As the report is quite technical and complex in nature, one could explain it like this: picture yourself back in May or June 2021, standing outside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) between 12 noon and three in the afternoon. Remember the temperature and heat index readings of the day — it peaked at more than 40 degrees Celsius — making things unbearable for you to even stand outside. You’re forced to go to your car or go inside a building with an air-conditioning system to escape from the heat, but even the AC may not be able to keep up with the heat outside.
If we do not act decisively to reduce our carbon footprint so that global temperatures would not go beyond the average of 1.5 degrees Celsius, the situation would be worse. That 40-degree weather may reach more than 45 degrees by 2100, and your AC unit would not be enough to cool you down.
The first and the most important thing to note is that the science is getting even clearer that human-driven activities are driving the sharp increase of carbon emissions, at a rate where global temperatures have reached a global average of 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels that is identified as the period between 1850 and 1900.
The report also adds that the increase of levels in the atmosphere of not just carbon dioxide (CO2), considered as the primary gas responsible for global warming and climate change, but also in methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) that are identified to have the potential to cause global warming in more times than just CO2. Ironically, PFCs and HFCs are used in cooling systems and mean that increasing the use of AC systems in places such as ours, the more emissions would be emitted to the atmosphere.
With the increase of carbon, the increase of evaporation of water would mean that less fresh water would be seen in the Earth’s surface with increased time and that increases in temperatures on the surface also increases the temperatures of our oceans. The impact of the former would lead to more days of intense heat and drought, while the impact of the latter would mean less oxygen stored on our oceans, and would increase ocean acidity.
Where does this lead to for us?
On land, having longer days with higher temperature and humidity year-on-year would mean that there is a longer number of days during the dry season, leading to less water for our plant and animal life due to drought. The impact would be felt in the agricultural sector most of all, as crop failures would be more likely as each year comes assuming a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario. The health and financial security of our farmers will be in danger, and our global value chain for our food would be in peril.
Even more glaring is that because of the increase in humidity, events like stronger storms during the habagat or southwest monsoon and the typhoons of previous years such as Yolanda, Rolly, and Ulysses would be stronger and would cause massive damage anywhere in their path.
At sea, increases in ocean acidity would mean that our coral reefs would be bleached, which would destroy the homes of aquatic creatures and eventually lead to fewer fish catch by our fishermen.
Our homes, schools, and workplaces would be so hot that the risks of high temperatures such as heat stroke and cardiovascular diseases would be even more present for everyone regardless of age, gender, or cultural background. In addition, diseases that may be deadlier than COVID-19 could surface and linger more in society, which would lead to more outbreaks and lockdowns like the one we are experiencing right now.
Climate-related impacts translate to higher costs to mitigate the effects. It would be a steeper price for developing countries to act upon. However, despite the criticism that the countries that are considered developed or close to being developed should take the lead, climate knows no boundaries, is non-partisan, and is not selective.
With this in mind, we all must act to ensure that earth, our home, would be the best place to live in for not just us, but our children, and their children as well. For this to happen, the IPCC report states that we should do more to limit our average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius or below.
Countries such as the Philippines committed to the 1.5-degree Celsius limit through its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to the Paris Agreement this year, and to this, we should begin our conversation.
It starts with simple practices such as accounting and monitoring on where one is wasteful, from electricity use to deliveries, and to how you go from one place to another. It begins with practices of learning and applying what you need to do to contribute to reduce or even reverse your contribution to the global climate impact. It gets developed by talking to your neighbors, community leaders, academics, government leaders, indigenous peoples, seniors, women, the youth, and other stakeholders that could lead to solutions unique to your own location.
Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius, considered to be the first to link carbon from human activity to the increase in global temperatures, wrote in a scientific paper in 1925 that, “Humanity stands… before a great problem of finding new raw materials and new sources of energy that shall never become exhausted. In the meantime, we must not waste what we have, but must leave as much as possible for coming generations.”
It calls for us to innovate for a low-carbon and just transition so as to have a greener, healthier future. We need to do it as early as now.
This article was originally published on The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ weekly column for the Manila Bulletin called Eleventh Hour.
This column serves a digital space to discuss our organization’s work on supporting the country’s just transition into a clean, affordable, and self-sufficient energy system; advancing sustainable urban mobility to highlight the issues of equity and democracy; and raising public awareness about the need to phase out single-use plastics. It also serves as a platform for Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders to share your stories, promote your climate initiatives, and provide critical insights to issues that matter to climate action, environmental protection, and sustainable development.
About the Author
Jonas Marie Dumdum is a Sustainability Science and Policy Advocate. As a Climate Reality Leader, he volunteers as coordinator for the Energy SubCluster of The Climate Reality Project Philippines. He also hosts SUSTAINARUMBLE! Podcast, the first podcast that explores critical issues on sustainable development in the Philippines.