Designers of Development Options

Issue No. 2020-02

The Past Decade

Presented at the Online Forum on Climate Change with Asian Institute of Management Cohorts MBM80, 20 June 2020

Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan

Ten years ago, they – 20 WWF global scientists and 300 climate studies – found a few things. El Nino would drive climate variability. Sea surface temperatures will increase. Cyclones would intensify & extreme. Warmer and dry world will shift. Ocean acidification will start.

We already knew that these changes were happening faster than ever before. They had begun and would continue. They were going to be dynamic. They were non-linear. The systems were destabilizing and disruptive. Ten years ago, we have been warned. Now, it is clear. And, it is here.

What have we seen? This was the hottest decade in recorded history. In the ocean, the past five years are the top five warmest years recorded. The heat in the world’s oceans reached a new record level in 2019, showing “irrefutable and accelerating” heating of the planet. The oceans have created new levels of water – for storms, rain and heat – plus pollution, plastics & changing shifts of food for the sea.

In 2010, a record heat wave drove 100-degree temperatures in Russia and the Asian Monsoon floods affected 18M people in Pakistan. By 2011-2012, an East Africa drought threw a Somalia famine in crisis. In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan set intensity records at 195 mph in the Philippines. And Hurricane Patricia set a record for the strongest storm of 215 mph in the Western Hemisphere.

From 2014 – 2018, Arctic heat waves would rise above freezing. By 2015, heat waves in India and Pakistan reached temperatures of 120 degrees. Coral reefs around the world, from 2015 – 2017, occurred the longest-ever coral bleaching event. Over six years, the hottest temperature years on record, from 2015 – 2019. The South Asia floods affected 40M people in 2017, from Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan. In 2017 – 2018, the great Hurricanes of Michael, Sandy, Maria and Harvey for all-time records.

Heat drives the decade. That next year, they saw the 2018 California wildfires. Then, in 2018 – 2019, hemisphere summer heat waves have covered France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. In 2019, Greenland’s extreme the greatest volume loss from the ice sheet. Then Hurricane Dorian drove winds in the 185 mph levels. That year, global wildfires have been affected Alaska, Siberia, Australia, and the Amazon rainforest.

Ten years ago, that WWF team worried about vector-borne diseases. And, during our decade we saw major diseases throughout the World – Ebola Virus, Human infection with avian influenza A (H7N9) virus, MERS-CoV, Dengue & Zika virus. And, in the end of that decade, the planet brings out a new coronavirus, COVID-19.

Think about the word: respiratory. This comes from humans. Plankton also provides the oxygen for two out of every three breaths we take – by humans. Think of blood, that drives oxygen during your metabolism, then carried back to the lungs to exhale carbon dioxide. Life plays a major role by small air sacs. Virus squeezes the role in blood, oxygen and small air sacs, and, suddenly, nothing works. Contagion.

Take a deep breath. Six years ago, CO2 broke 400 parts per million. And in May, carbon dioxide passed 413 ppm. Take an exhalation. And it is clearly getting worse for humans, and climate change.

We have witnessed the last decade. And from carbon to plastics and pollution, and wet/dry cycles, contagion, urbanization and congestion, and with population densities swarming contagion, and eating up consumption over food and water – these are the new morphs of climate change.