Climate change—polar bears don’t like it, Donald Trump doesn’t believe in it, and Joshua Jackson of Dawson’s Creek fame recently came to the Philippines to make a documentary about it. Why the love, Pacey? The answer is something that many Filipinos themselves are unaware of: the Philippines is ground zero for climate change disasters. These disasters include epic Yolanda-level storms, rising sea levels, and decreased fishing yields. I believe the response you are looking for is, in the immortal words of Heneral Luna, “Punyeta.”
Yes, it actually is getting warmer
Just in case you’re some kind of weird Pinoy Republican climate change denier, all you have to do is look at the thermometer every year to figure out that something nasty is going on. In fact, according to a report by good old PAGASA, average temperatures in the Philippines have already increased by 0.57 degrees Celsius—even as much as 0.97 degrees Celsius depending on which island you live on. And temperatures are expected to rise another degree or so by 2020.
Storm season is coming
Hotter summers are the least of our worries though. Far more urgent is an expected rise in the strength of storms come rainy season. It’s already happening. Five of the world’s ten strongest recorded storms hit—guess who—the Philippines. And number one on the list was Yolanda (Haiyan). Remember her?
An average of twenty cyclones show up in our neighborhood every year, with around nine of them making landfall. These cyclones are formed when the sea releases heat, creating wind and clouds and rain. More heat (made worse by El Nino) means stronger storms. And though the number of typhoons isn’t expected to increase, PAGASA says there has already been an increase in the number of strong (150kph winds and higher) typhoons. This trend won’t be changing soon. Yolanda pa more? Leche.
Tuwing umuulan at kapiling ka
Stronger typhoons are just the start. PAGASA estimates that the extremes of weather will become more, er, EXTREME. Summers will be hotter and drier, with increased chances of drought. Rainy season will be wetter, with increased rainfall from the Southwest monsoon. So bizarrely, you can expect both drought and flood in the years to come.
If you thought that melting polar caps and glaciers in Greenland were only a problem for polar bears, you’re dead wrong. Melting ice makes global sea levels rise, and warmer temperatures also means that the sea’s volume expands. Both of these factors contribute to screwing us over because in the entire world, the fastest rate of sea levels rising is in—surprise, surprise!—the Philippines. Sea levels are rising here at five times the global average. Hooray, just like in traffic and corruption, we’re number one again!
According to Greenpeace, a one-meter rise in sea levels will affect 64 out of 81 provinces in the Philippines—or almost everyone, including your distant relatives, estranged half-sisters, and your dear old childhood yaya. Some estimates say that sea levels may rise by two to four meters because of melting ice from Greenland. Consider that Tacloban City is only three meters above sea level.
So long, and thanks to all the fish
Bad news for Nemo and Dory: as the seas warm, coral structures are degraded or destroyed thanks to a change in the sea’s pH levels. Climate scientists project that all it takes is a temperature increase of two degrees Celsius for coral reefs to start dying off.
It’s not just the sea that is in danger. Agriculture is also suffering from global warming. A report by IRRI and PAGASA estimates that for every degree Celsius increase in temperature, there will be a 10 to 15 percent drop in Philippine agriculture production.
All over the Philippines, the first communities to feel the impact of climate change have been the poorest—farmers, fishing communities. If you want to hear direct evidence from people like these, check out Joshua Jackson’s piece from Years of Living Dangerously, where he interviews fishermen from Apo Island. Or next time you’re in Bora, look for some fishermen, and ask them how their catch went. You can expect the answer to be Heneral Luna-esque: Punyeta. Punyeta. Punyeta.