How do you climate-proof the Philippines?
The Philippines contributes less than 1% of global greenhouse gases but it is hardest hit by extreme climate events. So strategies to help people mitigate, and adapt to, climate change should be specific to each country, according to a recently published book on climate change in the Philippines.
Climate change has been widely discussed in the general media but what are people really doing about it? We know that although global warming and climate change are felt worldwide, the effects are not the same for all countries. The regional impact of warming might spell disaster for the Philippines since average temperatures here are already close to the ‘dangerous’ threshold.
To try and address this, the Philippine Department of Science and Technology sponsored a workshop to bring together foreign-based researchers of Filipino descent and local scientists. A book based on the workshop, Changing Philippine climate: impacts on agriculture and natural resources, has just been published. Co-authored by a group of foreign-based and local scientists, including Dr Rodel Lasco, coordinator of the World Agroforestry Centre Philippines, the book compiles the participating scientists’ knowledge on climate change.
The book discusses the current state of global and Philippine climate, tracing how the increase in population and the start of the Industrial Revolution have made an impact on today’s climate. Changes in the climate occur naturally with the changes in the amount of solar energy reaching the planet. However, models that simulate the climate system with, and without, greenhouse-gas emissions from humans show that the warming is largely caused by human activity.
Thus, an important solution to climate change would be to mitigate its immediate effects by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. One possible strategy to do this is shifting from ‘black’ energy (oil and coal) to ‘green’ energy (biofuels that emit lees carbon and sources that do not release carbon at all). For example, Craig Jamieson, a researcher on biofuels with the World Agroforestry Centre Philippines, says that Southeast Asia is a world centre of palm biodiversity and can sustainably intensify agriculture through maximizing the use of sugar palms as sources of livestock feed and biofuel.
However, because of current increases in global temperatures, the Philippines will still be experiencing the numerous impacts of climate change even if we manage to curb our emissions. Sea-level rise, stronger typhoons, more frequent occurrences of droughts, landslides and health problems are just some of what we can expect.
Adaptation strategies could, therefore, ‘help people manage the effects of climate change and protect their livelihoods’ and should be location-specific since global warming does not occur evenly over the planet and the effects are stronger in some places. Also there are strategies and practices, like agroforestry, which not only promotes adaptation but also mitigation.
However, people cannot really develop appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies without knowing exactly what is happening and how present and future problems might be solved. Research and new technologies, such as satellite remote-sensing techniques could help address this.
According to the authors, ‘The Philippines… needs to invest in increased detection of vulnerable areas and monitoring capabilities to improve forecasting and disaster preparedness and to minimize the deleterious impacts’.