All of us will suffer climate change

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak - The Philippine Star

We’ve talked about it for years. Scientists, realists, the Pope, and even concerned citizens have been sounding the alarm for the past decade to try to make a difference, but industrialization and progress marched on with little to no regard for the effects on the environment, and now in 2015, it seems that climate change has reached a critical level.

It’s sad that we had to wait this long for everyone to sit up and take notice. That it required such a drastic change in weather and terrible catastrophes like super typhoons and earthquakes to make everyone realize that yes, we are all taxing the world beyond its capability and that sooner or later everything is going to blow.

This week, the headlines are all about a timely and important message – climate change. I think it’s about time we all pay attention. Our news has been filled with stories of terrorism, war, politics, and more, and while all of that is important it’s also important for us not to forget that there is another battle we are fighting – one we should be fighting together united as one Earth, and that is the battle against climate change and the collapse of our natural world.

As far back as I can remember, everyone was already being warned that over time, the Earth would no longer be able to sustain us. But while people pretended to listen, no one was really truly alarmed because the concept seemed so abstract. Today, though, it’s really coming home and the message is more powerful than ever. After all, we’ve all started to feel the effects. Here in the Philippines alone, our seasons are changing, the temperature is rising, and our typhoons and rains are getting stronger than ever. We can no longer deny that if we keep this up we are ensuring our own destruction.

Steps need to be taken to battle climate change and they might be as obvious as we think they are. Of course we need to recycle and limit our carbon footprint. We need to minimize our use of resources and find sustainable means to survive, but even more than that we need to address why our emissions are going up in the first place and what is causing the destruction of more and more of the world’s natural resources.

I’ve said before that I feel over population is one of the root causes of our environmental woes and I’ll reiterate that now. More people means more consumption and more consumption unchecked means the loss of precious resources. Plus, more and more people mean more and more emissions. Look at our country – we have hundreds of thousands of cars on the road. For each person that adds another vehicle also adds more gas consumption and more emissions and overall more strain on the environment. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Unless we can find sustainable means to support us, our unchecked population will soon deplete our natural resources. I truly hope we don’t wait until that day to figure out what to do next. We need to begin as early as now looking for ways to repair the damage and prepare for the future.

Last Monday, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties or the COP21 began and brought together 190 nations to gather in Paris to discuss a new global agreement on climate change. The goal of the summit is to work together to globally reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the threat of dangerous warming due to human activities. World leaders are coming together to discuss realistic plans to put into place to keep temperatures from rising more than 2°C above the level they were in 1850-1899 or the Pre-Industrial Revolution.

This is the long-term goal of the summit and a big aspiration, but the big problem is how to get there. Prior to the COP21 commencing on Monday, rallies, demonstrations, protests, and organized walks happened all over the world in places like Paris, Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Japan, and even the Philippines demanding government leaders put a solid and concrete plan in place. After all, this is their last shot to get it right. Ever since the year 1992 the COP has tried to come up with a plan and negotiators agreed in 2011 that a deal had to be done by the end of 2015.

But again, the question remains, we know what needs to be done, but how to do we get there? Developing countries say they need the right to use fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and gas to help their people out of poverty, as developed countries have had unrestricted access to these over the years. The deal has to find a way to please both sides by cutting and restricting the use of these gases for some while retaining the regulated rights to use them for others. Additionally, in order to curb climate change there must be a transition to renewable energy. The technology is available, but how will developing nations pay the large sums required to successfully transition to these renewable energies?

The question of who will pay is critical and is most likely a major stumbling block in getting a deal on paper. Renewable energy like solar and wind power infrastructure is not cheap and several poorer nations won’t be able to afford it (like us). Can these nations demand that richer countries help shoulder the costs since these richer nations are, no doubt, partly responsible for emitting the gases that contributed to the rising sea levels and droughts and heat waves in the first place? These are only some of the problems the summit will have to address and with all these world leaders, plus thousands of businessmen, lobbyists, and environmentalists present to add their opinions, coming out with a plan everyone agrees on is going to be a difficult task to say the least.

But, it is one that must be done. Pope Francis has lent his voice to the clamor for climate change policy many times and he reportedly even sent a pair of shoes to represent him in the pile of shoes left on the Place de la Republique as a sign of those who wished to march for urgent action on climate change. Personally, I know we have to come up with a solution on a global level, but I also know it’s going to be a very tricky road to navigate. While we demand a plan from our leaders, I think it’s also important for us to make changes ourselves too. We need to be cognizant of decreasing our own carbon footprint if we truly want to change the future.

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