Global Warming: A Runaway Train Headed Straight at the Philippines

A Editorial


Effects of global warming? Super Typhoon Yolanda's (Haiyan)


The time for finger pointing has passed. It no longer matters if other countries spew more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the Philippines does. We need to get our act together because we Filipinos have—to put it bluntly—destroyed this beautiful country of ours. From its denuded forests to its over-fished seas,  from its overbuilt cities to its polluted rivers and streams, from the smog-choked air above cities to the depleted water tables beneath them, the Philippines today is a far cry from the land Jose Rizal once called his "Pear of the Orient."

If we do nothing, we Filipinos of today will pass on to our children a Philippines in far worse shape than the one we inherited from our parents. And the sad part is that it will take several generations to undo all the damage we created.

Global warming, global problem

Aside from our own irresponsible stewardship of the land, industrial development and the burning of fossil fuels on a global scale has caused average temperatures to rise with dire consequences for the entire planet. The earth's climate has now been thrown into disarray. Sea levels are rising due to melting polar ice caps; super storms are occurring with greater frequency; planting and harvesting periods for many crops have been thrown out of whack (read related article below).

If humans continue to generate greenhouse gases at current levels, the earth would reach a tipping point were the damage to the environment becomes irreversible. Then the earth's fragile eco system could collapse bringing with it most living things ... including humans. At present, there is growing consensus that the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is bringing about undesired climatic changes to the entire planet.

Local action brings about global action

The UN Climate Change Conference going on in Paris might be the first worldwide response to global warming that nations and their leaders actually take seriously.  Going forward, each country must do its part to prevent this global disaster from happening. As noted above, the period of pointing fingers and blaming other countries for the problem is over. Each country must instead do its level best to prevent global warming. Each political subdivision within a country must accept this responsibility as well. In the Philippines, that would mean each region, province, city, municipality, and barangay must do its part in cutting back greenhouse gas emissions in their areas.


Pinoys will do their part

There is a lot we Filipinos can do when we finally get serious about doing our part in this global effort. But before meaningful change can happen, the public must be made fully aware of the danger global warming poses on future of the planet. The government must institute an awareness campaign aimed at all Filipinos—young and old alike. Natural disasters like Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), floods, tsunamis, and the like will serve to reinforce the dangers that global warming brings.

When that message finally sinks in, Filipinos will begin to demand clean renewable energy instead of the coal-burning power plants they have today. They will start banning from their communities the two-stroke motorcycle engines found in most tricycles today. They will begin to demand cleaner motor vehicle engines. They will stop denuding forests and instead start planting more trees. They will begin to change their wasteful, polluting ways and become a more eco-friendly society.

Filipinos have always been a resourceful, resilient people and know how to survive. All they need is for their leaders (both public and private) to point them in the right direction.

And when all the nations of the world finally come together and address this global problem, you can rest assured that Filipinos will be there standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of humanity, doing their part to save the planet. 12/05/2015

Why are emissions of carbon dioxide (CO) the most important substance causing climate change? 

The short answer, according to Mr. Richard S. J. Tol, a professor in the UK and the Netherlands, is that “uptake of human emissions of ambient CO
 is not balanced by natural uptake” in the carbon cycle*

Before the Industrial Revolution, the carbon cycle was characterized by a counterbalancing flux of “CO . . . between the atmosphere, the ocean, and terrestrial vegetation.” The large stock of carbon in fossil fuels “[i]n natural circumstances . . . does not play a significant part in the carbon cycle. However, human exploitation has mobilized this carbon. Emissions of CO from fossil fuel combustion are small compared with natural emissions—but unlike natural emissions, there is no counterbalancing flux.”

 Professor Tol states that since CO
 is removed from the atmosphere “at the rate at which rocks grow,” “stabilization of the atmospheric concentration of CO implies that CO emissions have to go to zero” based on current learning.

“The 3 most important anthropogenic  (produced by human activities)  greenhouse gases, ambient CO
, methane (CH), and nitrous oxide (NO), have risen since the Industrial Revolution.” Methane results from livestock and waste. Agricultural soils give rise to nitrous oxide (NO).

Professor Tol states that “carbon dioxide is by far the most important substance in the change in the Earth’s energy balance.” “Put together, the other anthropogenic greenhouse gases have contributed about two-thirds as much as carbon dioxide to the total radiative forcing.” (Radiative Forcing (RF) expresses the change in energy in the atmosphere due to greenhouse gas emissions.)

Halocarbons, which result from aerosols, refrigerants, and plastics, are another significant anthropogenic greenhouse gas. CO
, methane, and nitrous oxide together with halocarbons sometimes are referred to as “long-lived" greenhouse gasses. “Water vapor is a greenhouse gas too, in fact the most important of them all, but its concentration is only marginally affected by human activity….”

“With greenhouse gases in the air, it is easier for energy to enter the planet than to leave it.” “Higher greenhouse gases imply warming—but how much is uncertain as there are many complex feedbacks.” 

Article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change  states the primary objective of this Convention: “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” 

Professor Tol argues that “optimal emission reduction today depends on expected climate policy in the future.”

* Tol, Richard S.J. Climate Economics: Economic Analysis of Climate, Climate Change and Climate Policy. Cheltenham/Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2014