A ‘perfect storm’ a threat to humankind – Dar
Rudy A. Fernandez (The Philippine Star) - March 17, 2013 - 12:00am

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – A “perfect storm” is brewing, posing a grave threat to humankind.

Its components are evident -- warming temperatures, drought, floods, increasing land degredation and desertification, loss of biodiversity, rising food prices, zooming energy demand, and population explosion.

“Their confluence, if unabated, will load to a ‘perfect storm’,” warned former Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, now director general of the India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

Dr. Dar’s forum was the “international Conference on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for Food and Environmental Security” held at the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) based here.

The conference was attended by more than a hundred scientists and researchers working on climate change, government policymakers, academics, and other professionals from various parts of the world.

Organized by SEARCA and UPLB, it was supported by the Asia-Pacific Adaptation Network, German Agency for International Cooperation-Philippines through the Climate Change Commission (CCC) under the Office of the President, German Academic Exchange Service, Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, and the Economy and Environmental Program for Southeast Asia.

In their scientific reports, other speakers reinforced the “rising perfect storm” projected by Dr. Dar in his paper titled “Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in the Semi-Arid Tropics”.

Countries across the world, whether advanced or developing are not invulnerable to the emerging phenomenon, Dr. Dar said.

“The impact of climate change will be most disastrous in the semi-arid tropics, home to two billion people and most of the world’s poor,” he stressed.

Climate change, as it intensifies, can reduce cereal yields in parts of Asia of up to 30 percent and in many African countries of up to 50 percent, he said.

He further stated, “Tremendous pressure is upon agriculture to produce more feed by as much as 70 percent by 2050.”

Moreover, he said,  there would be a 10 percent increase of dry land areas of the world with climate change. He cited, among other things, the “seasonal aridity” now occurring in the Philippines.

In sum, Dr. Dar stressed the need to harness the “power of science” to address the “rising perfect storm” that threatens humankind.

SEARCA director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. concurred that “the agriculture sector is most vulnerable to climate change due to its heavy reliance on climate and weather.”

He added: “Agriculture remains the backbone of the global economy as it also bears the responsibility of feeding a population that has grown by leaps and bounds while production continues to diminish due to losses in our natural resource base.”

Dr. Saguiguit urged institutions to pursue collaborative efforts “to generate concerted rather than dispersed and fragmented results.”

Dr. Paul Teng of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University said that by 2050, Asia would be teeming with 5.1 billion people, about 3.7 of them city dwellers.

“Most people live in cities, but feeding cities requires rural surplus production,” he emphasized.

Focusing on climate change’s impact on agriculture, Dr. Teng cited disquieting results of several studies.

• A one-degree Celsius rise in air temperature will reduce rice yield by 10 percent and an increase in agricultural irrigation demand by six to 10 percent.

• A 2-4 C rise in temperature will increase tropical cyclone intensity by 10-20 percent.

• A 40-centimeter sea level rise will render as flood-risk 13-94 million Asian.

• A related study stated that the Philippines stands to lose 90,000 to 140,000 hectares of coastal land if sea level rises by one meter.

• Summing up, UPLB chancellor Rex Victor Cruz quoted United National secretary general Ban Ki Moon as saying in a separate international forum: “Climate change and what we do about it will define us, our era and ultimately the global legacy we leave for future generations. We hold the future in our hands. Together, we must ensure that our children will not have to ask why we failed to do the right thing and lot them suffer the consequences.”

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