WHEN Thomasian and National Hero Jose Rizal wrote The Indolence of the Filipinos, he blamed Filipino laziness on the drudging hot climate, which was yet compounded by fertile lands that cut the need for hard labor.

But with the surge of global warming, the country faces to loose Nature’s boon, further grinding Filipinos under the bull’s yoke.

“Among the manifestations of global warming in the Philippines are warmer weather conditions, the frequency of climate changes, and turns of El Niño and La Niña phenomena, that affect crop yields and raise water levels,” Rosalina de Guzman, supervising weather specialist of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA), told the Varsitarian.

Global warming is the increase in climate temperatures due to excessive carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that deplete ozone shields against the sun. CO2 shelters some of the sun’s heat so the earth will not turn icy at night. However, too much CO2 from burning fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, oil, and the use of chlorofluorocarbons will trap unnecessary heat in the “earth’s house,” creating the “greenhouse effect.” As a result, polar ice caps melt causing changes in land and ocean temperatures, leading to a steep rise in sea levels, heavy flooding, violent and frequent typhoons, weather-related diseases, and famine-causing draught.

Will Manila become Atlantis?

Recently, ecologists have warned of drastic thawing of continent-size Antarctica and Greenland—polar lands covered by ice—resulting in rising sea levels that could swallow coastal cities like Manila by the next century. If true, the projection serves as grim portent to where UST would be by the year 2100—under the sea!

This month’s issue of the journal Science notes that Greenland ice sheets have already doubled their rate of slides, pouring water into oceans that would eventually raise sea levels up to six meters, add to this Antarctica’s ice melt, which alone could raise sea levels more than 65 meters. Time’s special issue on global warming thus estimates a worst-case scenario of sea levels rising up to 72 meters by 2100. This forecast does not yet include the impact of across-the-board melting of ice glaciers in frost mountain ranges from the South American Andes to the Himalayan peaks in India, Tibet, Nepal, and China.

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that even if dangerous CO2 emissions are halted today, the amount of CO2 already emitted to the atmosphere will remain for the next 200 years, and the projected effects will continue for the next centuries.

As early as 1993, the annual Asia-Pacific Seminar on Climate Change has been sounding the alarm that by 2070, the country may suffer “the submergence of small islands, reclaimed areas in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu, some districts in Manila, and Laguna de Bay lakeshore areas that have agri- and aquacultural land settlements.” PAGASA since 1965 has observed the increasing trend in sea level rise. With a coastline of 18,000 kilometers, the Philippines is vulnerable to changing sea altitudes.

“Two million Metro Manila residents will have to be relocated,” said environmentalist Al Gore, former US vice-president, in his visit to the country last February. Gore used National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite photos showing the extent of environmental damage worldwide, and urged the use of solar and wind energy instead of fuel power.a

Gore’s data were dismissed as gory overstatements by UP geologists Carlo Arcilla and Fernando Siringan. Arcilla and Siringan argued that the inundation of Metro Manila is greatly caused by land subsistence due to extensive groundwater extraction than sea-level rise. (See article below).

“Even without global warming, floodwater levels in Manila can already rise up to 12 meters,” Vincent Custodio, engineering consultant of the Pumping Station and Flood Gate Operations of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), told the Varsitarian. “Still, it is possible that Manila would be submerged in water within a hundred years since the land continuously subsides,” he added.

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Custodio explained that if the need arises when the water level has become too high, the MMDA could use floodgates and waterways through which excess floodwater would be pump out to either Manila Bay or Pasig River, if this is still possible.

But the problem could be both sea water rise and ground water fall. Environmental journalist Don Hinrichsen of People and the Planet observes that rising salt water would eventually seep in to Manila’s drained wells and water pumps, like in Cebu, where aquifers are contaminated with salt water. The government as a result would be forced “to spend billions of dollars that the Philippines doesn’t have on desalination plants,” in order to eliminate salt water from drinking sources, Hinrichsen said.

All-year-round summer

Have you noticed that the breeze of Christmas season is not as cool as it used to be? That summer seasons now take longer time and typhoon havocs have been more erratic?

IPCC cites that the Philippines’ dry season from December to May is becoming longer and arid due to global warming, and the rainy season more ravaged by typhoons (that can lead to landslides) resulting from sudden weather change.

World surface temperatures have also risen by 0.6o C since the 1800s and the UN World Meteorological Organization lists 2002 to 2005 to be the world’s hottest years on record. This, according to UN, is the reason many countries are now being hit by record-making deadly heat waves and super storms. The Philippines is still blessed to warm more slowly than the global average (between 0.1o- 0.3o C) since its islands are insulated by “cooling” oceans and seas.

“The country’s surface temperature is on an increasing trend, but it is not that critical at this point,” de Guzman said.

Feverish

Health wise, global warming is correlated with high incidence of malaria, dengue, and cholera, as mosquitoes, microorganisms, and pests breed in warm but wet environment. Respiratory distress also follows higher levels of atmospheric CO2, leading to more heart, lung, and allergy attacks.

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“Respiratory tract infections are common every time there is a shift in temperature,” Dr. Dante Lerma, medical consultant of the UST Health Service, told the Varsitarian. “Also, the hot season incites viral diseases like sore eyes, common cold and influenza.”

The World Health Organization estimates that 150,000 deaths occur every year due to global warming. Because of serious ozone depletion, sun block agents may soon become practical necessities than cosmetic luxuries, to protect one against ultraviolet rays that trigger skin cancer and premature aging.

“Although skin cancer is not common among Asians because of high amounts of melanin in their skin compared to Caucasians and Europeans, there are people with genetic dispositions inclined with skin cancer that only await triggers, usually ultraviolet rays, before the cancer breaks out,” Lerma said, also citing that skin diseases like prickly heat rash or eczema will be common due to global warming.

Food production is also affected. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna stated global warming would reduce rice yields. Although rice plants could benefit from higher levels of CO2, an increase in temperature, the IRRI said, “would nullify any yield increase.”

Meanwhile, many wild plants and animals would not survive climate changes in their habitat. Forest blazes could also become more frequent.

Ecologists are therefore pushing ways to counter rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere by planting more trees that will inhale the element, and by curtailing fossil fuels as energy sources. During last year’s International Youth Day, campus editors convened by the Green Page Network forged a “Green Covenant,” promoting ecological awareness among students.

As global warming heats up, modern-day heroes on blaze for Mother Nature are called to save land and sea. The time is hot to do something green.

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