THE EARTH is having an abnormal shift in climate, and we are now starting to experience the consequences.

Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the United Nations (UN), said climate change is taking place so fast that a solution has to be made as soon as possible.

“Climate change is happening much, much faster than one would understand,” Ki-Moon said during the Doha Climate Change Conference in `November last year. “The science has plainly made it clear: it is the human beings’ behavior which caused climate change, therefore the solution must come from us.”

He also noted that most of the carbon emissions, one of the major causes of climate change, contributing to the aggravation of climate change are now coming from developing countries like the Philippines, which even ranked 43rd in the world’s largest carbon pollutants according to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center of the United States’ Department of Energy.

Climate change is a phenomenon resulting from global warming, a condition where greenhouse gases (GHGs) like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbon are trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the surface of the Earth to increase in temperature.

Recent studies published by the World Bank warn the global community that there has been a 1.8 °C temperature increase in the past century, which will even boost to 4°C by 2100.

“Prolonged heat waves are generally the most destructive as mortality and morbidity rates are strongly linked to heat wave duration, with excess deaths increasing each additional hot day,” the report stated. “Temperature conditions experienced during these recent events would become the new norm in a 4°C warmer world and a completely new class of heat waves, with magnitudes never experienced before in the 20th century, would occur regularly.”

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While UN and other foreign research agencies have created several predictions on the global climate in the next decades, various government agencies in the Philippines have also monitored the status of climate change in the country as well as its implications.

Sandee Recabar, senior science research specialist from the country’s Climate Change Commission (CCC), said the phenomenon may have several effects in the country such as unusual increase in temperature, possible sea level rise, and irregularities in precipitation resulting in too much or too less rainfall.

“There is a trend right now that we experience an increase in temperature and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) came up with some models [presenting] scenarios on the probable temperature [increase] in 2020 and 2050 based on historical data,” Recabar told the Varsitarian.

PAGASA projects temperature increase to around 27°C from the average 26.1°C in Metro Manila. A two-degree increase is expected by 2050.

Moreover, the amount of rainfall during dry seasons is expected to lessen by 12.8 and 17.3 percent in years 2020 and 2050, respectively, while also expecting increase in the frequency and intensity of typhoons during wet seasons.

“More typhoons with higher amounts of rainfall are expected to pass through the country because of climate change,” Recabar said.

Risky archipelago

Reports from the UN World Risk Index of 2011 showed that the Philippines was ranked third in terms of vulnerability to disaster risk and natural hazards management due to lack of extensive disaster preparedness plans.

The country also landed 10th with regard to climate-related disasters based on the 2012 Climate Risk Index published by Germanwatch, a German non-government organization which evaluates the climate protection performance of different countries worldwide.

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The Asian Development Bank also released a report stating that a total of 13.6-million people are at risk from possible sea level rise in 2050, characterized by local flooding and extreme precipitation events.

“Vulnerability to these impacts of climate change is based on the existence of hazards, presence of the people, and the economy of the Philippines in the incidence of typhoons,” Recabar said, adding that climate change brings negative impacts on health, agriculture, and species biodiversity.

“Water-related diseases like diarrhea and cholera, respiratory illnesses, and even vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria are some of the major consequences of the hazards brought by climate change,” she added.

Droughts and typhoons, which will be normal with climate change, may endanger the crops and irrigation, which will have a big effect on the country’s agricultural sector.

In addition, the rich biodiversity of plants and animals in the country is threatened because some species can only live within a certain temperature range.

“There are some species that cannot handle very high temperature and when their environment reaches a certain temperature, it may not be feasible for them to live and possible extinction may occur,” Recabar said.

Action against destruction

As answer to the pressing issues induced by the phenomenon, CCC was established in 2009 through the Climate Change Act or Republic Act 9729 to be the country’s primary policy-making body concerning climate change.

“One of [CCC’s] tasks it to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate the programs and actions of the government relating to climate change,” Recabar said. “[CCC] wants to make a successful transition to a climate-smart development and enhance the resiliency of the communities to climate change impacts.”

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CCC formulated a set of strategies, called National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP), to help solidify the country’s foundation against climate change.

The NCCAP recognized food security, water sufficiency, environmental and ecological stability, human security, sustainable energy, climate-friendly industries and services, and capacity development, financing, valuation of natural resources as the seven strategic priorities of the agency’s course of actions.

UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Rajendra Pachauri urged the people to lessen their meat consumption, as a 2007 report of the Food and Agricultural Organization of UN showed that 20 percent of the total greenhouse gases were due to meat production.

“In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity,” Pachauri said.

Moreover, Recabar highlighted the importance of doing “simple things” to slow down the climate change.

“Simple things like lessening the consumption of electricity, doing waste segregation, and having a healthier diet can help reduce the production of greenhouse gases,” she said. “If we have the passion to do more as a citizen and we are informed of what climate change is about, [then] we can combat the phenomenon.”Altir Christian D. Bonganay and Giuliani Renz G. Paas with reports from Hedrix Ar-ar C. Caballe

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