Opinion: Writings on the (Great) Wall
CLIMATE PROGRESS is a blog edited by Joe Romm. TIME magazine named it one of the 25 Best Blogs of 2010. On Friday, May 25th, Romm posted the story, "IEA:Global CO2 Emissions Hit New Record in 2011, Keeping World on Track for Devastating 11°F Warming". According to the story, the International Energy Agency reported that "global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion reached a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes in 2011". The story attributed the rise to "a huge jump in Chinese emissions". At the rate temperature isclimbing, soon China will not have a Scarborough Shoal to steal. I also bet my bottom peso that the 31.6 Gt of CO2 includes emissionsfrom Chinese factories that make plastic shopping bags. So, if recently you noticed a drastic spike in temperature, blame your plastic shopping bags. Indeed, your culpa, your maxima culpa!
What does "a devastating 11°F warming" mean to you and I? Until now, environmental scientists have maintained that melting polar glaciers and crop failure due to excessive heat and lack of water can be avoided if we ensure that global average temperatures do not rise more than 4°F within this century. With the IEA’s recent revelation, IEA Chief Economist FatihBirol admits that is now impossible. Current CO2 emissions promise we will triple the temperature rise. Crop failures are almost certain now. And I’m not just talking about rice and corn and vegetables. Sunday’sfishkill at the Laguna de Bai, worth P2 Million and counting, was blamed on extreme hot weather. Because of it, Taal Lake fishermen have been advised to harvest their fish 10 days earlier, fetching less profit for them. Indeed, scientific literatures posit that even a 7°F warming "would destroy the livable climate seven billion people have come to depend upon". And we’re up against 11°F now.
Meanwhile, the story also reported that CO2 emissions in the U.S. decreased by 92 metric tonnes in 2011. Among the reasons cited were the shift from coal to natural gas, fuel efficiency improvements, increase in oil prices, and decrease in car travel as a result of the economic dip. But don’t pop the champagne bottle just yet, because that simply means we shifted the emissions across the Pacific Ocean, to China. Despite that, we realize now,America’s 2011 good behavior isn’t enough to get her out of Intensive Care Unit.Last Sunday, another story, "Heat-Related U.S. Deaths Could Increase by 150,000 by Century’s End Due to Climate Change", was posted on the same blog. The storywas written by Dan Lashof, Program Director for Climate &Clean Air at the Natural Resources Defense Council.Why I sharethis here is to highlight the danger that the situation for the Philippines could be worse, because we are in the tropics, because we are an archipelago, and because of sundry reasons including our shift to coal, the absence of fuel efficient cars, government’s distribution of "dole-out" gas cards when gas prices rise, and our failure to develop ethanol.
According to NRDC, the death of 150,000 more Americans by the end of this century will be "due to excessive heat caused by climate change". This was the conclusion of Dr. Larry Kalkstein in his report, entitled, "Summer Killer Heat". The report surveyed 40 cities, and the top three were Louisville, Kentucky (19,000 more deaths), Detroit, Michigan (18,000 more deaths), and Cleveland, Ohio (17,000 more deaths). The findings of Dr. Kalkstein were based on the assumption that carbon emissions in these cities will more than double due to a lack of effective policies. And this is what I’m fearing most for the Philippines. Lack of effective environmental policies and/or lack of effective implementation will be the lead reason for the worsening effects of climate change. If it can happen in America where there are some environmental policies, it will surely happen here where three is zero policy. If more heat-related deaths can occur in America where summer runs for three months, more heat-related deaths should be expected here where the dry season takes place half of every year.
It gets hairy. Unfortunately, the survey that is the subject of the NRDC storywas conducted from 1975 to 2004. Recent record-setting temperatures were not even taken into account. In the Summer of 2011 alone, 42 states experienced record daytime highs and 49 endured record nighttime highs. From May 2011 to April 2012, America felt its hottest 12-month period since 1895. So, don’t be surprised if the temperature in the tropics is sizzling hot, because even the land of snow is now in the crockpot. Again, I remind you of the specter of the fishkill in Laguna. Then consider that it happened just a week before the opening of classes. How many public school children, children of fishermen who lost income, will skip school? Factor inthe enforcement of government’s K + 12 policy, which adds two more years in high school, and postponing school now will redound to skipping three school years. Poor kids, they’re now also late.
I hope I didn’t go too far afield. I hope you see this columnstill within the light of our advocacy against the use plastic bags. Because plastic bags are petroleum-based and so cause CO2 emission, even before you throw away one, even before you use one, even before you buy one, plastic bags have done damage to our climate. Think of it this way, each time you use a plastic bag, a factory in China produces areplacement. Should the resulting temperature rise be blamed on you? I don’t know. What do you think?