The perfect storm
Just as Hurricane Harvey paralyzed Houston in the United States, traumatized the people and turned streets and highways into raging rivers and cut off the water system last week, fierce storms, heavy rains and flooding hit India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Hong Kong and displaced millions in the month of August alone.
2016 was said to be the hottest year in the 137 years of record-keeping by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Already, 2017 is the second-hottest first six months calendar months on record, with 2016 as the hottest.
One need not be an expert to notice the vast changes and intensity in weather disturbance. A tropical depression already causes inundation and disruption of classes in Cebu, Metro Manila and other areas in the country.
One cannot be a climate denier for so long, seeing the evidence staring at us in the face. As the world’s most renowned climatologist, Dr. James Hansen, uttered, “the evidence is overwhelming.”
He asks this question, “How long have we got? We have to stabilize emissions of carbon dioxide within a decade, or temperatures will warm by more than one degree… We don’t have much time left.”
Hats off to our government which does not deny but instead clearly recognize in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 (Plan) the “increasing frequency and intensity of flood occurrences due to climate change.” We ratified the Paris Agreement. Yes. But, it is clearly not enough. Strong, collective and coordinated action to stem the climate crisis is essential.
The spate of extreme weather conditions, with Harvey taking center stage in world attention, compels taking appropriate response to climate change as an urgent priority by policymakers and constituents alike.
Always the most vulnerable sectors are the worst victims of calamities. These are the poorest of the poor and least able to cope – farmers, fisherfolk, the children, elderly, women, persons with disability and yes, our indigenous peoples. The injustice of it all is, as Bill McKibben of 350.org says succinctly, “It is unbelievably sad and ironic that the first victims of global warming are almost all going to come from places that are producing virtually none of the problem.”
While our progressive laws are in place, we are piteously lagging behind in the commitment to implement them. Indeed, laws mean nothing if work in the ground and the much needed political will to enforce them are not effected.
Apart from our laws, it is worth noting that the Philippine Development Plan has a chapter on “Reducing Vulnerability of Individuals and Families.” It aims to “support communities, marginalized sectors, local governments and the private sector in building safe and secure communities that will allow more families to enjoy a matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay – strongly rooted, comfortable and secure – as part of building socioeconomic resilience.”
The response measures on dealing with natural disasters include the following: (a) Roll out climate and disaster vulnerability and risk assessment nationwide, Develop facilities for adaptation including risk transfer mechanisms (RTM), ©Provide adequate transition houses and livelihood opportunities to disaster victims during the early rehabilitation and recovery period, and Provide adequate mental health and psycho-social support services.
The critical component in the implementation of the Plan, like any, is in the coordination of key stakeholders. Under this Chapter, “To mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (DRRCCA), the Climate Change Commission (CCC) will craft an enabling policy and provide assistance to local communities in conducting vulnerability and risk assessment. The results of the assessment will form the backbone of local strategies and measures to reduce vulnerabilities.”
But the Climate Change Commission has not been heard from as loudly as it should be. It is, pardon the words, still invisible in performing its roles as required under the Climate Change Act, as amended. The People’s Survival Fund is not as accessible and still largely untapped especially by local government units, as the principal manager in delivering the services of climate change response and disaster risk reduction and management, is at the local level.
Could it be because the Chairman of the Commission is the President and his mind is focused largely on the drug war?
Connecting the ecological dots and looking at reduction in the use of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas is not even enough. We have to prepare our citizens to be better in climate adaptation measures. Yet, the lack of preparedness and disaster response by many is a cause for grave alarm.
We have a short memory and we don’t learn from the past. Typhoon Yolanda happened only in 2013 but how many local government units have since ensured that their constituents are better prepared to cope with disasters?
The sweeping political upheavals taking place in countries, including ours, creates a perfect storm where the consequences of inaction and negligence are predictable in the immensity of the ensuing loss of lives and destruction. The needed focus on climate action and enhancing the resiliency of people and ecosystems should be integrated in all policies and program, not sidelined.
“We’ve been given a warning by science, and a wake-up call by nature; it is up to us now to heed them,” borrowing Bill McKibben’s words.
Will you act accordingly?
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