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Climate change and the heart agenda

Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II

A few days ago, news about the fast rise—three times faster than the global average—of our sea level circulated around the media channels. Pagasa made this declaration, adding that coastal villages are at risk. Everyone has known for a long time that climate change is happening, and yet we are still somewhat shocked when faced with information like this. It is what we should expect, actually, based on data from scientific research and studies. And that is why the approach to climate change is two-pronged: adaptation and mitigation. We prepare for disasters as we continue our efforts to mitigate the destructive effects of climate change.

How many COPs (Conference of the Parties) have there been? What are the gains made by each country, and specifically, our very own Philippines? On the climate front, what were the accomplishments of the Duterte administration, and presently, what is President Marcos’ plan as far as disaster preparedness and climate mitigation are concerned? I know that recently, there was a coastal cleanup held at Manila Bay in celebration of International Coastal Cleanup Day. Shouldn’t we be doing (a lot) more than cleaning up our coastlines? The next super typhoon may be around the corner, but are we—government and individuals—doing all that we can to protect lives in the face of impending climate-related disasters? If you visit the online spaces of climate agencies, you would notice that there are too many pictures of people posing at meetings and conferences and too few proofs of the actual action implementing the agreements in those meetings and conferences. As citizens of the world, we should be alarmed at this picture.

I was listening to a few talks at the Heart Mind Institute Summit held online very recently and one of the speakers, a young Filipina working in the climate change field, mentioned that human transformation is the lacking ingredient. There is really no shortage in strategies and policies—the problem, she said, is that these are not properly implemented mainly because of our limitations as human beings. The change needs to start from the heart. I believe that she is right.

Based on Pagasa’s projections, the Philippines’ temperature will increase by 4 degrees by the end of the 21st century, while the intensity of typhoons hitting the country will likewise continue to increase. Rosalina de Guzman, chief of Pagasa’s climate data section, said that climate change mitigation should be “fully integrated into the planning process” of the government, including earmarking adequate funds to be able to address the impact of climate change and to build resilience among communities in low-lying and coastal areas. On the other hand, the public’s role includes undertaking more serious and more meaningful efforts to “practice energy efficiency” and recycling, conserving water, and using mass transport, among others.

Knowing people’s all-too-human behavior, we will not act until we are already struggling and our lives are in immediate danger. Faced with facts and warnings from scientists and experts, we continue to live our lives as if everything is fine and will be fine in the years to come. It isn’t an issue any more of causing unnecessary panic, it is all about looking at hard facts and really doing concrete action to save our planet and ourselves.

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