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‘Right’ disaster?


The window  to ease impacts of global warming is closing more rapidly than earlier estimated, says World Bank  in a  study released last Wednesday. Sea  level  surges will double as mountain glaciers melt. They’ll  interlock with intense storms inflicting deaths and damage.

What happens when in the words of the study, “rainfall becomes more sporadic and, in  rainy season, even more intense”?  Inquirer’s Michael Tan sketches a graphic answer from “Emong,” this season’s first storm.

“Monday night, I broke my own record of airport commuting ordeals, clocking 13 hours to get from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to my home in San Juan. I left Naia at about 5:30 p.m. in a taxi.”  By 8 p.m., Tan  was still  stuck in Makati. At  11 p.m., he gave up and took a hotel room. “I finally got home at 6:30 a.m the next day”.

Hindi ka nagiisa, political prisoner Ninoy Aquino used to say. Thousands were also stranded. Storm “Fabian” lurks around the corner. And the rainy season’s end is 17 or more typhoons away.

Among seven cities, Manila is the second most  at risk from climate change, according to  the  2013 Climate Change Vulnerability Index which tracked 197 countries. Others are: Dhaka, Bangkok, Yangon, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh and Kolkata.

Rising sea levels could uproot 13.6 million Filipinos by 2050,  the Asian Development Bank projected  in an earlier  study: “Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific.” Three typhoons in as many years lashed Mindanao. The island used to reel  from a wayward storm  every 17 years or so

World leaders are committed to curb greenhouse emissions and tamp down temperature increases to about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, ( 2 degrees Celsius.)  There have  been concerns “that temperatures will soar to five degrees Celsius over a century,” the 2012 WB study noted.

The 2013 study, therefore, narrowed the focus to the next few years. “The heaviest impact will slam parts of Asia most prone to flooding and harsh tropical storms,” it found. Bangkok could be swamped by floods in 2030. Hanoi ’s just-built new flood control systems are obsolete. Rising ocean temperatures and saltwater intrusion into rivers would ruin local fisheries. Fish is a key source of protein for people Vietnam, Indonesia  and the Philippines.

Countries must redo earlier estimates. A  20-centimeter sea level  rise here over the next 40 years is obsolete. This threat still runs “along the  Pacific seaboard: from Samar to eastern Mindanao ,” Wendy Clavano wrote in “Environmental Science for Social Change.” Only it is more severe.

The “high risk” provinces flank Lingayen Gulf, Camotes Sea , Guimaras Strait, waters along Sibuyan and central Sulu, plus bays in Iligan, Lamonand Bislig. Chances of Manila  flooding yearly  rose  to 65 percent, and Davao ’s to 90 percent, estimates Clavano, a Cornell University PhD. “Rising sea level took a back seat because increased flooding had a more immediate effect.”

This  issue is a major stumbling block to alleviating global poverty, warned  World Bank President Jim Yong Kim   Progress of the last 20 years, could be set back if nations must  divert scarce resources to recover  from storms and natural disasters. Those funds are needed  in  health,  education and other services.

The Bank will  provide loans for Asian countries to cope with inevitable climate shifts. It  prods agribusinesses to focus “on how major crops can be altered to live with less water, hotter temperatures.” Support is given for crop science and genetics. Will scientists win the race to  produce drought-resistant varieties of corn and other plants — or lose to mass hunger, say in Sub-Saharan Africa?  A “magic bullet” may prove elusive.

In  a report released  Friday in Nairobi, UN  Environment Programme said the   private sector’s future will hinge on it’s ability to develop goods and services that reduce impacts from  sea levels to emissions of harmful chemicals.

“GEO-5 for Business: Impacts of a Changing Environment on the Corporate Sector”  notes significant business opportunities for greener urban construction and retrofits. These are in cities where 60 percent of infrastructure still has to be built. Markets for organic food and beverages expanded by 10 to 20 per cent yearly during the last decade. Companies certified as sustainable food producers can also tap into growing customer demand.

Eight out of ten Filipinos say they’ve “personally experienced” climate change impacts over the last three years, Social Weather Stations found in a survey conducted March 19 to 22, 2013. Proportions affected were highest in the National Capital Region (91 percent), Luzon ( 87 percent ), Visayas ( 84 percent ) and Mindanao (78 percent).

Many survey respondents say they have yet  to fully understand climate change’s impacts. Thirty seven percent participated in at least one effort to reduce risks resulting from climate change, (e.g. contacted civil society organizations, gave donations, etc ). And 63 percent said they did not do anything.

At a Bonn meeting last week, Bangladesh said its cities plan to adapt to more water. It allocated $470 million to grow forests on the coastal belt and build multistory shelters to house cyclone victims. Thailand awarded bids for flood management. “Solutions to the problem of rising seas is being studied.”

Cebu is the most ecologically brittle of Philippine cities. Debate swirls over trounced Rep. Tomas Osmeña’s  becoming barangay captain. That would  wedge him into the city council –  and harass reelected Mayor Michael Rama.

“We are on the verge of a global transformation,” billionarie David Rockefeller said. “All we need is the right major crisis.” Is this it?

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Tags: Climate Change , floods , Global warming , Monsoon Rains , News , Philippine disasters , science , Weather

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