CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE 2016 NATIONAL ELECTION by Jasmine Joie
Ask every Metro Manila resident you come across today for their biggest concern, chances are they will have a common answer on the worsening traffic situation in the metropolis. Travel from Quezon City to Makati is now practically a nightmare, especially during peak hours. With vehicles hardly moving, travel along this 17-kilometer stretch could take up to two hours, when that distance could be negotiated in less than an hour.
Imagine the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by the thousands of vehicles that practically creep along Metro Manila’s major roads during peak hours. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas contributor that causes the earth atmosphere’s temperature to rise. In 2013, the Environmental Organization German Watch’s Climate Risk Index ranked the Philippines as the most vulnerable to climate change followed by Cambodia, India, Mexico, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Pakistan, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Argentina and Mozambique.
The German environmental group’s finding indicated that less developed countries are most vulnerable to climate change, even as it also reported that from 1994 to 2013, over 15,000 extreme weather events killed more than 530,000 people worldwide and inflicted damage worth $2.17 trillion.
The group further warned that if nothing is done to stop the earth’s atmosphere from warming by more than 2 degrees Celsius, the world can expect more of these disastrous weather events. In November 2013, over 6,000 lives were lost in Leyte and Samar islands alone in the Easter Visayas Region due to storm surges caused by typhoon Yolanda, the strongest recorded typhoon to hit the country, if not the world, with wind speed reaching up to 300 kilometer per hour.
Deforestation and Climate Change
Philippine forest cover during the course of the 20th century according to estimates dropped from 70% to 20%. About 9.8 million hectares of forests were lost from 1934 to 1988 alone. The drop in the country’s forest cover, according to reports, was triggered by logging, both legal and illegal, and the conversion of forest lands into plantations among others.
In 2011, Mindanao got its worst beating when after 12 hours of continuous rains brought about by typhoon Sendong, tragedy took place after people were crushed by logs swept away by the rampaging waters of its overflowing rivers. The locals blamed illegal logging and the conversion of forest lands into plantations for the tragedy which affected 338,000 people in 13 provinces. The Mindanao tragedy was later declared a “national disaster” by the government.
Disaster and Climate Change
With the warnings from environmentalist groups of more tragedies if global warming and climate change are not properly addressed, Filipino voters at this time of the year when the May 2016 national election is just over a month away must be discerning in choosing the country’s next set of leaders, who have clearly laid out their environmental protection and climate change mitigation programs.
The Philippines is visited by about 20 typhoons each year. Moreover, the Philippine economy is also affected by the extreme heat caused by El Nino, just as it is also affected by the floods caused by torrential monsoon rains that regularly hit the country each year.
These are good reasons for those wanting to be the country’s next set of leaders, especially the “presidentiables”, to disclose their climate change and environmental protection agenda.