(This post is a final requirement for the online course offered by the World Bank, “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided.” Enjoy reading!)
The Philippines is now one of the emerging markets in the world achieving a robust growth rate of 7.8% in the first quarter of 2013, the highest in Asia. However, climate change looms on the horizon and is already offsetting the hard-earned development gains achieved in recent years. Here are the reasons why the Philippines, more than most countries in the world, should mitigate and adapt to the harmful impacts of climate change.
1. The Philippines is an archipelago composed of 7,107 islands, which makes its coastal areas vulnerable to sea level rise, inundation, and coastal flooding. According to the World Bank (2013), sea-level rise around the East Asia and Pacific region is likely to exceed 50 cm above present levels by 2060, and 100 cm by 2090 in a 4°C world, with Manila being especially vulnerable.
2. According to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), an average of 20 typhoons every year strike the Philippines because the country is located in the typhoon belt. On Nov. 8, 2013, the country suffered from the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest typhoon on record killing more than 6,000 people (BBC 2013).
3. Increasing aridity and drought are likely to increase substantially in many developing countries in the tropical regions (World Bank 2012). In the case of the Philippines, crop damage caused by the continuing El Niño phenomenon has reached PhP 3.77 billion in 2010, according to the Department of Agriculture.
4. Informal settlers account for 45% of the Philippines’ urban population. They are very much susceptible to flood due to less secure infrastructure, poor access to clean water, and lack of health insurance (World Bank 2013). The table below from the Office of the Civil Defense shows the increasing damages from floods brought about by typhoons in the Philippines from 1984-2009, in billion pesos.
5. Recent research suggests that large-scale loss of biodiversity is likely to occur in a 4°C world (World Bank 2012). According to marine scientists, 70% of the world’s coral reefs may be lost by 2050 if human impacts on corals are not reduced. The Philippines is one of the biodiversity “hot spots” of the world (McNeely et al. 1990) and coral reefs have been slowly dying over the past 30 years.
6. The widespread poverty in the Philippines is tantamount to poor adaptive capacity to climate change. Failing to empower the poor (which makes up almost one-third or 7.9% of the total population) to cope up with climate change impacts threatens to inflict immense cost on life and property. (Photo Credit: http://www.focusonpoverty.org)
7. The Philippine government estimates that more than 85% of the country’s GDP, around USD 192 Billion, is sourced from areas exposed to climate change risks. In developing countries, disasters represent a major source of risk for the poor and can potentially destroy development gains, threaten the sustainability of development process and undermine progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals (O’Brien, 2008). (Photo credit: (Dondi Tawatao/Getty)
8. The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. The 2013 Global Climate Risk Index ranked the Philippines 4th among 190 countries that were worst affected by extreme weather events such as storms and flooding (Eckstein and Harmeling 2012). Moreover, in the 2012 World Risk Report,published by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security and the German Alliance Development Works, the Philippines ranked 3rd in the list of most vulnerable countries to natural disasters. Maplecroft’s 2013 Climate Change Vulnerability Indexranked Manila as the 2nd most at risk city from the changing temperatures and weather systems that are projected to take hold in the coming years. The Climate Change Vulnerability Mapping for Southeast Asiarevealed that the Philippines is more susceptible to climate change risks than other Southeast Asian countries, with 16 provinces included in the 50 most vulnerable areas in the region (Yusuf &Francisco, 2009).
The Way Forward
The Philippines’ Initial National Communication on Climate Change in 1999 perceives climate change as an existential threat to the Philippines: “Climate change is a very emotional subject for the Philippines, because the issue is viewed not only as causing additional economic burdens, but as a critical factor that would determine its survival as a nation.” Thus, the way forward for the Philippines is a new development paradigm called “green growth,” which strikes the synergy between pursuing economic development while protecting the environment and natural resources.
Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft (Alliance Development Works). “World Risk Report 2012.” Web. 2012. Available at www.ehs.unu.edu/file/get/10487.pdf.
BBC. Typhoon Haiyan death toll rises over 5,000 (Report). November 22, 2013.
Eckstein, D., & Harmeling, S. “Global Climate Risk Index 2013.” 2012. Germanwatch e.V.
McNeely, J.A., Miller, K.R., Reed, W.V., Mitternmeier, R.A. and Werner, T.B.: 1990, Conserving the World’s Biological Diversity, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland; WRI, CI, WWF-US and the World Bank, Washington DC.
O’Brien, K., et al. “Disaster Risk Reduction, Climate Change Adaptation and Human Security.” In Global Environmental Change and Human Security (GECHS) Report. 2008.
World Bank. (2013). Turn down the heat II: Global hotspots and regional case studies
World Bank. (2012). Turn down the heat: Why a 4C warmer world must be avoided.
Yusuf, A.A., and H. Francisco. “Climate change vulnerability mapping for Southeast Asia.” Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA) with CIDA, IDRC and SIDA. Singapore. 2009.