The coming catastrophe

Sat, 07/09/2005 - 00:00
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Parts of Metro Manila and Cebu, Laguna de Bay's lakeshore, and most port cities of the Philippines may soon vanish.

The main culprit? Climate change due to global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of 2,000 scientists which advises the United Nations, said the rising of sea level is one of the most certain outcomes as a result of global warming.

"A continuing rise in average global sea level would inundate parts of The warmest year at the world's surface since records began in the 1860s was 1998, followed by 2002, 2003 and 2004, according to the UN's World Meteorological Organizationmany heavily populated river deltas and the cities on them, making them
uninhabitable, and would destroy many beaches around the world," the UN panel said.

With a coastline of 18,000 kilometers, the Philippines is very vulnerable to sea level rise. Since 1965, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) reported of "an increasing trend in the sea level rise." And this trend has been continuing even today.

A study conducted by the Philippine Country Study to Address Climate Change found that the Manila Bay is already subjected to several hazards, including flooding and storms. "Shoreline changes due to reclamation for housing, ports, coastal roads, buildings and other urbanized development are high, adding to an increased threat of inundation," the study said.

"Not only will great numbers of our people be displaced, entire communities including their source of livelihood, their cultures and traditions will likewise be changed and dislocated forever," deplored Heherson T. Alvarez, the convening chairman of the Asia-Pacific Leader's Conference on Climate Change held in Manila in 1995.

Global warming refers to an increase in average global temperatures, which in turn cause climate change. "To completely understand why global warming happens, it is important to know that our atmosphere, which is made up of gases such as nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide as well as water vapor, has a profound influence on Earth's surface temperature," explains the Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Gases such as carbon dioxide and methane absorb heat, thus reducing the amount that escapes back to space. "As the atmosphere absorbs heat energy," Worldwatch notes, "it warms the oceans and the surface of the Earth. This process is called the greenhouse effect. Without this effect, the Earth's atmosphere would average about 50 degrees Fahrenheit colder, making it impossible to sustain life on Earth. Rising levels of heat absorbing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will increase global temperatures (called global warming)."

The warmest year at the world's surface since records began in the 1860s was 1998, followed by 2002, 2003 and 2004, according to the UN's World Meteorological Organization. World surface temperatures have risen by 0.6 degrees Centigrade since the late 1800s when the Industrial Revolution started in Europe.

"Intensive climate research and monitoring over the past few years has given scientists greater confidence in their understanding of the causes and effects of global warming," said Dr. Klaus Töpfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program.

"There is no longer any doubt that the Earth's climate is changing," said Dennis Tirpak, chair of the climate change conference held in England recently. "Globally, nine of the past 10 years have been the warmest since records began in 1861. Rising greenhouse gases are affecting rainfall patterns and the global water cycle."

Carbon dioxide - released when we burn fossil fuels to produce electricity, use gasoline in our cars, or switch on our natural gas stoves for cooking - has been singled out as the biggest factor in changing the Earth's climatic conditions.

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