PH prominent in teen climate sensation’s call for action vs global warming
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines figured prominently in climate teen sensation Greta Thunberg’s call for millions of people worldwide to join what has been termed as Climate Strike on Friday, Sept. 20, to stop global environmental destruction from heading on a path of no return.
And rightly so. According to several climate science reports, the Philippines is one of many countries that are witnessing up close the deathly impact of a climate gone haywire as a result of human activity. In the Philippines, climate change’s most harrowing face was Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda, which struck with a force said to be more powerful than two atomic bombs.
In a tweet shared thousands of times on Friday, Thunberg , a 16-year-old Swede girl, greeted people worldwide to invite them to take part in Climate Strike and at least two other movements—FridayforFuture and Schoolstrike4Climate to get governments everywhere to act.
“It’s early morning in the Pacific,” Thunberg wrote in her tweet. “Soon the sun will rise on September 20th 2019. Good luck Australia. The Philippines, Japan and all the Pacific Islands. You go first! Now lead the way!”
Thunberg is now becoming the face of the fight to stop climate change and initiated FridayforFuture and Schoolstrike4Climate. Both involved school children skipping classes to raise awareness about the need to fight climate change and spread knowledge about it.
Thunberg herself devoted every Friday of her school schedule to climate advocacies.
Voyage for environment
Although diagnosed with autism, Thunberg was able to get the world to notice. Just this week, she testified at Capitol Hill in Washington to ask US legislators to “listen to scientists” and their warnings on climate change. Autism, she had said, was her “superpower.”
Last August, Thunberg sailed alone on a 60-foot racing yacht powered only by solar panels and underwater turbines across the Atlantic Ocean from the United Kingdom to the United States, a voyage which took 15 days to make. The voyage came just months after Time Magazine, last May, featured her on its cover as a “next generation leader.”
At home, Thunberg was able to convince her parents to take a lifestyle paradigm shift to reduce their own carbon footprints and give up air travel and a meat diet.
Climate Strike was expected to launch in at least 140 countries through at least 5,000 events—rallies, programs, walkouts—worldwide.
In the Philippines, Climate Strike was to launch in at least 17 locations from Quezon City to Palawan. Several environmental groups, like Greenpeace, were expected to take part.
Strike for climate
As the name suggested, Climate Strike is asking workers, students, employees to get out of their offices or classrooms into the streets to demand action from governments and authorities to stop climate change.
In the Philippines, Thunberg’s call to action could not have been timelier.
According to the Climate Reality Project, in a report in January 2016, the Philippines is among many countries in the world that are now witnessing the impact of climate change up close.
Aside from deadly storms churned out by warming oceans, killer diseases are also on the rise as a result of climate change in the Philippines, Climate Reality said.
The world’s strongest storm to make landfall, Haiyan or Yolanda, approached the Philippines with winds close to 300 kph, a rarity among typhoons and a ferocity believed fuelled by the effects of climate change.
In 2013, Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines, mostly in Tacloban City, considered as its ground zero. The country is still repairing damage worth at least $2 billion on structures and public infrastructure and buildings.
Luck not a factor
“Is the Philippines unlucky? Not exactly,” said the Climate Reality report.
The report kept track of 10 of the Philippines’ most powerful storms between 1947 and 2014 and found that “what’s alarming is that five out of the 10” storms occurred starting in 2006.
In 2015, the Global Climate Risk Index listed the Philippines as No. 1 on a list of countries “most affected” by climate change.
Part of the reason for this is the country’s geographical feature. Being in the western Pacific Ocean and surrounded by naturally warm waters, the Philippines is like a sitting duck in the middle of the sea for powerful storms.
But storms with winds exceeding 200 kph were likely to become more frequent as waters surrounding the country get warmer as a result of climate change. Climate scientists had found that warm oceans and seas give birth to storms that used to be freak because of their strengths but had become the new normal.
