“THE ABNORMAL is the new normal.”

These words of United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sum up how climate change and erratic weather patterns have become the norm rather than the exception…

That climate change is just a hoax has become less and less convincing, especially with the globe warming up by 0.8 degree Celsius (oC) over preindustrial levels, oceans by 0.09oC since the 1950s, and the sea levels rising 3.2 millimeters per year. The numbers may be quite small but the recent World Bank climate study warns that by 2100, world temperature is projected to have a four-degree rise, that is, if it does not reach that level earlier by 2060 because of uncontrolled carbon emissions.

Moreover, with the permafrost covering the polar regions of Antarctica and Greenland, sea levels are expected to rise at approximately 0.5 to 1 meter from its present state in 2100 if the waters exist in what the World Bank calls “a 4 oC world.” Rising waters can affect vulnerable low-lying countries situated at coasts especially at extreme weather events, like the Philippines.

Even concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas trapped inside the atmosphere, has been increasing from its preindustrial concentration of around 278 parts per million (ppm) to over 391 ppm last September, rising 1.8 ppm per year; and it may reach 800 ppm by 2100. Such high-level concentration is enough to acidify oceans, which in turn can lead to the destruction of marine biodiversity and ecosystem.

In addition, stranger weather events, clean water and food shortages, as well as other ecosystem shifts, can appear more normal because of the “new” climate by the next century.

Sining dramatiko sa Uste

Why have we ended up in such a situation? It is primarily because we, the human beings who were tasked to be the stewards and protectors of nature, have turned against the world that nourishes us. While change is naturally inevitable even in temperatures and climates, we cannot deny that we have sped the whole process up and damaged our home as a result by our own destructive habits.

During the recently concluded UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Qatar, Ban presented a challenge: to keep global temperature below 2 oC by creating a global pact that would cut global emissions of carbon dioxide.

Global emissions has been rapidly increasing, jumping to three percent last year and may even rise to 2.6 percent more by the end of the year. As a result, UN-member nations are pressured to create a treaty to protect Earth due 2015 or face the unwanted consequences in the following years.

“The science has plainly made it clear: it is the human beings’ behavior which caused climate change, therefore the solution must come from us,” Ban said.

True enough, many catastrophes in 2012 may have been caused by nature, but less damage could have happened if we did our part in protecting the environment.

In North America, Hurricane Sandy battered the United States’ East Coast and portions of the Caribbean which caused 253 deaths and an estimated $63-million in damages. Unusual frequency of flooding in the United Kingdom has also been lately noted.

Flooding in the Philippines has become more and more frequent and more destructive, especially the floods early August that inundated UST with the rest of Metro Manila. The floods mind you were caused not by typhoons but by heavier than usual monsoon rains.

Lady Trackster champ anew in Palawan leg

As in 2011 when Sendong ravaged Visayas and Mindanao, the Philippines ended 2012 with a typhoon and heavy flooding in Mindanao. To cap the year with a bang, typhoon Pablo devastated the rarely-stormed Visayas and Mindanao, leaving at least 1,020 dead and 844 still missing as of press time.

When I learned the country ranked fourth with the highest risks to environmental changes in the 2013 Global Climate Risk Index by Germanwatch, I was not shocked. As Sendong and Pablo have shown, forest denudation has contributed not only to climate change but more lethal devastation by inclement weather.

The Mayans might have made a wrong prediction that the world would end on December 21, 2012. But they were at least right that the world could be ending around that date, more or less. Humans themselves would be the agents of that destructive end, it appears. But it’s not yet too late to act. We can still slow down the change. Cut down greenhouse emissions by reducing electricity use and other activities involving these gasses. Drive less and use public transportation or, better yet, bicycles. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Plant trees, take care of the corals, and keep the balance in the ecosystem. Every small move is a big step.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.