We Only Have 12 Years

drought-global-warming

The world only has 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe. Photo c/o https://www.independent.co.uk

The United Nation (UN) has released a strong and urgent warning: The world only has 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe. And God willing, I will only be 72 by then. My first grandson will only be 12. So, the warning is very personal to me, as it should be to you.

This warning came from the world’s leading climate scientists with the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a result of years of research from the 6,000 scientific studies assessed. The goal of the study was to gather all available scientific literature and make recommendations to help governments in their effort to combat climate change as well as support economic development.

According to the study, the world only has a dozen of years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 °C and going beyond even by half a degree will mean worsening the risks of floods, droughts, extreme heat and poverty for all of us.

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” Panmao Zhai, one of the Co-Chairs of IPCC Working Group said.

The report stresses that many climate change impacts can be avoided if the world’s global warming is limited to 1.5°C instead of 2°C as committed in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

For example, the global sea level rise is likely to be 10 cm lower by 2100 if global warming is 1.5°C instead of 2°C. Similarly, around 99 percent of coral reefs would be lost with 2°C while only 70 to 90 percent decline at 1.5°C. Plus, at 2C, the Arctic will be iceless during summer at least once per decade instead of once per century.

The impact on the world will be significant especially for the already vulnerable countries if global warming is not limited to the recommended temperature. The rise of the sea level will force hundreds of millions out of their homes while crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America will enormously diminish.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” Hans-Otto Pörtner, one of the co-chairs of the IPCC Working Group pointed out.

This is a gloomy warning and the most urgent call for drastic changes that are based on the most comprehensive data analysis.

There is still hope, according to the scientists, but swift actions must be made.

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5ºC are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” Valerie Masson-Delmotte, one of the co-chairs of the study stressed.

Drastic steps needed include lowering the global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide carbon dioxide (CO2), which would need to fall by about 45 percent by 2030 from the 2010 levels. By 2050, it should be around ‘net zero’.

So, what do we need to do to cut our CO2?

The study says, one of the ways of cutting CO2 emissions swiftly is to lessen our fossil fuel consumption, the primary producer of greenhouse gasses. Renewable energy sources should dominate the energy mix at 85 percent share of power needs by 2050 if we are to limit our CO2 emissions.

This is not the first time that we have been warned about the harm of failing to act swiftly on global warming. There have been a lot in the last few years except this warning from the UN is based on the most comprehensive study of scientific data.

Indeed, the time to act fast is now. And we can start in our backyard. The Philippines, after all, is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change according to Moody’s. And it does not help that we are not doing much to help the world reduce its CO2 emissions.

The Philippines can heed the call to cut down on greenhouse emissions by diversifying more into renewable energy. We are after all blessed with natural resources to make a transition. It is the lack of political will that prevents us from doing so.

We only need to take a look at how slow the country’s transition to cleaner forms of energy. Our numbers do not show much improvement. For example, on a year-on-year growth, the Philippines coal import volume increased by 16% from 2015 to 2016 and the growth of installed capacities of coal-fired plants climbed by 87% from 2005 to 2016. There’s another 10,423 MW is in the pipeline.

May this warning from scientists serve as a wake-up call to all of us, particularly those who are in charge of making the shift to clean energy possible. Our government only needs to keep in mind that failure to act now is not helping the Filipinos and the rest of the world.

References:

https://www.bworldonline.com/philippines-rated-among-most-vulnerable-to-climate-change-in-new-moodys-ranking/

Press Relese: Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC approved by governments
http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/session48/pr_181008_P48_spm_en.pdf

Honoring Commitments: A Hot Warning

The historic 2015 Paris climate agreement saw world leaders committing to limit the average global temperature rise to “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial levels to combat climate change and its effects.

However, more than two years after the signing of the accord, the International Renewable Energy Agency or IRENA notes that “current emission trends are not on track to meet that goal.” In its report, the Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050, released last April, the agency stressed that current and planned policies of governments are far from achieving their emission reduction targets. Fossil fuels like natural gas, oil and coal would still dominate the global energy mix in the next decades.

The Energy agency stressed that the goal of keeping the world’s temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius is technically feasible. But it is imperative to scale up renewable energy (RE) at least six times faster so that the world can start hitting the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. “Global energy system must undergo a profound transformation from one largely based on fossil fuel to one that enhances efficiency and is based on renewable energy,” the report added.

