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Climate Change revisited

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The long six-month period of hot, dry weather this year, and the beginning of the rainy season in July gives us a preview of the kind of extreme weather conditions to be expected until 2020 and up to 2050.

What occurred this and the previous year can only be expected to be repeated, or to become worse in the future. Our people must, therefore, prepare for the worst scenario.

The key to this preparation is the local government unit. The Climate Change Commission, of course, should provide the national leadership.

Everybody expected that President Aquino would articulate his program on the environment and climate change when he delivered the State of the Nation Address. But he did not.

While many environmentalists, including me, were disappointed, we still hope the President would soon make a pronouncement of his policy on environment, especially on the Philippine commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, one of which is environmental sustainability, and I might add, in the face of climate changes.

Yusuf and Francisco (2009), by modeling, have identified the Philippines, along with Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, West Papua) and Malaysia (Sabah), as among the most vulnerable countries in Southeast Asia, based on the high exposure frequencies of droughts, cyclonic storms, landslides, and floods, all of which are driven by changes in temperature and precipitation. (Note that two countries, Papua New Guinea and Peninsular Malaysia, with fewer people but with plenty of natural resources and a good environment, are not included in the list.)

The ability of the countries in the list to respond to the challenges of climate change was estimated as a function of such parameters as education, poverty, income inequality, infrastructure, and longevity, (and I add, population). All of these are problems of the Philippines.

The PAGASA has made some projections of climate change for 2020 and 2050 (The Philippine Strategy for Climate Change and Adaptation, DENR, unpublished).

The projected rise in mean annual temperature is 0.9 — 1.4º C. March to May will become drier, and the wet season — July to November — will become wetter. Reduction in rainfall in most of Mindanao for all seasons is predicted. Stronger southwest monsoon winds, and increasing trend in the number of tropical cyclones (typhoons) in the Visayas, but decreasing trend in Mindanao are projected.

Areas with increasing elevation in slope gradient are more vulnerable to excessive rains, landslides, flashfloods than gently- sloping areas at lower elevations.

Most inherently sensitive areas due to topography are in central and northern Luzon, Mindanao, and parts of Mindoro, Negros, and Panay Islands. These sensitive, high mountain areas are coincidentally areas of high endemism for Philippine plants and animals, making us a mega- biodiversity country of the world.

It is time that both government and our people realize the challenges of climate change and resolve to do can be done about the problems about this change.

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