When climate change hits home

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star

The scorching heat being experienced not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well serves as a stark reminder that it’s about time we do our part in helping reverse climate change.

A report from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) noted that as Earth’s climate changes, it is causing extreme weather across the planet. Record-breaking heat waves on land and in the ocean, drenching rains, severe floods, years-long droughts, extreme wildfires and widespread flooding during hurricanes are all becoming more frequent and more intense, it said.

It emphasized how human actions since the Industrial Revolution, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, have caused greenhouse gases to rapidly rise in the atmosphere. As carbon dioxide, methane and other gases increase, they act as a blanket, trapping heat and warming the planet. In response, Earth’s air and ocean temperatures become warm, affecting the water cycle, shifting weather patterns and melting land ice – all impacts that can make extreme weather worse.

Meanwhile, Carbon Brief, a UK-based website covering latest developments in climate science and policy, revealed how scientists have published more than 400 peer-reviewed studies looking at weather extremes around the world. The result is mounting evidence that human activity is raising the risk of some types of extreme weather, especially those linked to heat.

An article from National Geographic likewise stressed that while climate change has not been proven to directly cause individual extreme environmental events, computer modeling of real data has shown that it has influenced the frequency and intensity of these events.

Is it too late? Probably, but if each and every one starts contributing even just a little effort to make this world a better place for future generations, then maybe, we might still be able to change the course of events.

Last year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) launched Project TRANSFORM or Transdisciplinary Approach for Resilient and Sustainable Communities, a local government unit-led multi-stakeholder partnership model that aims to engage LGUs in environment and natural resources governance particularly in increasing their capacities for ENR management, climate and disaster resilience, and socio-economic development.

According to the DENR, the project has been launched in Ormoc City in Leyte; Malimono, San Francisco and Burgos in Surigao del Norte; in Limay, Mariveles and Orion in Bataan; in Rizal province; and in Quezon City and will be replicated in other LGUs.

Project TRANSFORM is composed of five modules developed by the DENR and the Energy Development Corp. that will be introduced to the LGUs to strengthen their existing programs in various areas such as biodiversity, greenhouse gases (GHG) accounting, financial literacy, disaster management and nature-based solutions. Under the GHG accounting module, DENR will bank on carbon accounting to determine how an area contributes to GHG that causes warming and climate change.

Training on disaster preparedness and response and knowledge sharing on earthquake awareness, climate scenario analysis and protocols will be under the disaster management module while carbon policies to grow back forests and natural habitats will be under nature-based solutions module.

Last March, the project was also launched in Sarangani Province. DENR Undersecretary Marilou Erni explained how Project TRANSFORM is one way by which the department is able to harness science and technology and local and traditional knowledge to enhance both policy and practice.

The experience is transforming the mindset of our population about climate change – from apathy to participatory.

Aligned with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals and the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, Project TRANSFORM also aims to help communities mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
DENR Secretary Mari Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga recently emphasized that the vision of DENR goes beyond safeguarding the environment to include empowerment and inclusivity, as she highlighted the need to acknowledge different needs, viewpoints and contributions to society.

She said that “by fostering a culture of inclusivity, we can harness the untapped potential of marginalized communities, empower local enterprises and build a more resilient and sustainable economy that benefits everyone.”

The Quezon City government has expressed its commitment to ensure an integrated and whole-of-society approach in tackling the effects of climate change through the said project.

Yulo-Loyzaga welcomed the QC government’s 14-point agenda in which environmental protection and climate action are at the core of the city’s intervention.

According to her, because every LGU has different capacities, strengths and vulnerabilities, each needs to constantly balance hazards and exposure through evidence-informed decisions, policies, actions and programs. “We must work together to identify your high-risk priority areas, understand the root causes of vulnerability and identify and invest in appropriate environmental protection, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster risk reduction strategies,” Yulo-Loyzaga added.

Meanwhile, the municipality of Del Carmen in Siargao has been included as one of the pilot municipalities for the project. This town was among the worst hit by super typhoon Odette on Dec. 16, 2021.

According to the 2022 World Risk Index, the Philippines topped the list of disaster risk hotspots out of 193 countries. The problem is, every time disaster strikes, we do not know what to do.

But we can’t let the DENR and LGUs do all the work. We can help mitigate climate change in our own homes by being mindful of our energy and water usage, by using more energy-efficient appliances, by segregating our wastes, by supporting more sustainable means of transportation, by cutting down on car trips and taking public transportation instead, just to name a few.

For comments, e-mail at [email protected]

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