Is Weather Too Hot? Soon the World Will Be Unlivable

 

The summer season in the Philippines means enduring sweltering weather for two to three months. According to the state weather bureau, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration or PAGASA, the month of May saw the country’s heat index reach its highest values for the year.

The heat index in May (or at least for the first half of May) reached what Health officials refer to as dangerous levels, a range between 41℃ to 54 ℃.  The dangerous level can cause heat cramps, and heat exhaustion and might result in a heat stroke. Unfortunately, the dangerous heat index was recorded in May all over the Philippines, the highest so far for the month was 51℃ to 53℃ in places like Dagupan City in Pangasinan, Butuan City in Agusan Del Norte, and Sangley Point, Cavite.

It was worse for San Jose City in Occidental Mindoro on April 20 as it recorded a heat index of 58℃. The Health Department says there is an extreme danger if the heat index is more than 54 ℃ because heat stroke is imminent. 

In mid-May, a tropical storm with an international name, Vongfong. After two days of torrential rains and strong winds in Northern Philippines, the warm summer heat in the Philippines returned a few days after, which is likely to last until mid-June. The current heat index we are experiencing shouldn’t be surprising since scientists have already predicted that 2020 will be the hottest year on record.

Fortunately for us, we only have to endure such sweltering heat for two to three months. But there’s a strong likelihood that the majority of the world will suffer from extreme heat by 2070 as new research revealed.

According to the study “Future of the human climate niche,” some three billion people will live in “nearly unlivable” conditions by 2070 if global warming remains unchecked. Authors say that much of the world’s population will live in climate conditions that are “warmer than conditions deemed suitable for human life to flourish.” I probably won’t be around by then but my grandchildren will be still on this earth by that time, so this warning is still alarming for me.

The study warns that the average annual temperatures will be above the climate “niche” in which humans have lived for 6,000 years. “We show that in a business-as-usual climate change scenario, the geographical position of this temperature niche is projected to shift more over the coming 50 years than it has moved (in the past 6,000 years),” the study noted.

If the world continues with its business-as-usual and refuses to take climate mitigation measures, a substantial part of the world will be experiencing average annual temperatures warmer than practically anywhere today by 2070. This means the future generations could be enduring warmer weather than what we are experiencing now here in the Philippines. 

 

ecoworld

By 2070, the world will suffer from unlivable weather conditions if global warning remains unchecked. Photo c/o eco world

“Large areas of the planet would heat to barely survivable levels and they wouldn’t cool down again,” says the study co-author Marten Scheffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.”Not only would this have devastating direct effects, it leaves societies less able to cope with future crises like new pandemics. The only thing that can stop this happening is a rapid cut in carbon emissions.”

Again, this isn’t the only warning about the effect of climate change. we have heard. A few years ago, Nobel Prize winner and Director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) already warned us that Southeast Asia would likely suffer from extreme temperatures if nothing is done to lessen our high carbon emission levels. 

Schellnhuber’s paper entitled “A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific,” said that temperatures would keep increasing where we could “see a complete shift in living conditions,” and that “All of the tropics will develop conditions that physiologically, humans cannot live outside anymore.”

Experts have been warning us all that lessening our carbon footprint is the only way we can avoid extreme temperatures around the world in the future. These studies also point out that a shift to renewable energy is one of the effective climate change mitigation measures we should adopt. 

Unfortunately, with the world already falling into recession, the renewable energy sector is likely to see a lean period, probably temporarily ending the sector’s rapid growth in recent years. Renewable power projects are exposed to various risks due to the economic crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic just like other sectors. One of these risks could be less access to financing.

Fossil fuels are likely to become more attractive in the cover-19 recovery period as coal prices have been falling even before COVID-19 forced locked downs. Plus, oil prices hit at an all-time low. Economies could be wary of the high upfront costs of renewable energy projects and potentially renege on long-term sustainable development plans.

But governments, particularly ours, shouldn’t be too quick to abandon or shelve clean energy transition plans for a variety of reasons. For one, analysts say that the low oil prices will be short-lived. According to an editorial entitled “Coronavirus: The Caribbean is the First Domino to Fall, but There is Hope” “It is expected that at current lows, many high-cost producers will shut down operations and some may go out of business. In a post-COVID world, with increasing global demand and a reduced number of suppliers, there will be upward pressure on oil prices.”

Plus, energy transition plans were well already underway before the pandemic causing the technology costs for renewables to fall in recent years.  Wind power and solar photovoltaic have become the cheapest source of energy in many markets, debunking the myth that renewable energy is the more expensive choice.

A report by the International Renewable Energy Agency also showed that accelerating investments in renewable energy could spur the global gross domestic product (GDP) by almost $98 trillion between now and 2050. IRENA projects that RE would provide returns of $3 to $8 for every dollar invested in renewables. The report entitled “Global Renewable Outlook” stressed that high investments renewable power could also quadruple the number of jobs in the sector over the next 30 years.

