NO country on earth has more to fear from climate change than the Philippines—a nation of 7,100 islands and some 98 million souls. The climate has always wrought havoc here and—as shown by Typhoon Yolanda—it’s getting worse. Storms coming to our islands have the entire Pacific Ocean to draw strength from. Sitting astride shifting tectonic plates, we have experienced 13 magnitude 6.0 or stronger earthquakes since 2001—the latest of which was a magnitude 7.2 quake that hit Bohol and killed 222 people.
Since 2002, we have recorded 184 natural disasters. Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) was the 30th named storm of the 2013 Pacific season and the second Category 5 (with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour) to hit the Philippines in the last 11 months. Yolanda—which killed over 5,000 people in the Visayas—is the most powerful storm in history to hit land.
New scientific evidence simply tells that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.
But who cares about climate change?
Days after Typhoon Yolanda hit the country Naderev Saño—Philippine Climate Change Commissioner—was delivering an impassioned plea during the 19th Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland.
That it is the 19th convention of its kind and that it is still in its “framework” stage, means that Saño’s decision to go on a hunger strike—“until some concrete agreement on climate change is reached in Poland”—was a very bad idea.
Rich countries simply won’t pay up even if they are the biggest culprits in the destruction of the environment and largest contributors to climate change. For now, writing checks and making donations whenever a natural disaster strikes will have to suffice.
But without serious, sustained attention and the kind of sacrifices in lifestyle that few nations seem prepared to make, every coast will feel what our Visayan coasts felt.
Perhaps not as violently, but every bit as surely if nothing is done about climate change.