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The ongoing climate change problem

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - December 23, 2020 - 12:00am

This year has understandably been focused on combating the coronavirus and finding ways to keep people safe. It’s been so completely encompassing that anything else that happened seemed like a small side story compared to the overarching plotline of the year. With a new strain emerging in the UK and panic starting to rise again, it eerily feels like we could be back to square one. I certainly hope not. Now that we’re coming to the end of the 365-page book that is 2020, we’re all still keenly focused on how the vaccine rollout will impact 2021, the new strain, and life as we know it. I guess in that aspect all we can do is wait.

However, despite COVID-19 being the big bane of everyone’s lives this 2020, it’s not the only problem we have to solve. In the Philippines where we experienced several major storms and terrible natural disasters, we should be extremely aware of the fact that climate change remains a huge issue that needs to be solved soon lest we sit back and watch more massive floods wreak havoc on our country.

We aren’t the only ones falling victim to Mother Nature either. We’ve abused her long enough and she’s rightfully angry. Earthquakes, landslides, massive forest fires, hurricanes, and more have been sweeping the earth and a large portion of these terrible weather phenomena can be linked to climate change and the rapid degradation of our environment.

Like the coronavirus, scientists have been sounding the alarm for years. And much like the coronavirus, people have not  listened and still are not listening. Are we going to have to wait until it’s spiraled completely out of control? I guess historically I already know the answer to that. Even with the severity of COVID-19, most people had to wait until it was do-or-die before even following the simplest protocols.

Honestly, there are many parallelisms to addressing climate change as there are to the coronavirus response. A lot of the countries that contribute the most to rising temperatures around the globe are first world countries. Many of these same countries refused to follow even the simplest safety protocols for COVID until the numbers had inflated so much they could no longer be ignored.

This leaves us all to wonder when we are going to get past the point of no return for climate change. It’s coming soon. The Earth’s core temperature has already increased significantly and it’ll only be a matter of time before things go from bad to worse. Five years ago, the nations of the world – including the Philippines – met in Paris to discuss the world’s climate problem. Back then they agreed to try to keep the rise in temperature to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius and made a commitment to take the necessary steps to make that happen.

Fast forward to today and carbon dioxide levels are at an all-time high. On record, the temperature has already risen 1.2 degrees and could even reach a three-degree increase in this century if we don’t take drastic measures to change course. The UN Secretary-General had to raise the alarm again last weekend to remind everyone to do their parts as promised despite being in the throes of COVID-19.

China and other developing countries have said they are slowly doing their part and are calling on more developed countries to do their share as they contribute more. Thankfully incoming US President-elect  Biden has vowed to return the US to the table and reduce their emissions after President Trump rejected the Paris Agreement. Hopefully, with the US recommitted and China doubling down, other countries will follow suit.

Here in the Philippines, even though our overall contribution is lower compared to that of other countries, we are also committing to lowering our emissions. The Department of Energy is looking into more opportunities for sustainable and renewable energy sources to figure in the country’s future. That is reassuring and hopefully leads to more positive changes in the Philippines.

Of course, all of us can do our part as well. We need to lower our consumption and contributions to the problem. Reduce, reuse, and recycle is more important now more than ever with the growing problem of disposable masks and plastic face shields. If possible, use a washable mask, don’t get flimsy face shields that you’ll have to keep replacing. Additionally, bring eco-bags, save water, and walk or bike whenever possible. Let’s not wait for it to become catastrophic before we commit to change.

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This year has been rough, no doubt, but there are definitely still some blessings we should be thankful for and enjoy. Let us remember those this holiday season. Have a safe Christmas at home and here’s to better and brighter days ahead! Merry Christmas!

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