05 NOVEMBER 2012
After Sandy (and Sendong), what?
Superstorm Sandy was as ferocious as it could get. Despite precautions taken, the damage wreaked was unprecedented. It paralyzed the world’s most powerful country’s hard-hit states, New Jersey and New York included. Transportation and trading came to a halt. Airports were closed. It claimed more than 150 lives with an emerging cost placed at $45 billion. Power outages left 8.2 million vulnerable consumers in 17 states (ens-newswire.com/2012/11/01) freezing in the cold.
Again, the world witnessed nature unleashing its unstoppable power. It will not be the last such show. Its defenseless victims and arrogant oppressors bowed to its raging command and had no choice but to wait until calm was restored.
But will tranquility ever claim its space in this world where Mother Nature is heartlessly exploited, abused, debased and trashed for “progress” to be attained?
While looking at the video footages of the storm surges and the flooding which made streets virtual raging seas, Al Gore’s 2006 film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, flashed in my mind. The highly acclaimed documentary about climate change spurred tremendous awareness, even in the business community, of the most pressing issue of all time. Yet, tragically, the reality of climate change had not made a dent in the minds of the policymakers and the influential sectors. Business-as-usual mindset prevails.
This uncalled-for complacency is not only costly; it is putting all of us in harm’s way.
The Philippines, a megadiversity country, is one of the most highly vulnerable to disasters and the effects of climate change. While Congress has done its share and crafted numerous laws to make ecosystems and the constituents cope with and be resilient to calamities, there is still a pervasive and senseless disconnect in the programs and projects of national and local government units with the dangerous condition we are surmounting.
With dirty coal as the biggest source of climate change-causing greenhouse gas, and with the enactment of the Renewable Energy (RE) Law, why is the Aquino government putting in 12 to 19 more carbon-emitting coal power plants in the country?
He and new Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla should try to live in coal communities to realize that coal is never clean, never cheap, destroys biodiversity and is causing grave injustice to our people. Despite our strong legal framework for sustainability, the environment costs and the harmful impacts to human life are unfairly excluded in the cost-benefit analysis.
Anna Abad, the passionate Climate and Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia , enumerates these” external” consequences as “human illnesses, displaced communities, destroyed livelihoods, mining accidents, acid rain, smog pollution, water scarcity, and the adverse economic effects such as direct health care costs, reduced productivity, and lost work days.” She adds that “Once constructed and operational, these coal-fired power plants would lock us into three to four decades of reliance on this dirty and harmful fossil fuel. These projects are being undertaken and approved without a comprehensive examination of how RE proposals can similarly and more safely address the country’s power situation.” (www.philstar.com, Oct. 27, 2012). Continuing fossil fuel-dependency conflicts with the top-notch priority in the National Climate Change Action Plan for sustainable energy.
The reclamation projects are another aberration in this Coral Triangle Declaration member nation and should be stopped. Local government units are using the unsustainable projects to have an increased share in their internal revenue allocation (IRA), without going through the procedure set by the Local Government Code. The Code requires a national law and a plebiscite for any substantial alteration in the territorial boundaries of LGUs. Yet, the Philippine Reclamation Authority, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other agencies look the other way, even when natural buffers, carbon sinks and life-sustaining mangroves, corals and sea grass are destroyed, communities are displaced and fisherfolk and farmers are further driven to penury.
The lack of harmonization of the policies of the Aquino administration erodes its credibility in pursuing inclusive and sustainable growth. It is time for governments to reexamine its policies and programs and seriously address climate change as a security and survival issue. Were reforms even made after ‘Sendong’ and the deadly habagat claimed lives and destroyed livelihoods and edifices?
The 700-page Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, which is “the largest and most widely known and discussed report” on the effects of global warming on the world’s economy (Wikipedia), is worth revisiting. Among the salient points are:
The scientific evidence is overwhelming: climate change presents very serious global risks, and it demands an urgent global response.
The stocks of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and a number of gases that arise from industrial processes are rising, as a result of human activity.)
The benefits of strong, early action on climate change outweigh the costs. Tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy for the longer term, and it can be done in a way that does not cap the aspirations for growth of rich or poor countries. The earlier effective action is taken, the less costly it will be.
Ignoring climate change will eventually damage economic growth. Costs of mitigation of around 1 percent of Gross domestic product are small relative to the costs and risks of climate change that will be avoided.
Given that climate change is happening, measures to help people adapt to it are essential. The less mitigation we do now, the greater the difficulty of continuing to adapt in the future.
The transition to a low-carbon economy will bring challenges for competitiveness but also opportunities for growth.
The impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed: the poorest countries and people will suffer earliest and most.
The Stern Report emphasizes that “if and when the damages appear it will be too late to reverse the process. Thus we are forced to look a long way ahead.” Are we?
Read article source in Inquirer.Net