Heatwaves and hope

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

On November 10, 2023, BusinessWorld and The FREEMAN jointly hosted the “Blueprint for Philippine Smart Cities" business forum at the Belmont Hotel Mactan. This event brought together leading experts, business figures, and advocates to discuss the vital role of inclusive participation in the advancement of environmentally-sustainable cities across the country.

The business forum captured my attention after reading a news report yesterday about a tragic event in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Taylor Swift had to postpone her concert, which was scheduled for last Saturday in the city, due to extreme heat. This decision came after the death of Ana Clara Benevides, a young fan who attended Swift’s 'Eras Tour' concert in a sweltering venue the previous Friday night. Following Benevides' death, Swift announced through an Instagram statement that the concert planned for last Saturday would be postponed.

How hot was it that day? The heat index, which combines temperature and humidity, hit a record high of 59.3 degrees Celsius. On Saturday, it peaked even higher at 59.7 degrees Celsius.

Taylor Swift resumed her performance in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, adopting additional precautions to ensure the safety of her fans. Measures included firefighters spraying water over the crowd outside the Nilton Santos Olympic Stadium to keep them cool. According to reports, free water, cups, and handheld fans were also distributed to concertgoers.

News and images of concerts, including high-profile ones like Taylor Swift's, being disrupted by extreme temperatures starkly remind us that climate change impacts all aspects of our lives, including entertainment activities we might not always take seriously (though, undoubtedly, Swifties take their attendance of a Taylor Swift concert very seriously).

A dangerous heat wave is actually hitting Brazil, still in its spring season, causing Rio de Janeiro's vendors off the streets due to health alerts and driving up energy demands, leading to power outages, as reported by Reuters.

Temperatures in South America are influenced by El Niño, a natural and periodic event that heats the Pacific Ocean’s surface. However, this year witnessed an unusually rapid increase in ocean temperatures, occurring within just a few months, according to scientists. They attribute the increasing frequency of extreme weather events to human-induced climate change. Heat waves, now seven times more common than they were 70 years ago, are a significant indicator of this trend.

However, the situation need not be so gloomy. We can trust humanity to rise to the occasion, as efforts are already underway to address the threats of climate change. During that business forum in Cebu, for example, key speakers such as AboitizPower COO Anton Perdices and Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Kelie Ko emphasized the importance of energy innovations, digitalization, and a collective shift in mindset and lifestyle for the transformation to a smart, environmentally sustainable city.

In her recent New York Times opinion piece, Kate Marvel, a climate scientist and lead author of the Fifth National Climate Assessment, shared her initial reluctance to contribute to another gloomy climate report. However, as it turns out, the report not only presents dire warnings about the impacts of climate change but also highlights significant progress. This includes the dramatic reduction in the costs of renewable energy and a decrease in US greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Marvel observes a significant positive shift in political action and public awareness about climate change. The report she co-authored offers hope, indicating that substantial emissions reductions could avert a critical two-degree Celsius increase. Like the experts in the Cebu business forum, Marvel underscores the importance of wider participation in climate action and rightly shifts the focus from mere warnings to tangible solutions.

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