Country delegates heaved a sigh of relief once the final gavel struck to approve Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group (WG) II report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.
After days of negotiation and marathon sessions – until the wee hours of the morning – they could all finally go home.
I’m just as glad to return to Manila but like the rest of my country, I cannot heave a sigh of relief. Not yet.
The report outlines how climate change is already causing floods, drought and massive storms that will affect or are already affecting food security, water supply, health, livelihoods and human security. (READ: How climate change threatens food security)
This is a reality that the Philippines is already struggling with.
Filipinos and climate change
As the country struggles in continuing the rehabilitation of Haiyan-ravaged areas, El Nino – a drought-inducing weather phenomenon that warms the surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean – is already in our doorstep threatening our food production.
Rice remains the staple food of the Philippines and much of the region of Southeast Asia.
Early onset droughts are already being reported destroying more than 3,900 hectares of rice fields which means tens of thousands of Filipinos will go hungry (one hectare of rice area harvested is capable of feeding 20 persons). (READ: PH food wastage)
Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, drought is already hitting other crops in Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. The 4 countries’ combined total area devoted to rice production is more than 32 million hectares.
In less than 6 months the Philippines is already experiencing both extremes of the climate spectrum. While this sounds crazy, it is also definitely our reality.
What can we do?
The WG-II IPCC report does identify opportunities for adaptation. But with increased warming, the levels of risk among various climate change impacts are also getting more difficult to manage.
Adaptation can only take us so far, unfortunately, the options are also limited.
With the grim projections clearly outlined in the report, this is a time when we can no longer ignore the other equally important part of the solution equation.
The world must reduce carbon emissions. Let me repeat that: The world must reduce carbon emissions. Full stop.
We have come to the point when we no longer have the option to choose one over the other.
Adaptation without mitigation will ultimately be pointless.
The window to shift from fossil fuel-based economies to one that is powered by renewables is relatively short.
Since electricity access is still low in many parts of the world, power plants will nevertheless have to be built. A decision to contract a coal-fired power plant today will result in more carbon emissions that will last well beyond the power plant’s lifetime.
On the other hand, renewable energy coupled with far-reaching energy efficiency measures will be able to contribute in stabilizing global carbon emissions.
Renewable energy can and will have to play a leading role in the world’s energy future.
Whatever plans are made by world governments – now and in the next few years – will define not only our energy supplies but also our shared boon or bane on climate impacts.
In 2 weeks’ time, the IPCC’s Working Group III will be able to release their report on mitigation that will outline options on how to reduce the world’s carbon emissions.
Between this time of knowing the wide-ranging risks and diverse vulnerabilities, to knowing what possibilities exist for carbon emissions reduction, I watch with bated breath at how world governments will determine what’s in store for us.
And maybe, just maybe, my country and I can then heave a sigh of relief. – Rappler.com
Amalie Obusan is the Regional Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. She was an observer at the recent IPCC talks in Yokohama, Japan. She may be contacted through email@example.com.