Section 3
How did we get here?  A 20-year retrospective  (continued)

Energy and the environment: from bad to worse

While the picture on economic and social issues is mixed, our track record on energy and the environment is arguably uniformly awful.

With the high dependence of the population on agriculture and coastal resources, Thailand is a country that is highly vulnerable to global warming.  Yet it is a substantial emitter of greenhouse gases.  Total annual CO2 emissions have increased nearly three-fold during the past 20 years.  We ranked 22th out of 186 countries globally in terms of greenhouse gas emission (21) .  Underlying much of this is our wasteful use of energy.  As noted above, our energy intensity ranks among the worst in the world, despite being a country that is highly dependent on energy imports.     

Neither have we been very diligent about curbing other forms of pollution.  Every day, we generate over 41,000 tons of garbage, up over 35% since 1990.  Over the past 10 years, we have generated enough garbage to fill a landfill the size of Koh Samui to a height of 5 meters  (22). 

Even more striking is water pollution.  While we honor and propitiate the water deities during our beautiful Loy Krathong festival, each day we dump organic water pollutants that required 581,000 kilograms of oxygen for treatment into our rivers and seas, up nearly 60% over the past ten years alone.

The environment is an area that we have taken for granted and treated as “out of sight and out of mind.”  For a country that depends so much on tourism, such an approach is dangerously short-sighted.   As China’s experience has recently shown, the hidden costs associated with the environment do not stay hidden for very long.  Clean up costs can be enormous, often far greater than the “benefits” of incurring such pollution.

Remarks :
(21)   World Resource Institute, data as of 2010
(22)   As per definition in measuring BOD  :  Biochemical Oxygen Demand is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by aerobic biological organisms in a body of water to break down organic material present in a given water sample at certain temperature over a specific time period.  (