The fist of Climate Change

The fist of Climate Change

Behance caricature courtesy

Climate change, the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a place, has thrown a right straight to the Philippines, an archipelago republic of 110 million people from Tawi-Tawi in the south to Batanes in the north.

With that strong hit, the Philippines incurred losses and damage estimated to reach P506.1 billion (approximately $10 billion) from climate-related hazards over a decade, underscoring its extreme vulnerability to the climate crisis despite contributing only 0.3 percent of the planet’s total greenhouse gas emissions, data gathered by the Department of Finance suggest.

Experts say the cause of current climate change is largely human activity, like burning fossil fuels, like natural gas, oil, and coal. Burning these materials releases what are called greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere

In a statement on November 2, the DoF said this P506.1 billion made up 98.2 percent of the country’s total estimated losses and damage from 2010 to 2020 of P515.51 billion.

This staggering amount is equivalent to an annual average of P48.9 billion, which is about 0.33 percent of the annual average gross domestic product of the Philippines.

People have often ignored climate change, a change in the pattern of weather, and related changes in oceans, land surfaces, and ice sheets, occurring over time scales of decades or longer.

Weather is the state of the atmosphere – its temperature, humidity, wind, rainfall, and so on – over hours to weeks.

We are not off the climate change path, the Philippines being in the typhoon belt and the Pacific Ring of Fire, which puts this country between the Pacific and the South China Sea constantly experiencing unavoidable losses and damage amounting to 0.5 percent of its annual GDP primarily from an increasingly unpredictable climate.

The Philippines is struck by around 20 tropical cyclones every year and an almost daily occurrence of seismic shocks.

Being a climate-vulnerable country, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the Philippines had much at stake in reversing the devastating effects of global warming.

Let’s read his thoughts: “As I have said on many occasions, I am determined to set the Philippines as an example for all nations in setting the standards for mitigating the impact of climate change. I want us to be a world leader in this area through our climate ambition.”

Dominguez, chairman-designate of the Climate Change Commission, heads the Philippine delegation to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

The Philippines has committed to a projected greenhouse gas emission reduction and avoidance of 75 percent from 2020 to 2030 for the sectors of agriculture, wastes, industry, transport, and energy, as its National Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement.

According to the DoF, the latest Fiscal Risk Statement released this year by the Bureau of the Treasury “cites the country’s exposure to natural disasters as a major source of downside risks for the national government’s fiscal position.”

The FRS is drawn up annually to identify the fiscal risks to which the Philippines is exposed, and at the same time, outlines the key programs and measures put up by the government to manage these risks.

In 2020 alone, based on the preliminary 2022 FRS, P74.75 billion worth (approximately $1.49 billion) of damages have been recorded resulting from disasters, including three consecutive typhoons that havecollecti vely caused the largest damages amounting to P69.02 billion (approximately $1.38 billion). Economic losses were estimated at P35.74 billion (approximately $714.8 million).

In 2019, a single tropical cyclone—Typhoon Tisoy (international code name: Kammuri)– recorded the most damages with a total of P6.6 billion (approximately $132.0 million), of which P2.9 billion (approximately $58 million) and P3.7 billion (approximately $74 million) pertain to infrastructure and agriculture damages, respectively, the DOF said.

Losses and damage from extreme weather events reached 4 percent of GDP in 2013 as a result of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), which killed over 6,000 people, according to the National Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Dominguez earlier said given its high climate vulnerability, the Philippines ranked 9th out of 181 nations in the world as the most affected country from extreme weather events in the 2020 World Risk Index.

The Global Climate Risk Index 2021, on the other hand, ranked the Philippines 4th among 10 countries most severely hit by extreme weather events from 2000 to 2019.

Being an archipelago, the Philippines is also greatly threatened by rising sea levels as an offshoot of global warming.

Based on satellite observations, the level of the Philippines’ surrounding seas has increased at a rate of 5.7-7.0 mm/year from 1993 to 2015, which is twice the highest global average rate of 2.8-3.6 mm/year observed between 1993 and 2010.

Sea level rise, which has been identified by the CCC’s reconstituted National Panel of Technical Experts as among the top 10 climate-induced risks in the country, is putting 64 coastal provinces, 822 coastal municipalities, and 25 major coastal cities at extreme risk.

The country had lost about 68 percent and 82 percent corals and seagrass cover, respectively, from 2009-2016, which was exacerbated by climate change impacts, such as coral bleaching and ocean acidification.

This has contributed to the dwindling fish catch as commercial fish move from warm to cooler and deep waters.

All this points to the need to heal our planet.

Many have suggested, the echoes of their suggestions rather loud: Healing the planet starts in your garage, in your kitchen, and at your dining room table.

This change should indeed start with people if the planet must be healed for all the generations.

(ai/mtvn)

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