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The Final Decade

The Final Decade

The Present We See

We could argue and debate endlessly on why or how events have unfolded, but:

WE BELIEVE that what we see happening in the world today could have been mitigated had we paid more attention to five closely related challenges interlinked with climate change, to which the Philippines is among the most vulnerable:

CARBON. We depend heavily on hydrocarbon fuels for industry, commerce, transport, and most other aspects of our family and community life. We have imbibed a “Petro Culture,” a lifestyle routinely dependent on petroleum and petrochemical products like gasoline, diesel, and plastics. It is a lifestyle that makes Filipinos vulnerable, not having our own supplies of these commodities. Unless we make a decisive shift, we would in due time risk our national security.

CELSIUS. Our “Petro Culture” in turn contributes to rising global temperatures, and all its attendant perils. More and stronger typhoons, and prolonged drought episodes especially in our food baskets in Eastern and Central Luzon, Western Visayas and portions of Eastern and Central Mindanao, are expected to break new levels in the next decade.

CONGESTION. At current trends, our population growth will soon outpace the carrying capacity of our rich yet fragile resource base. And as climate change diminishes reliability of agriculture as a livelihood, the lure of urban centers heightens, especially for young people. Densely populated megacities already challenge society’s ability to protect the welfare of urban dwellers, as physical congestion translates into escalated costs of traffic delays, respiratory and other illnesses, criminality, and provision of basic needs and facilities.

CONTAGION. Higher temperatures are fueling the rise in density of pests, parasites and pathogens such as swarming rodents, bloodsucking parasites like mosquitos and ticks, and viruses. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic heralds a new era of persistent public health risks, especially in congested highly urbanized areas and areas underserved by the limited health care assets of our country. Weak public health administration and policymaking could swell the ranks of our country’s poor and inherently disadvantaged population.

CONSUMPTION. Unsustainable highly carbon-using and waste-generating lifestyles are a major driver of ecological stress. The rapid rise in our consuming population exacts heavier tolls on the supply chain, linked in turn to the breadth of our carbon footprint, extent of heat generation, congestion in production areas, and to expanded avenues for contagions.

Climate change is real, and is now fast plummeting into “Climate Chaos” for the Philippines and for the rest of the world. It poses a “near- to mid-term existential threat to human civiliza­tion” (Queally 2019)[1]. In a Climate Change Vulnerability Index that rated 16 countries out of 170 examined as “extremely vulnerable to climate change,” the Philippines ranked sixth of the 16 (Maplecroft 2010).[2]

[1] Queally, J. 2019. “  ‘Existential
Threat to Civilization’: Planetary Tipping Points Make Climate Bets Too
Dangerous, Scientists Warn”, in Common Dreams, November 28, 2019; see https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/11/28/
[2] Maplecroft, 2010.
Climate Change Vulnerability Index: Where will your business face the greatest
threats from climate change? https://www.maplecroft.com/risk-indices/climate-change-vulnerability-index/

WE SEE our country and the world now facing the prospect of unfamiliar “new normals” with climate- and contagion-related conditions turning life as we know it on its head.

  • Over 10.1 million globally and 35,455 in the Philippines have been infected with COVID-19 as of late June 2020, and counting. The World Health Organization expects wide availability of COVID-19 vaccines only by late 2021 and the outlook for the pandemic remains unclear.
  • Numerous small businesses have perished, and the economy is in deep recession. Unemployment has jumped to a record 17.7%, with 7.25 million people out of work. Government expects 10 million workers to be displaced by 2021, and around 300,000 overseas Filipino workers repatriated.

Prospects for recovery are made even more challenging because:

  • Farmers face falling and highly variable incomes, unable to anticipate the frequency and length of rainy and dry seasons that govern the rhythms of their production activities; they are also less able to anticipate and plan for crop and income losses due to typhoons and drought.
  • Fishers see their catch decline as warmer seas impair their ecological productivity, bleached corals threaten fish biodiversity and stocks, and changing chemistry and mixing of top and bottom layers of our waters affect the flow of larvae, nutrients, and detritus supporting our inland and marine fisheries.
  • Business leaders face unfamiliar risks, increasingly unable to anticipate new patterns of flooding, typhoons, epidemics, and hot days, as these impact on their continuity of production, availability of human resources, and security of energy supplies.
  • Educators see learning outcomes compromised by uncertainties in productive class days, reduced by increasingly unanticipated climate and epidemiological disruptions that affect the safety and well being of learners within and outside school premises.
  • Parents fear for their families and their homes, especially as those disadvantaged and deprived dread the prospect that their dwellings and loved ones could be swept away by natural disasters or razed in extreme temperatures; that hunger would stalk them as price spikes from weather-induced supply disruptions impair their access to food; that their access to water and energy would be compromised by extreme weather events and a degraded environment; and that their families will succumb to infectious diseases now increasing in incidence and ease of transmission.

WE CONCUR with the scientifically documented findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that:

  1. Human activity has profoundly affected climate, and recent levels of greenhouse gas emissions are the highest in history, causing widespread impacts on people and nature.
  2. Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in the climate system, with severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts; and only substantial and sustained reductions in these emissions, coupled with adaptation, could limit such climate change risks.
  3. No single option among many alternative adaptation and mitigation options would be good enough; climate change mitigation and adaptation must be linked with other societal goals in the design of integrated responses, policies and cooperation at all scales.

WE TAKE HEED of the IPCC’s warning that only 10 years remain for humanity to keep global warming to within 1.5oC, beyond which the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and associated wider incidence of poverty would severely escalate and cause untold disaster.

Next: The Perils We Face

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