Can the human race still do anything to stop climate change?
(Editor’s Note: As 2016 comes to a close, the Inquirer asks in its yearender series seven questions for the new year, considering key local and international events that shaped what many regard as one of the most turbulent years in modern times. This last part asks what part the human race can play, however small, to combat the increasing effects of climate change to the earth. Read the rest of the series at http://inq.news/2016-news-highlights.)
2016 was the hottest year in human history–literally. And climate change as we know it is showing no signs of stopping.
Land and sea temperatures during the first 10 months of the year were the hottest since 1880. If this continues, 2016 will be the third year average global temperatures break existing records.
The Philippines is among the most vulnerable to the worst effects of climate change, among them stronger rain, longer droughts and wide intervals in between.
In fact, 13 storms have hit the country this year beginning late June, a month after a harsh El Niño cost the agriculture sector close to P5 billion in damages.
The strongest of these, Supertyphoon “Lawin” (international name: Haima), slammed into northern Luzon on October 19 and was comparable to the devastating Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in 2013.
But that’s not all climate change is causing.
A third of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef–and even the reefs off Philippine waters–is also either dead or dying because of warmer waters due to a phenomenon called “coral bleaching.”
How to stop climate change?
Despite all this, can anything still be done to stop climate change?
For one, the implementation of the historic Paris Agreement is in full swing.
At the 22nd Conference of Parties in Morocco, member states proposed action plans that would aid in the implementation of their respective Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to reduce carbon emissions.
The Paris Agreement, first signed in December 2015, compels 197 countries to reduce their carbon emissions and keep global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. The last legally binding agreement of this magnitude signed was the Kyoto Protocol in 1992.
The INDC submitted by the Philippines during the 21st Conference of Parties, “conditionally” committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030 while maintaining a “business as usual” scenario until then. The reductions will come from sectors such as energy and transport.
President Duterte — initially hesitant to ratify an agreement signed before his term — said on November 7 that he would uphold the climate pact.
Aside from the government’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez is trying to save the environment by suspending 10 mining firms and is recommending the shutting down of 20 more. Eleven others were allowed to correct infractions, else they also be suspended.
Private companies have also begun exploring the use of renewable energy in their small-scale operations. Several solar power plants were inaugurated this year while dozens more have been approved for construction.
The public and private sectors are each doing their part. But more need to be done.
From March 14 to 16, former US Vice President Al Gore encouraged the Manila batch of “climate leaders” to teach their countrymen about climate change and how they can help stop it.
“We have to make a very large change. And we have to do it in a ridiculously short period of time,” he told the hundreds of attendees. “But what makes that change occur is your passion, coupled with the knowledge that you are gaining from one another.”
In recent times, the Philippines as a country has been dubbed the poster boy of climate change due to its vulnerability. But the name association should not stop there.
And so we ask: What part will you as a Filipino play to protect the planet from climate change?
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