On erratic and extreme weather events

From The Economist:

Melting sea ice will not affect global sea levels, because floating ice displaces its own mass in seawater. But melting glaciers will, and the Arctic’s are shedding ice at a great rate. Greenland’s ice cap is losing an estimated 200 gigatonnes of ice a year, enough to supply a billion people with water. The Arctic’s smaller ice caps and glaciers together are losing a similar amount. Before this became clear, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had predicted a sea-level rise of up to 59cm during this century. Given what is happening up north, many now think this too modest.

Environmental science would say what’s happening at the North Pole, the melting of glaciers, is felt by all corners of the earth as erratic and extreme weather events via the principle of interconnectedness (biogeochemical cycles). It’s just unfortunate that these events make it even more difficult for developing countries like the Philippines to achieve developed status. When Northern countries were industrializing they didn’t contend with these weather and climate challenges and so got to their present economic statuses on calmer waters. This is what climate justice is pointing toward which no Northern countries are really taking seriously. The results of COP and Rio+20 attest to this.

In a changing environment, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction are two strategies available to countries. In the Philippines, the policies are in place but like most it struggles with translation of policies into practice. Despite the policy shift to disaster risk reduction, mindsets are still stuck with the disaster control framework of PD 1566. If there are mitigating measures in place, it’s largely project- or pilot-based that are not brought up to scale.

Sometime in 2010, I did an evaluation of a DRR program and one of the more striking findings is that almost all of the 300 plus survey respondents who had in aggregate 70 years of disaster experience said the difference between then and now is that families now had relief goods. That’s how fast it takes for us to adapt. What’s keeping us from the vision? Perhaps as Al Gore puts it, “the problem is not so much one of policy failures (since this country isn’t lacking of them): much more worrisome are the failures of candor, evasions of responsibility, and timidity of vision that characterize too many of us in government.”


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