Kids at risk
“We’re the most clever of species,” biologist Jane Goodall wrote. “How is it we destroy the only planet we have?”
That remark resonates in World Bank’s new report, “Turn Down The Heat.” Current efforts to tamp down global warming, below a 2-degree Celsius increase are faltering, it says. A 4-degree Celsius hotter world wreak havoc everywhere.
“The question about climate change is no longer whether it’s real,” WB president Jim Yong Kim said. “(It) is what the world is going to look like for our children. I have a 3-year-old son. And when he is my age, he could be living in a world completely different from ours.”
The journal Science, this November, carried a National Center for Atmospheric Research analysis of 10 years’ humidity, “The most closely matched measurements predicted the most extreme global warming,” it reported.
“Greenhouse gases reached a record high in 2011,” World Meteorological Organization reported. These “caused a 30-percent increase of warming effect between 1990 and 2011.”
Yesterday, the UN Climate Change Conference started in Doha, Qatar. Negotiators are cobbling a global deal on climate by 2015. “But the gulf between ambition and reality” threatens to become even wider, cautions UN Environmental Programme executive director Achim Steiner.
“Greenhouse gases are 14 percent above where they need to be in 2020 for temperature rises this century to remain below 2C,” says “the “Emissions Gap Report 2012” at Doha. Compiled by 55 scientists from 20 countries, it cautions: Even if the most ambitious pledges to trim emissions are honored, the gap will widen. Total greenhouse gas emissions in last year’s fissure equaled that of the world’s entire industrial sector today.
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research prepared the technical study for World Bank. “Sea levels rises by 0.5 to 1 meter by 2010 is likely” it says. Some of the most highly vulnerable cities are in the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mexico and Venezuela.
Most vulnerable regions cluster in the tropics, sub-tropics and towards the poles. “Multiple impacts are likely to come together.” “In a far warmer world, fish sizes could shrink by almost a quarter,” University of British Columbia’s Walter Cheung fears.
Agriculture, water, human health, biodiversity and ecosystem services will be severely impacted. This could displace populations with adverse consequences for human security and economies.
`“Many small islands may not be able to sustain their populations.” Some could be swamped. ”For small island developing states, a 4-degree world is simply unthinkable,” said Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada, who co-chairs the Global Islands Alliance.
When warming levels reach 1.4 degrees C in 2030s, coral reefs may stop growing, the report warns. Oceans turn even more acidic as a result of higher CO2 concentrations. At 2.4° C, coral reefs in several areas may start to disintegrate. These would impact food supplies, tourism and shoreline protection (Only 4 percent of Philippine corals remain in prisitine condition.)
When super-heat waves occur, forests shrink, taking wildlife along with them. Salt will seep into coastal aquifers as inland water tables slump. In Cebu salt has contaminated irreversibly aquifers to the edge of city mountain barangays.
`Agriculture would reel from prolonged droughts. Extreme heat stress is whiplashed by torrential rain, straining food production. That leads to higher malnutrition rates. “Each ‘growing degree day,’ spent at a temperature of 30 degrees decreases yields by 1 percent under drought-free rain-fed conditions.”
In its new Climate Change Vulnerability Index, Maplecroft pegs the Philippines in Slot 10. Bangladesh (ranked 2nd), Vietnam (23rd), Indonesia (27th) and India (28th). The need to adapt to climate change will increase as global population surges to nine billion in 2050.
“If we venture far beyond the 2 degrees Celsius guardrail towards the 4-degree line, the risk of crossing tipping points rises sharply,” cautions Postdam Institute’s director, John Schellnhuber. “The only way to avoid this is to break the business-as-usual pattern of production and consumption.”
In its report to the Doha conference, Unep highlights examples of relatively inexpensive ways to curbing emissions: higher performance standards for vehicles and appliances. Singapore mandates, for example, low water use showers and loos, plus higher tariffs to curb water use. Economic incentives to reduce deforestation can be useful.
“If we want politicians to endorse these policies, they must be able to sell them on the basis of benefits they create for their people, not just for the planet,” cautions Unep lead author, Dr. Monica Araya.
A 4-degree C world is not inevitable, World Bank’s Kim says. Countries can shift towards a new path of climate smart development and shared prosperity. That threatens ability to plan for adaptation needs. Decades of sustainable development would unravel. “Time is very short.”
There are doors open to a very low-carbon world: That’d include, among others, inclusive green growth, factoring in the value of environment into economic decisions to increasing share of renewable power.
Can we create an enormous market for new technologies focused on mitigation of climate change? We simply must. Our children’s future depends on us taking action. He’s talking about our grandkids too.
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