Disasters and pollution

By Antonio S. Lopez

The Philippines is not ready for disasters.  Nor for the severe impending global warming changes.  So the effect is one disaster after disaster in the coming years.

​One of the deadliest typhoons is Paeng which visited the Philippines for four days, from Oct. 30, 2022 to Nov. 2, 2022.  Its speed was only 160 kms per hour but it was more than 900 kms wide, from Mindanao to northern Luzon.  It killed 158, injured 142, affected 4.661 million people in 817 cities and towns, 74 provinces, and 17 regions.  In other words, the entire country.  

Paeng damaged 53,000 houses, 92.25 million hectares of crops, and P3 billion worth of agriculture.  Power was lost in 523 cities and towns; water service was gone in 27 cities and towns.   The typhoon shut down 9 airports (including the MIA) and 121 seaports.   President Marcos Jr. was on top of the situation – virtually.  He presided over a disaster emergency meeting with his cabinet and key officials—in absentia.   Was he in Japan?  Nobody knew.

Paeng is only an augury of the worst things to come.  The Philippines will endure a never ending series of disasters.  But to me, the biggest disasters are our politicians.  The Philippine alphabet has 31 letters after whom local typhoons could be named.  As for our bad politicians?  Well, the words in the dictionary may not be enough for the nomenclature of disaster politicians.

The Philippines is not at all a polluter

It seems ironic that the Philippines should suffer so much from disasters and bad weather which experts routinely blame on the global warming effect.  The Philippines is not at all a polluter.  

Global warming is the earth’s temperature rising—ideally­—by not more than 1.5 degrees Celsius since the 17th century.  The 1.5 is ideal but it looks like we will hit more than 2 degrees Celsius or 2.8C (a total disaster) —thanks to unabated pollution and emissions of carbon dioxide.

China No. 1 polluter

By today, the world has produced 34.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions.   Of that, 10.66 billion has been produced by China, the world’s No. 1 polluter (it feels the least guilty for the honor).  China’s share of total pollution is 30.63%.

No. 2 is the United States with 4.7 billion tons or 13.54%. No. 3 is India with 2.44 billion tons or 7%.

Fourth is Russia, 1.58 billion or 4.5%.  After them is Africa 1.3 billion or 3.7%; Japan with 1.03 billion tons or 2.9%.

Vietnam and Thailand each contribute 0.7%. 

PH contribution

The Philippine contribution? Just 0.39%.  To reach the emerging industrialized country status of Vietnam and Thailand, the Philippines must burn 1.8 times fossil fuels as much as Vietnam and Thailand.  To reach the level of wealth of Japan’s wealth, Filipinos must create  7.5 times the Japanese’s current emissions.  We should pollute the environment some more.  Otherwise, Filipinos will remain poor forever.

At this writing in Egypt, world leaders and environmentalists are gathered for what is called the COP27—the 27th Conference of Parties or nations who are signatories to the UN framework convention on climate change.

The UNFCCC entered into force on  March 21, 1994. Today, it has near-universal membership. The 198 countries that ratified the Convention are called Parties to the Convention. Preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system is the ultimate aim of the UNFCCC.

The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system.” It states that “such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”​

Highway to climate hell

At the land of the pyramids, the United Nations chief Antonio Guterres opened the Nov. 7 Monday’s COP27 session warning that the world was “on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”  The world faces three major threats –the Russia-Ukraine war, global warming, and a global economic crisis.

The Ukraine war has brought about a severe energy shortage and an unusual spike in energy prices.  Coal, for instance, has risen per ton from $50 to as high as $470.  Coal provides 60% of Philippine energy supplies.  It also remains the cheapest source of energy, although it is possibly the dirtiest fuel. 

“We are in the fight of our lives, and we are losing,” Guterres said in his opening remarks.

Putin’s abhorrent war

Newly minted British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, told participants in Egypt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should prompt countries to invest more heavily in renewable energy. “Putin’s abhorrent war in Ukraine, and rising energy prices across the world, are not a reason to go slow on climate change.   They are a reason to act faster,” said the former banker turned politician.

​The world is not doing enough to mitigate global warming.

Paris agreement

The World Meteorological Organization has noted the warming of the planet is at its hottest in eight years, including every year since 2015 when countries signed the landmark Paris agreement aimed to cut global emissions dramatically.

Reported the New York Times: “The biggest fault line of this year’s talks is the question of what rich, industrialized countries that account for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions owe to those bearing the brunt of climate hazards.

On that,  there was a small breakthrough on Sunday (Nov. 6) — progress on the contentious issue of who will pay for the irreversible damage that climate change is wreaking on the world’s most vulnerable.”

On Monday, Nov. 7, environmental groups called for a “fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty” that would ultimately put an end to all new oil, gas, and coal projects.

NYT noted that the talks came at the end of a year that saw extraordinary heat waves across the northern hemisphere, catastrophic flooding in Pakistan and Nigeria, and a punishing drought in China.

Per the United Nations, 110 heads of state and government were addressing the COP27 conference, a larger number than at many previous climate conferences. Of those, just seven are women.

Originally, President Marcos Jr. had wanted to attend the conference.  The invitation was extended in June by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and by the UN secretary-general.