One of the best buffers for storms in the Philippines should have been its coral reefs and mangroves, but the Climate Reality report said nearly half of all Philippine mangroves had already disappeared because of deforestation. Coral reefs, in the meantime, are also disappearing because of bleaching, which is also an effect of climate change.
Citing 2013 Philippine government data, Climate Reality said a destructive storm season in the Philippines costs the country 2 percent of its gross domestic product. It costs another 2 percent of GDP to rebuild, “putting the Philippines at least 4 percent in the hole each year from tropical storms.”
The effects of climate change on the Philippines were also illustrated in numbers by a report in 2017 of ClimateLinks, a portal of the USAID website and they are scary.
According to the ClimateLinks report, by 2050 average temperatures in the Philippines would have increased by 1.8 degrees to 2.2 degrees Celsius.
Drier dry seasons as rainfall volume declines sharply between March and May. Wetter wet season for parts of Luzon and Visayas during the southwest monsoon and decreasing rainfall in Mindanao. Sea levels would rise by nearly a meter by the year 2100.
Every 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature was likely to cut rice and corn yields by 10 percent. Droughts will lead to increased pest infestations. Cyclones and heavy rains would increase runoff and soil erosion, sharply reducing productivity and soil fertility.
Global warming, the ClimateLink report said, is already “leading to water stress” and reducing quality and quantity of available water supply.
Saltwater was likely to encroach into coastal aquifers in at least 25 percent of coastal municipalities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and would increase along with sea level rise.
The Philippines’ energy supply would take a hit, too, from global warming, the ClimateLink report said. In 2010, this was already being felt as the production of electricity dropped by 20 percent because of drought. Other key energy infrastructure, like the Malampaya gas field, “is vulnerable to more intense and frequent storms,” the report said.
It said fish and marine habitats would suffer damage from an ocean turning more acidic, rising seas and sea surface and coral bleaching. It estimated that 95 percent of corals already suffered bleaching during the 2009-2010 El Nino episode.
At least 60 percent of Philippine coastal communities’ livelihood is on the line.
In 2009, Tropical Storm Ondoy, internationally known as Ketsana, left so much damage to roads and bridges that required more than P1 billion to repair, ClimateLink said in the report.
Deadly diseases are also tagging along with climate change, according to the report. Between 1995 and 2005, data showed that increases in the number of cases of malaria or dengue were “positively correlated with changes in temperatures.”
Dengue epidemics, said the report, continued to occur with regularity in intervals of three and four years. The latest epidemic was this year, which saw more than 200,000 people, mostly children, taken ill by the mosquito-borne disease and 2,000 dying, the Philippines’ worst dengue record. The situation was true elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
Climate activists are demanding a shift to renewable energy as a solution. But in the Philippines, at least 55 power plants are being run on coal, according to data from the Department of Energy.
Scientists said the world needed to prevent a 2 degree Celsius rise in average temperature to keep the disastrous impact of climate change from taking an irreversible course. Some places in the world, however, had already breached the 2-degree mark, according to several reports.
‘Protect, restore, fund’
In a video, Thunberg and The Guardian columnist George Monbiot said “we can still fix this.”
Thunberg said governments and companies worldwide spend 1,000 times more on fossil fuels to produce energy than it spends on finding solutions to global warming.
“We are living in the beginning of mass extinction,” Thunberg said in the video. “Our climate is breaking down. Children like me are giving up their education to protest,” she said.
“To survive we need to stop burning fossil fuels,” she said, adding that “this is not enough,” though.
Some solutions, said Thunberg said, are too simple. Monbiot said it could be as simple as planting trees and not cutting them down.
The crazy part, however, according to Thunberg, is that “we are ignoring them.” She said tropical forests “are being cut down at the rate of 30 football pitches a minute.”
To stop climate change taking an irreversible turn, Thunberg said three words needed to be remembered: “Protect, Restore, Fund.”
Protect the ecosystems, restore that which had been damaged and stop funding destructive ways to generate electricity.