Unless massive changes in systems are done, mankind would be facing a string of events that would threaten its existence in the next few years.
Such was the warning of Climate Change Commissioner Rachel Herrera as she enumerated numerous “irreversible” impacts unless efforts are done to maintain the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Herrera was the guest speaker during the Climate Emergency forum organized by the University of St. La Salle-Bacolod held last September 24 at the University Coliseum.
Among the impacts include the destruction of more than 90 percent of the coral reefs, the intensification of weather disturbances like cyclones and droughts, the decrease in biodiversity, increased risks in health and security, as well and the increase in the number of people towards the poverty threshold.
And all these could happen within the next 10 to 11 years.
Unmitigated increase in temperatures would lead to the destruction of most if not all of the coral reefs, which are natural habitats of fish and other sea creatures. Should there be a two-degree spike, it would mean the end for all coral reefs.
“This might be the last generation to see coral reefs,” she said.
Biodiversity would also be affected, Herrera said, as she pointed out that even sans the breach, the planet is also already losing hundreds of species.
Food security would also be affected with an increase in temperatures, which would also mean smaller net production in corn, rice, wheat, and cereal. Increased risks to health, livelihood, water supply, human security would also occur.
Furthermore, Herrera said, close to 100 million of people will be pushed towards poverty by 2030 since “climate change is a poverty multiplier”, explaining that the constant disturbances in weather patterns – from droughts to typhoons – would make it harder and harder for those affected to recover.
“We cannot go business as usual,” she said, “we are running out of time.”
CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL
Herrera also appealed to the audience to “look at the science” and believe that “climate change is real”.
“If there are any climate change deniers, now is the right time to discuss this,” she said.
The commissioner also said that now is the perfect time to act, as she especially since Filipinos are among the most affected by climate change.
The Philippines is constantly in top rankings of countries that are most susceptible to climate change, according to Global Peace Index of 2019. The GPI measures a country’s relative position to levels of peacefulness with indicators such as terrorism, nuclear capacity, and internal conflicts.
The GPI 2019 included susceptibility to climate change impacts as one of the indicators.
BE LIKE GRETA
Herrera also exhorted the youth to take concrete steps in addressing the issue of climate change, as she applauded the efforts of four million youths around the globe who took to the streets to challenge world leaders to do something about the climate crisis.
She cited, most of all, the case of Greta Thunberg, the eco-activist who in 2018 at the age of 15 stood in front of the Swedish Parliament to call a climate strike in order to get leaders to notice the state of the earth’s climate emergency.
A year later, she said, the lone figure of Thunberg struck the minds of concerned people everywhere, who did their own strikes and are organizing rallies all around the globe.
“When she (addressed the leaders in the United Nations climate summit) ‘How dare you!’, I felt that she was talking to me,” Herrera said, referring to Thunberg’s speech before world leaders, questioning their priorities of profit over the environment.
Herrera points out that everyone – from local government units to private individuals – should do their share in coming up with concrete actions that would help alleviate, or even reverse the impact of global warming.
“We must continue to play active roles in global climate negotiations,” she said, as she urged students to help spread awareness in the fight to save the planet.
She applauded efforts of local and provincial LGUs in standing up for the earth, citing Bacolod’s declaration of climate emergency – a first, she notes – as well as the provincial government’s efforts to say no to coal.
There should be concrete, practical solutions to save the planet and prevent temperatures from further rising.
“We are never too small to make a difference,” she said, adding, “the momentum is already here.”