asia. The key themes explored in this series include:

  1. Sea-Level Rise
  2. Coastal Hazards
  3. Food Security
  4. Tectonic and Volcanic activity

Working on solutions to mitigate the changing climate systems in the region requires long term planning; there has never been such an important time to be an Earth scientist in Southeast Asia, where science, facts, and data can help shape important policies that will improve the future of those living in the region.

This documentary takes a closer look at the research carried out by lead scientists from the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) to better understand the critical importance of evidence-based science, the plans and policies required to ensure Southeast Asia survives into the 21st century, and what the future holds for these societies.

Climate Impact Asia is written and directed by well-known international filmmaker Liz Courtney. She is best known for her 6-part series The Tipping Points of Climate Change, Earth’s Survival, Cool School Antarctica, and Youth for Plant. A resident of the Asia Pacific region and Artist in Residence at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, Liz is keen to explore key factors that will challenge the Southeast Asian region in the coming decade.


Episode 1/Theme 1

Predictive Sea-Level Rise Across Asia

High stakes for the Asia region to stay afloat

Professor Benjamin Horton, EOS Director and one of Asia’s leading climate scientists, studies sea-level rise and their impacts across Southeast Asia, where sea level is set to rise faster than anywhere else in the region. Prof Horton is researching past sea-level changes to calibrate models that will help predict sea levels of the future. While historic records of sea-level rise can be found in the Northern Hemisphere, in Southeast Asia data is limited to the last 50 years. In this episode, we travel with Prof Horton and his team to find natural records well-hidden in mangrove swamps. Mangroves act as carbon sinks and their samples can be radiocarbon dated to provide valuable insight into past sea-levels. With the tide flowing in and time running out, one last sample provides them with detailed records dating back over 20,000 years.

Episode 2/Theme 2

Coastal Hazards

Super typhoons, tsunamis, and storm surge survival

Over 70 per cent of the world’s coastal population lives in Southeast Asia. Here, more than 400 million people live in low-elevation coastal zones exposed to the threats of sea-level rise and coastal hazards like typhoons and tsunamis. Understanding the risks of coastal hazards in a rapidly changing climate system has never been so critical. Together with Associate Professor Adam Switzer, a Principal Investigator at EOS, we visit coastal labs across Asia, where scientists collect data to model mega-storms in the future. Watch the team collect data to help map the profile of Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Super Typhoon Yolanda, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded, and visit the massive boulder fields in Thailand left by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Episode 3/Theme 3

Food Security

Rice production in the region is critical to 4 billion people

Climate change poses a threat to agriculture and to the way of life for many in Southeast Asia. Along with this threat comes many challenges to food security. Floods, typhoons, storm surge, rising seas levels, droughts, and increased temperatures form a myriad of issues that require urgent solutions to ensure the sustainability of even the most basic of foods – rice. Rice crops are acutely sensitive to changes in the climate. Over 90 per cent of the world’s rice is produced in Southeast Asia and is the staple food of more than 4 billion people. We travel across the region to look at rice research in the Philippines, water resources in Vietnam, and the latest in vertical farming in Singapore. Can science and technology work together to create a sustainable food future? We explore these challenges with Principal Investigator Janice Lee.

Episode 4/Theme 4

Volcanoes and Tectonics

What’s happening below the earth in a changing climate system?

Earth science has never been so critical in the understanding of what is happening above and below the earth in our changing climate system. Across Southeast Asia, there are over 750 active volcanoes and major tectonic fault lines that are constantly shifting. Sea-level rise is heavily influenced by tectonics in the region, which can cause the land to either rise or sink during earthquakes. Researchers are pushing their imaginations further to create new technologies to listen and decipher earth sounds and create better seismic warning systems. Join Principal Investigators Benoit Taisne and Judith Hubbard as they travel to field sites to install new listening technologies that enable them to learn more about the sound waves constantly emitted by the earth and what they can tell us.

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