NASA Climate Change (Shutterstock courtesy)
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is back from a six-day official visit to the United States where, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, he tackled in his address during the general debate major issues including climate change.
Let’s focus on climate change, the issue which refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns’ the shifts may be natural, but since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels (like coal, oil, and gas), which produces heat-trapping gases.
Simply put, climate change means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.
The President hit the nail on the head when he said climate change is the greatest threat affecting various nations and that its effects are uneven and reflect historical injustice.
And he aptly pointed out that “Those who are least responsible suffer the most. The Philippines, for example, is a net carbon sink, we absorb more carbon dioxide than we emit. And yet, we are the 4th most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change.
“This injustice must be corrected, and those who need to do more must act now. We accept our share of responsibility and will continue to do our part to avert this collective disaster.”
The 65-year-old leader of 114 million people, from Tawi Tawi to Batanes, called on industrialized countries “to immediately fulfill their obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, provide climate financing and technology transfer for adaptation for the most vulnerable and developing countries to lead by example.”
What indeed is this climate change that world leaders, not the least the Philippine president, see as a key challenge the world faces today?
The climate system is related to global warming which is the slow increase in the average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere because an increased amount of energy (heat) striking the earth from the sun is being trapped in the atmosphere and not radiated out into space.
Climatologists say a description of the global climate includes how, for example, the rising temperature of the Pacific feeds typhoons which blow harder, drop more rain and cause more damage, but also shifts global ocean currents that melt Antarctica ice which slowly makes sea level rise until New York will be underwater.
It is this systemic connectedness that makes global climate change so important and so complicated.
The earth’s atmosphere has always acted like a greenhouse to capture the sun’s heat, ensuring that the earth has enjoyed temperatures that permitted the emergence of life forms as we know them, including humans.
Without our atmospheric greenhouse, the earth would be very cold. Global warming, however, is the equivalent of a greenhouse with high-efficiency reflective glass installed the wrong way around.
Ironically, the best evidence of this may come from a terrible cooling event that took place some 1,500 years ago.
Two massive volcanic eruptions, one year after another placed so much black dust into the upper atmosphere that little sunlight could penetrate. Temperatures plummeted. Crops failed. People died of starvation and the Black Death started its march.
As the dust slowly fell to earth, the sun was again able to warn the world and life returned to normal.
Today, we have the opposite problem. Today, the problem is not that too little sun warmth is reaching the earth, but that too much is being trapped in our atmosphere.
So much heat is being kept inside the greenhouse earth that the temperature of the earth is going up faster than at any previous time in history. NASA provides an excellent course module on the science of global warming.
We are grateful that President Marcos raised the climate change issue before other world leaders.
We hope some things will be done before too long on how the countries will address and beat to the ground this challenge. (ai/mtvn)