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Manila Observatory's guide for Filipinos to adjust to climate change

A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven -

(Part II)

The current Manila Observatory (MO) director is Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga. She is among the new UNESCO commissioners named by President Benigno Aquino III, under the new Secretary General, Dr. Virginia Miralao.

During our recent interview with her, she acquainted us with their KLIMA climate change center, which provides data for the public. The Philippines has been participating and is signatory of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which led to the drafting of the Kyoto Protocol, binding developed countries to reduce their Greenhouse Carbon Gas Emission.

Here is a part of the Manila Observatory’s surveys:

Manila Observatory (2006) Philippine risk assessment maps

EARTHQUAKE RISK: Since 1968, PHIVOLCS has recorded 12 destructive earthquakes in the Philippines. This record includes the infamous July 16, 1990 Luzon earthquake which caused innumerable injuries and at least 1,100 deaths. Seismicity (geographic and historical distribution of earthquake events) is all over the country except in the Palawan region. The top 10 provinces that are at risk to earthquakes are: Surigao del Sur, La Union, Benguet, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Ifugao, Davao Oriental, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija.

La Union and Pangasinan are prone to earthquakes, especially the deep focused ones, due to the Manila Trench, while Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental have earthquake hazards due to Philippine Trench and nearby active faults. Frequency of shallow and left-lateral strike-slip earthquakes in Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Eastern Pangasinan, Benguet and La Union can be attributed to its location along the Philippine Fault Zone.

VOLCANIC ERUPTION RISK: Philippines lies within the Ring of Fire, a region of subduction zone volcanism surrounding the Pacific Ocean. This explains the distribution of most volcanoes in the Philippines. In 1991, Mt. Pinatubo eruption was known to be the most violent eruption of the 20th century. Philippine volcanoes are classified as active, inactive and potentially active. Twenty-two historically active volcanoes are distributed all over the archipelago.

Camiguin has the highest risk because the land area is so small such that a volcanic eruption can affect the whole province. Sulu ranked second because it has the most number of active and potentially active volcanoes.

TSUNAMI RISK: In November 14, 1994, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mindoro triggered a tsunami that left at least 41 persons dead, mostly children and old people.

Sulu and Tawi-tawi took the top two seats because of their high potential for tsunami owing to their location between two nearby trenches namely, Sulu Trench and Cotabato Trench. Moreover, both provinces are also densely populated and have very high vulnerability. Similarly, most areas in Basilan and Romblon are at high risk especially because they have been previously affected by a tsunami. (Phivolcs)

The Earth - a giant greenhouse

There are four covers or “blankets of planet Earth: the lithosphere (land), the hydrosphere (water), the atmosphere (air) and the biosphere (bio-life on land water, air).

The Earth’s atmosphere is like a giant greenhouse. A greenhouse is a structure designed to protect and provide heat to plants in colder places. Its glass roof and walls allow sunlight to enter but prevent heat from escaping.

Surrounding the Earth is a blanket of gases known as the atmosphere. This blanket allows the right amount of solar heat to enter the planet. Some heat waves are absorbed while the rest are reflected back into space. The Earth in cold solar system produces its own “greenhouse” through its natural gases. These greenhouse gases (GHGs), act like the glass roof and walls in a greenhouse and trap heat within the Earth’s atmosphere to keep animals and plants warm.

The atmosphere is mostly made up of nitrogen and oxygen. It is the water vapor in the atmosphere and the small amounts of trace gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH), and nitrous oxide (N2O) that prevents the Earth from either burning or freezing.

How people contribute to global warming

The Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) are produced by natural processes such as the water cycle, and growth and death cycle of plants and animals, decay of wood and other biodegradable materials, volcanic activities, forest fires, gas bubbles from oceans, and others. Water vapor, produced primarily from the natural water cycle, is the main GHG. Carbon dioxide is next major GHG that contributes about 25 percent of the natural greenhouse effect.

But in the last two centuries, human activities increased the production of the following GHGs: Carbon dioxide (CO2) from forest activities as well as machines and motors that use coal, oil and natural gas; Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) primarily from agricultural activities (such as intensive livestock raising and animal waste handling); waste dumps, coal beds, and leaks from gas pipelines and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from industrial processes; and Ozone (O3) in the lower atmosphere, indirectly from mobile exhaust fumes.

Destructive forces or warmer climate

In the event of climate change, the dry season will become drier while the wet season will become wetter. Stronger winds will be felt along with more erratic rainfall patterns. Typhoons and storms will become more frequent and intense resulting in widespread damage. Heat and cold waves will also be rampant. The quality of air will be affected by the various pollutants and GHGs. Most of the emissions are produced by energy and transport sector activities.

Intense warming will alter the forest productivity and species composition. The current dominant species may not survive while others may proliferate. The geographic range of forest trees may also shift. In the end, forest health will be affected.

Crop yields will be affected by droughts and floods caused by the changing climate. This will bring adverse impact to the country’s irrigation system and food supply.

Water supply will be affected when salt-water intrusion occurs due to the rising sea levels. This will reduce the amount of potable water and induce competition for water resources among communities.

Rising sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) result in coral bleaching or death of coral reefs. This will affect fisheries yield and other marine interactions. Other natural ecosystems such as the mangrove areas, seagrass beds, wetlands, and others will also be disturbed by warmer environment.

A warmer climate triggers the melting of glaciers and ice caps, and the thermal expansion of the oceans resulting in sea-level rise. The accelerated sea-level rise will exacerbate beach erosion, flooding of coastal lands, and the destruction of coastal infrastructure.

Coastal flooding will also be aggravated by subsidence due to excessive groundwater extraction that will eventually displace coastal communities.

Higher incidences of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue are expected during warmer and rainy seasons respectively. Respiratory diseases due to pollutants and GHGs will increase and affect human health and welfare.

MO cites good national and local governance as crucial to secure citizens

Error is a friend. One mistake should be enough to serve as a lesson, but a recurring mistake is unforgivable.

Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana allowed Americans, from the president to the state governor to convert the errors in mishandling the disaster into better strategies, to mitigate and adapt to the next hurricane. So did the major disaster caused by typhoon Ondoy that flooded Metro Manila.

Therefore it is crucial to have wise and courageous leaders to unite the efforts of the citizen to adapt to sporadic climate changes.         

 (Part III: Every Litter Bit Hurts)










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