The report also emphasized that all countries can grow the proportion of RE in their overall energy use. According to IRENA’s global roadmap, the REmap, nations can source 60 percent or more of their total energy consumption from renewable energy. After all, the world would need to increase the share of renewable energy in the power sector from 25 % in 2017 to as much as 85% by 2050. “If we are to decarbonize global energy fast enough to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, renewables must account for at least two-thirds of total energy by 2050,” IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin said.

To accomplish this feat, new approaches to the power system, planning, system and market operations, regulations and public policy must take place IRENA stressed

The Energy agency also noted that all regions of the world would benefit from the energy transformation. Areas like East Asia, Southern Africa, S. Europe and Western Europe are set to have high welfare gains from this transition through reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

So, it’s not only the Philippines that’s having a difficult time in meeting the goals set by world leaders in the Paris agreement since there is a need to undergo a major shift to cleaner forms of energy around the world.

Unfortunately, the world’s lack of action in fighting climate change will hurt vulnerable regions like Southeast Asia.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican and the Director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) last year warned that Southeast Asia might end up suffering from daily extreme temperatures if the world keeps us with high emission level where “All of the tropics will develop conditions that physiologically, humans cannot live outside anymore.”

His study, “A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific” showed that it is possible for temperature to increase to 1.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2030, up to 2.7 degrees by 2050 and even up to 4 degrees by 2070 or the temperature “where you would collapse.”

This means that the Philippines and its neighbors could “see a complete shift in living condition” where people would be forced to flee their homes. The Nobel Prize winner further added that “You would actually have to give up the Philippines altogether….Unless you put the entire population into a shopping mall, which would be a very big mall,”

This summer, the Filipinos have already endured warm temperature with the heat index reaching 46.8 8°C in Sangley Point in Cavite. Our weather bureau, PAGASA, classifies heat index temperatures from 41 to 54°C as dangerous where “heat cramps and heat exhaustion are likely” and that “heat stroke is probable with continued activity.”

 

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Dried-up rice field in Cavite as heat index this summer reaches dangerous levels. Photo c/o of philstar.com

 

Can you imagine having to endure warmer temperature than the ones we have this summer? As Schellnhuber stressed, we Filipinos will be unable to live outdoors if we all fail to limit our GHG emissions.

The problems of Boaracay may not be limited to the quality of the water alone. If we do not do anything about climate change soon, sea levels will rise in the coming century by as much as 1.4 meters most likely engulfing the not only Boracay but our other lovely islands as well.

Clearly, there is a pressing need for us to do our share in limiting the average global temperature rise to the desired level as we are the ones who will suffer from the effects of climate change. Fortunately for the Philippines, it is possible to help reduce GHG emissions by relying more on cleaner forms of energy.

In fact, the country can supplement its power needs with renewables by 57 percent to 60 percent by 2040 with the right policies according to research from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). “The Philippines’s current energy-supply mix must be diversified to minimize import dependency on fossil fuels and meet the country’s energy needs,” said Alam Hossain Mondal, a researcher at IFPRI and lead author of the study. And as I have repeatedly stated in the past, the impact of reliance on fossil fuel hits our ordinary households. The weakening of the peso and increasing coal prices will adversely affect the ordinary Filipino.

He further added that failure to add more RE in the power mix would result in greater fossil fuel dependency by an average rate of seven percent per year. As a result, CO2 emissions could reach 144 million tons by 2040 from the 43 million tons recorded in 2014.

Indeed, it is time to pay attention to how we can help the world limit the average global temperature rise. Yes, the Philippines and even its neighbors’ contribution GHG emissions may be negligible compared to advanced countries. But since the country and its neighbors are at risk if we fail to mitigate the effects of climate change, then it would be beneficial for us to help reduce our GHG emission.

It is time for us to exert our best effort to honor our commitment in the Paris Agreement. And it starts by sourcing more power from cleaner sources.

References:

https://www.irena.org/publications/2018/Apr/Global-Energy-Transition-A-Roadmap-to-2050

https://businessmirror.com.ph/ifpri-phl-could-supplement-57-60-of-its-energy-needs-with-renewables-by-2040/

http://www.interaksyon.com/expert-warns-with-no-cap-on-greenhouse-gas-emissions-going-outdoors-will-be-deadly-by-2100/

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/scitech/weather/650902/heat-index-over-41-degrees-in-several-areas-across-phl/story/