Editorial: Climate crisis exists

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The wildfires in California and the melting of the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf are the latest developments that lend credence to the assertion of many scientists that a climate crisis exists and that the planet is in trouble. While there are many skeptics who believe that the climate crisis is a hoax, these disasters give us a good reason to take a second look at what climate scientists have been warning us about for years. We cannot see the ozone layer and greenhouse-gas emissions that harm us, but we have certainly felt the impact of strong typhoons and how these natural disasters have hurt our families and our sources of livelihood.

The Philippines is no stranger to the effects of global warming. In recent years, it has been struck by strong typhoons—Supertyphoon Yolanda, Typhoon Pablo and Typhoon Ondoy. These natural disasters have killed thousands of Filipinos and damaged crops in large swaths of agricultural lands, causing farmers to incur billions of pesos in losses (See, “Disasters cost PHL P389 billion; recovery at P560 billion,” in the BusinessMirror, October 16, 2018). Of the natural disasters that struck the Philippines from 2011 to 2018, the largest damage cost was P125.56 billion incurred in 2013 when Yolanda unleashed its fury in the country, according to the National Economic and Development Authority.

The country is highly vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change, including rising sea levels, increased frequency of extreme weather events, rising temperatures and extreme rainfall, according to Climatelinks. It also noted that sea levels in the Philippines are rising faster than the global average, increasing the hazard posed by storm surges and threatening permanent inundation of low-lying areas. Despite the risks posed by more intense typhoons and the threat posed by storm surges, a large segment of the Philippine population continues to depend on agriculture and fisheries for their livelihood.

This prompted the government to set up a Climate Change Commission following the enactment of Republic Act 9729, or the Climate Change Act of 2009. The commission is the lead policy-making body of the government tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate government programs and ensure mainstreaming of climate change in national, local, and sectoral development plans. It wants to see a climate-resilient and climate-smart Philippines with highly adaptive communities.

However, these efforts and those undertaken by other countries that are also highly vulnerable to climate change are not enough to shield them from the ill effects of a warming planet. The Philippines and other vulnerable countries are committed to ambitious goals that can help mitigate the effects of global warming, specifically the reduction of harmful greenhouse-gas emissions that cause the thinning of the ozone layer. However, countries that account for a huge chunk of emissions must do more to save the planet. While man-made greenhouse-gas emissions were steady at 33 gigatons in 2019, the International Energy Agency expressed hope that this will be further reduced in the near future.

Multilateral development banks and other organizations can play a key role in reducing energy-related emissions. We agree with civil society organizations, which stressed that there is a need to align their country partnerships with the Paris Climate agreement and to revisit its energy policy (See, “ADB prodded to step up in climate finance,” in the BusinessMirror, September 14, 2020). The world must get rid of practices and technology that harm the ozone layer. This is crucial for the survival of vulnerable countries like the Philippines. Saving the planet from the adverse effects of climate change ensures the survival of mankind.

Image credits: AP/Martin Meissner

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