THINK ON THESE: Climate change is real

It’s not a question of whether it will happen or not but how can we save ourselves from its wrath. I am referring to the consequences that climate change brings. Whether we like it or not, it has already happened. And the future looks very bleak.

Andrew Griffin, in an article which appeared in Independent, wrote: “There is a 90% chance that the world’s temperature will rise 2°C to 4.9°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, despite measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Already, there are talks that the Paris agreement is bound to fail. In December 2015, 195 countries from around the world adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. It sets out “a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.”

There is a 99% chance that the climate change will break through the 1.5°C target. “Countries argued for the 1.5°C target because of the severe impacts on their livelihoods that would result from exceeding the threshold,” said Dr. Dargan Frierson, from the University of Washington. “Indeed, damages from heat extremes, drought, extreme weather and sea level rise will much more sever if 2°C or higher temperature rise is allowed.”

There is no turning back when it comes to climate change. It is for real and it is happening right now. In 2008, during the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Dr. Simon Donner of the University of British Columbia embarked on a metaphor for climate change.

“The climate is like this big ship. We are all on this big ship and the problem is once you hit the brakes it takes a long time for the ship to actually slow down and stop,” Dr. Donner told the participants.

“In our case the ship is the Titanic and we are going to hit the iceberg. It is going to be almost impossible for us not to hit the iceberg at this point. What we need to do is everything we can to put the brakes on, to slow the ship down and move the iceberg a little bit. The time for emission reductions isn’t so much now as it was 20 years ago.”

Climate change is bad news for Filipinos. The executive report from World Bank entitled, “Getting a Grip on Climate Change in the Philippines,” gives us an austere scenario about the future of the Philippines.

“The Philippines is the third most vulnerable country to weather-related extreme events, earthquakes, and sea level rise,” the foreword reads. “The country’s exposure to extreme weather conditions adversely affects people’s lives, especially those in high-risk urban and coastal areas.

“Food security is threatened as land and nursery areas for plants, trees, and fisheries are affected by climate change,” the foreword continues. “The livelihoods of poor communities that rely on natural resources are hampered and their lives and properties are further put at risk.”

Although climate change affects all of us, it is the “poor who are usually more severely affected,” the report claimed.

Here are some of those things that we, Filipinos, should be aware of:

•Climate change is expected to lead to more intense typhoons, whose storm surges will be superimposed on higher sea levels. Storm surges are projected to affect about 14% of the total population and 42% of the coastal population.

•Informal settlements, which account for 45% of the Philippines’ urban population, are particularly vulnerable to floods due to less secure infrastructure, reduced access to clean water, and lack of health insurance.

•Climate-related impacts are expected to reduce agricultural productivity in the Philippines. In 2010, the annual damage to agriculture from typhoons, droughts and floods has already reached P12 billion, equivalent to 3% of total agricultural production.

•Warming oceans and ocean acidification affect coral reefs, which serve as important feeding and spawning grounds for many fish species that support the livelihoods of fisher folk. Even minor changes in ocean dynamics can cause severe impacts.

“The Philippines is already experiencing temperature increases: sea level rise; stronger storms, floods and droughts; and ocean acidification, all of which will intensify and affect subsistence livelihoods as well as urban and coastal areas,” the World Bank report said.

Absent of land barriers, the Philippines is exposed directly to multiple climate-related hazards such as typhoons (in the northern and eastern parts), floods (in central Luzon and southern Mindanao), landslides (based in terrain), and droughts, making the Philippines more vulnerable to climate risks than other countries in Southeast Asia.

A previous study has identified 16 provinces in the country as among the 50 most vulnerable regions in Southeast Asia. The southern part are projected to experience the strongest increase in frequency and intensity of extreme, with all summer months experiencing unprecedented heat extremes.

“By the end of this century, tropical cyclones are expected to intensify, with a projected increase in average in the average instantaneous maximum wind velocity at the Philippine coast,” the report said.

Climate change impacts are aggravated by rapid environmental deterioration and unsustainable development practices, the report noted.

It cited the case of the widespread mining and deforestation in Mindanao, which “were blamed for the flash floods, including those produced by Tropical Storm Sendong in 2011, which cost the lives of about 1,000 people.”

The foreword also said: “For the Philippines to reduce poverty, accelerate economic growth, and create jobs, it is therefore necessary to address the country’s vulnerabilities to climate change. This can be accomplished by reducing the exposure and improving the adaptive capacity of communities at risk.”

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