And in the short-term, decentralized energy systems will help small communities economically as IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera stressed recently. “Decentralized technologies also allow for greater involvement by citizens and communities in energy decisions, with transformative social implications. Importantly, they offer a proven approach for remote health care in energy-poor communities and add a key element to the crisis response toolkit.”

These are some of the reasons to debunk the belief that fossil fuel could be the better choice in the short-term. But if these counter-arguments illustrating that renewable energy isn’t the “expensive” option, then let us go back to the fact that we need to address climate change.

According to scientists, climate change is a potent risk multiplier or can contribute to pandemics. Plus, rising temperatures allow for the quick spread of certain infectious diseases like dengue and malaria. As research shows, failure to address rising carbon emissions will make the world an unlivable place as humans cannot survive the high temperature by 2070 unless they stay in an air-conditioned place, day-in and day- out.

A Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report released before coronavirus was declared a pandemic said that 77 percent of investments from 2019 to 2050 will be in renewables. This prediction of BNEF remains achievable if we don’t let the pandemic and its economic effects derail us from putting more money in clean energy. Short-term plans to revive any economy post-COVID-19 must remain aligned with our long-term objectives on sustainable development and climate change. The COVID-19 pandemic should encourage us to build back better.

Finally, I would like to repeat my previous point that moving forward we need to move away from our dependence on imported fossil fuel.  The COVID-19 crisis has raised a specter that Indonesia may decide to shut down its ports and close down all ingress and exit points of the country.  If that happens – and thank God it has not happened – this will not augur well for the Philippines We rely on 90% of our coal from Indonesia.

We will have not only a pandemic but a total power meltdown.

Isn’t It Ironic?

ocean

Record-breaking year for ocean temperatures in 2018. Photo c/o Business Insider

Germany recently made an announcement that it will end its dependence on coal power plants by 2038 in an effort to meet its commitment to the Paris climate change goals. Reports noted that the country intends to reduce its coal energy capacity from 42.6 gigawatts (GW) to around 30 GW in 2020 and to 17 GW by 2030.

Germany at present still sources 40 percent of its power needs from coal. Last year was a first for the country as renewable energy dominated the power mix.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber a member German coal exit commission hailed the decision as a move that’s very much needed in this day and age “ This is an important step on the road to the post-fossil age – a step that also opens up new perspectives for the affected regions through innovation-driven structural change.”

And I agree that the move is a step in the right direction. Each country needs to make drastic actions to help keep the world’s temperature at the desired levels. After all, the United Nations recently warned us that we only have 12 years to keep the world’s temperature to a maximum of 1.5 °C. Otherwise, we will suffer from worsening of risks of floods, extreme heat, droughts, and poverty.

We are already, of course, seeing the effects of climate change.

For example, as early as November last year, experts have warned that 2018 was likely to be the fourth hottest year on record. There is no confirmation of this record as of now. But what has been confirmed is that 2018 is that ocean’s had their warmest year on record.

The study that was published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences noted that the hot record indicates the enormous amount of heat is being absorbed by the sea due to rising of greenhouse gas emission. Rising ocean temperatures are not to be ignored says, experts, since they contribute to intense hurricanes and destruction of coral reefs.

Plus, the world is likely to suffer from El Nino this year, which will make 2019 as most likely to be the hottest year on record according to the Climate Prediction Center.

These warnings, of course, are pushing many countries, like Germany to step up their fight against dirty sources of power and honor their commitment to the Paris agreement in 2015.

The Philippines, unlike Germany and other countries, are far from making waves when it comes to greater use of renewable. This is a pity since we Filipinos have more reasons to shift to renewable power.

For starters, we are a country that is endowed with plenty of natural resources. We are just the third biggest geothermal power producer in the world. The Philippines used to be second, but sadly was overtaken by Indonesia (which merits a separate article). We are also a tropical country as well. Yet here, we are a nation that has coal plants as the major source of energy.

It also makes sense for us to do our share to help the earth limit its global warming. The Philippines, after all, has been tagged as one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change. But we are a country that has pushed back its target of sourcing 35 percent of overall energy needs by 2030 to 2040.

Plus, there’s a clamor renewable power among Filipinos. A survey by Pulse Asia last year showed that 89 percent of Filipinos are in favor of renewable energy. But alas, the country will be adding some. 10,423 MW of coal power.

We have every reason to shift to renewable energy. We have the natural resources. We are a country that suffers greatly from the effects of climate change. Our citizens want cleaner forms of energy. But no, we remain a nation dependent on coal. How ironic. And sad.

References:

https://www.philstar.com/business/2018/12/26/1879827/iemop-proposes-nationwide-system-renewable-energy-development

https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/2019-may-be-the-warmest-year-on-record-as-a-result-of-an-el-nino-event-exacerbated-by-global-warming/70006943

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/16/world/climate-2018-hottest-year-for-ocean/index.html

We Only Have 12 Years

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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

Click to access 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/