RP is vulnerable to climate change

posted March 09, 2018 at 12:15 am
by  Tony Lopez

Today I adapt the article of my daughter Ivy on climate change at risk:

In the last 20 years, the Philippines suffered the most catastrophic events (289). It’s the fifth most vulnerable to climate change with its recurrent catastrophes in the long term and yearly risk indexes. (Global Climate Risk Index 2018).

“This is due to its high exposure to natural hazards (cyclones, landslides, floods, droughts), dependence on climate-sensitive natural resources, and vast coastlines where all major cities and the majority of the population reside,” according to USAID.  

Global warming has changed Earth’s climate. Extreme temperatures lead to extreme weather like longer heatwaves and droughts, heavier but shorter rainfall, rising sea levels, worse flooding, more frequent and harsher typhoons. Countries near the equator and in Southeast Asia  will suffer the most, particularly poorer developing countries.

“The Philippines lies in the world’s most cyclone-prone region, averaging 19–20 cyclones each year, of which 7–9 make landfall. Sea levels in the Philippines are rising faster than the global average, increasing the hazard posed by storm surges and threatening permanent inundation of low-lying areas.” 

Under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Philippines pledges to reduce 70 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to abate global warming to 1.5°C. Other laws and local government initiatives have been proposed. But so far, very little has been actually and immediately done to meet the oncoming onslaught of climate change.

The most important action for the Philippines is to set a long-term goal and make the first step to alleviate global warming, according to The Lancet. 

 “A new momentum is needed. Dramatic technological change, steadfast and visionary political will, and international cooperation are required to change the trajectory of climate change and to protect people and ecosystems,” according to the World Bank. 

Earth is too hot. The last two years were the hottest in world history and temperatures are still rising unabated.  By 2100, Earth’s temperature will rise by 2.2°C. How critical is a few degrees? Average body temperature is 37°C. If it rises by one degree, you have a fever from an infection or illness.

Under a business-as-usual scenario, Asian summer temperatures will rise by 6°C. Average Philippine temperature is 27°C, but there will be days it exceeds 35°C, according to the Asian Development Bank.

By 2100, 73.9 percent of Earth will have at least 20 days per year of deadly heat and humidity. Under a worst-case scenario, the Philippine southern region of Mindanao could experience year-long heatwaves by 2050. Unusual summer temperatures can become the new norm from 2070 onward.

“In such contexts, each national authority is required to plan and carry out multidimensional countermeasures to this imminent issue, and the Philippines is no exception,” according to The Lancet.  

Heat waves also bring drought and water shortage. Climate change will seriously threaten food security in SEA. Without adaptation or technological improvements, rice yields in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam will halve by 2100, relative to 1990 levels. Low rice yield correlates to higher general Filipino migration.

RP’s archipelago has the world’s fifth largest coastline of 36,289 km (22,548 miles) with hundreds of beautiful beaches.

Southeast Asia’s coral reefs is the world’s richest center of marine biodiversity. The Coral Triangle, a marine region spanning the tropical waters of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste, hosts 30 percent of the global coral stock and 76 percent of all known coral species. Over 100 million people who live on the coast directly rely on its ecosystem services worth $3.5 billion. 

But warmer oceans kill reefs and SEA waters are warming at twice the global average. Even if we limit global warming to 2°C, all the world’s coral reef systems will collapse from mass bleaching. Now, 95 percent of the Coral Triangle is degraded, which results in less biodiversity as species die or migrate to cooler waters. This destroys coastal livelihoods, like fisheries (worth $57.98 billion in Southeast Asia) and tourism (worth $204 billion in the Coral Triangle). Coastal food supply will halve by 2050.

Global warming of 1.5°C can prevent the complete loss of corals and allow the reefs to regenerate.

Cities have twice as many hot days than coastlines. If we do nothing, hot days in the city will be 10 times higher by 2100, the ADB said. 

Urban heat island (UHI) effect is caused by an increase in waste due to rapid urbanization. This is usually characterized by increased sealed and artificial surfaces, increased population and build-up density, basements, sewage and water systems, private transportation, and air conditioners.

Fast-growing Asian cities like Manila suffer the most from global warming but they are also part of the problem, as they emit a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gases but do not alleviate its effects. Its 44 percent residents in informal settlements do not have access to clean water and basic services which will exacerbate pollution and health risks.

Poor city planning does not allocate enough green spaces nor plant trees to help reduce carbon dioxide, give oxygen, provide shade, hold moisture in the ground, and prevent erosion. Greenery provides much-needed cool spaces in cities and shade feels 15 degrees cooler than direct sunlight. By 2030, Metro Manila will be 91 percent built but will only have 8 percent of green space.

“In Southeast Asia, the relatively weak structure of urban policy poses challenges for the adoption of appropriate urban management strategies. Uncoordinated master planning strategies often lack information on the past, present and future changes to the urban and green space structure,” according to Ecological Indicators.  

Fortunately, the UHI effect seems to be cooled by sea breeze since temperatures are lower near the shore.

As Earth heats up, it warms the waters which then expands the volume of the ocean and melts glaciers. Also, the loss of inland water and groundwater pumps have shifted more water to the ocean. All these result in higher sea levels worldwide.

Scientists predict a global mean sea level rise of 7.87 inches (0.2 m) to 6.6 ft (2.0 m) by 2100.

From 1901 to 2010, global SLR was 7.4 inches, or a rate of .067 inches a year over 109 years. Since 1993, SLR doubled, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

RP is most vulnerable to SLR since 60 percent of its municipalities and 10 of its largest cities are on coastlines; 60 percent of the population reside here and will double by 2060 and will tax the cities’ resources for power, water, food, shelter, and security, which are all vulnerable to extreme weather.


Topics: Climate change
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