Scientists urge greater support to poor sectors as UN warns of unprecedented global warming

Philippine scientists warn of greater natural disasters in the country as the United Nations (UN) reported unprecedented changes in the Earth’s climate due to global warming.

The Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) said poor Filipinos are in fact already suffering the most from the impact of global warming as the world dangerously approaches the Earth’s warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades.

In a reaction to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report by the UN, AGHAM said the Philippines is vulnerable to the effects of global warming that would mostly impact the poor.

“This IPCC report only echoes the problems a country like the Philippines is experiencing through stronger and more frequent typhoons, El Niños and La Niñas, worsening water and air quality, food insecurity, and more,” AGHAM chairperson Chuckie Calsado said.

Global scientists provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades, and finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach, the IPPC said in its August 9 report.

“Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years,” the IPPC ‘s Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, said.

It was approved by IPPC’s 195 member governments of the IPCC including the Philippines.

The report shows that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900, and finds that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming.

The assessment is based on improved observational datasets to assess historical warming, as well progress in scientific understanding of the response of the climate system to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

The report projects that in the coming decades climate changes will increase in all regions. For 1.5°C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health, the report shows.

Not just temperature

Climate change is not just about temperature, however, the IPPC said. Climate change is bringing multiple different changes in different regions – which will all increase with further warming.

These include changes to wetness and dryness, to winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans that are likely to:

  • Intensify the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.
  • Affect rainfall patterns. In high latitudes, precipitation is likely to increase, while it is projected to decrease over large parts of the subtropics. Changes to monsoon precipitation are expected, which will vary by region.
  • Induce sea level rise. Coastal areas will see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.
  • Amplify permafrost thawing, and the loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and loss of summer Arctic sea ice.
  • Induce changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels have been clearly linked to human influence. These changes affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them, and they will continue throughout at least the rest of this century.
  • Amplify aspect in cities, including heat (since urban areas are usually warmer than their surroundings), flooding from heavy precipitation events and sea level rise in coastal cities.

In its 2021 Global Climate Risk Index, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said developing countries are particularly affected by the impacts of climate change.

“They are hit hardest because they are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of a hazard but have lower coping capacity,” it said.

UN OCHA listed the Philippines as among three countries recurrently affected by catastrophes, continuously ranking with Haiti and Pakistan as among those most affected countries in the long-term index and in the index for the respective year (2019).

AGHAM said greater focus must be directed on how global warming impacts the lives lived by those directly affected by the worsening impacts of man-induced climate change.

“People living in areas that will be and are greatly affected by climate change are already living the impacts of climate change these past years,” Calsado said.

“The different data, the modeling, and different scientific analyses have forewarned us of these worsening scenarios but while the world debate on the recommendations of these studies the most vulnerable are already suffering the most,” he explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)