AS IF IT ISN’T THERE
Many things about our world have changed dramatically since our grandparent’s youth. From them we read stories and many accounts of how the land and streams then were different when they were growing up. But in just two gener ations, rapid and extensive clear-cutting of forests, industrial pollution and strip-mining have taken away the natural beauty of the mountains, forests and streams they used to know. In many countries around the world today, we cannot fish in many of their favourite streams and creeks because these have been ruined by silt from erosions of denuded mountains, pesticides or mining runoff. Even in the few remaining natural places, there is almost always litter or graffiti nearby. Who would do something like this and why? It’s as if they look right through it as if it isn’t there.
We are destroying the earth at the rate we are polluting it due to which we, ourselves are suffering. It is a scary thing to think about but it is real. Most of us are in denial or just don’t care or think that it is important enough to do some thing about it but if you really look around you will see just how dangerous it is becoming and, as a species, it is killing us softly but surely.
CLOSER TO HOME
Climate disasters are on the rise. These involve long-term significant change in the expected patterns of average weather of a specific region (or, more relevant ly to contemporary socio-political concerns, of the Earth as a whole) over an appropriately significant period of time.
They are life-changing events that reflect abnormal variations to the expected climate within the Earth’s atmosphere and subsequent effects on other parts of the Earth. Around 70-percent of disasters are now climate related – up from around 50-percent from just two decades ago. These disasters – which are be coming more frequent, are taking a heavier human toll and consequently, come with a higher price tag.
In the last decade, 2.4-billion people were affected by climate-related disasters, compared to 1.7-billion in the previous decade – nearly a 30-percent increase. Worse still, the cost of responding to disasters has also risen 10-fold between 1992 and 2008. Destructive sudden heavy rains, intense tropical storms, repeated flooding and droughts are likely to increase, as will the vulnerability of local communities in the absence of strong concerted action.
A foretaste of this scenario has already happened. The rainfall brought by ‘Ty phoon Ondoy’ (internationally tagged as Tropical Storm ‘Ketsana’) to Metro Mani la Philippines and nearby areas in a span of 6 hours on a Saturday last 26th Sept ember 2009 was the most devastating in recorded human history.
Comparatively, ‘Hurricane Katrina’ – which poured over an inch of rainfall in the State of Louisiana USA for 3-hours and another 0.5-inches per hour over the next 5-hours on 29 August 29, 2005 paled in comparison even as it got more mileage from world media then.
Typhoon Ketsana/Ondoy’s devastation in the Philippines dumped an average of 2.24-inches per hour for six excruciating hours – equivalent to a rise in water of 900 ft. at sea level. Its ominous visit to the Philippines was measured as being the equivalent 6 typhoons strung over a 3-week period compressed into just 6 hours of mayhem!
IT’S ALL JUST BEGINNING
Sea level rise may also completely inundate coastal areas in all continents inhabited by humans. But even before that kind of catastrophe arrives on our world with increasing likelihood, something similar like it is already happening in reverse on the land itself in the Philippines. Data from the Philippine National Mapping and Resource Information Authority confirms that some areas in Metro Manila have already sunk by as much as 1.3 meters from 1979 to 2009 as a result of flooding.
To make matters worse, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomi cal Services Administration predicts that the rate of annual precipitation or the amount of rainfall per year will increase by as much as 17-percent in 2020 and another 16-percent in 2050. More sinking of ground is therefore expected leaving a metropolis of over 12-million people highly vulnerable when the seas start to rise.
The Philippines’ own Climate Change Commission, in its 2010 year-end report also warned that: “An archipelagic nation of over 90-million people, the Philippines now faces threats from destructive typhoons, drastic changes in rainfall, sea level rise, and increasing temperatures.” The country, it warns, is “ranked highest in the world in terms of vulnerability to tropical cyclone occurrence, and third in terms of people exposed to such seasonal events.” Southeast Asia will also see its megacities face harsher storms and floods with disastrous effects … if current climate-change trends continue.
Let’s fast forward ourselves to September 2011. The rampage of Typhoon Pedring which is just now exiting the Philippines has killed people, inundated homes affecting close to 11 thousand families, and inflicted damage in the amount of over Php.3-billion. Flooding in Central Luzon areas affected by it may take three more days before subsiding. And if that’s not enough, another tropical cyclone ‘Typhoon Quiel’ is fast approaching on its heels. Rainfall is projected to be 15-millimeters to 25-millimeters per hour within the storm’s 400-kilometer diameter.
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There is nothing unexpected in this dismal view; it is none other than the extra polation of the present into the near future. It is but an expression of stark reality and the handwriting is already on the wall. Can something be done to avoid this catastrophic fate?
Of all the living things that have inhabited this remarkable planet humans – thanks to their superior brains, have managed to struggle and emerge under almost any condition. For most part, this explains the unique success of our species thus far. Unlike other living organisms which exist in this world, we have the unique ability to change things beneficially or malevolently.
It’s a simple matter of choice. Now that our species is aware of the menaces of the future, it can make a choice to do unimaginable things today that ensures its continued survival well into a future even as the prospects today look desper ately bleak.