CURRENT SOCIETAL CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
12 October 2013
The Nobel-prize winner Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the initial part of its 5th Assessment Report last 27 September and the opening part of the Summary for Policy-Makers captured perfectly what is happening in the world right now :
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.
What we will do is look closely at some of the words in this paragraph and relate them to what is currently happening, if they ever do, in the Philippines.
WARMING OF THE CLIMATE SYSTEM IS UNEQUIVOCAL
When the IPCC talks about about the climate system, it refers to the atmosphere, the ocean, the cryosphere (the part of the Earth covered in ice, which includes both the Arctic and the Antarctic, in the North and South Pole) and the land surface. This opening paragraph sums up a clear trend in these various elements of the climate system towards actual warming, or the upward tick of the measurement in the thermometer.
In the publication Climate Change in the Philippines released February 2011 by PAGASA through the MDG Fund project of NEDA, here is the observed trend for this item:
The Philippines, like most parts of the globe, has also exhibited warming temperatures…the graph of mean observed temperatures (from the 1971-2000 mean values) for the period 1951 to 2010 indicate an increase of 0.648C or an average of 0.0108C per year increase.
THE ATMOSPHERE AND THE OCEAN HAVE WARMED
The IPCC’s take on warming in the atmosphere and the ocean is this :
Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850 (see Figure SPM.1). In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years (medium confidence)
Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence). It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0−700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010 (see Figure SPM.3), and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971.
The PAGASA does not have a measurement of the over-all climate system in the Philippines like what the IPCC just did, but its data concerning warming relates to maximum (daytime) and minimum (nighttime) temperatures, which showed also a generally-warming trend:
During the last 60 years, maximum and minimum temperatures are seen to have increased by 0.36C and 1.0C, respectively.
The IPCC has this to say on this:
Over the period 1901-2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19m
The PAGASA report consulted for this posting does not contain any figure for sea-level rise, but Dr. Wendy Clavano of Environmental Science for Social Change, in a report found in http://ecojesuit.com/changing-sea-levels-the-global-context-and-philippine-coastal-vulnerability/2521/, accessed 12 October 2013, has this to say on this item:
Assuming that the rate of change of sea level around the Philippines for the period 1992-2011 does not change, we can expect waters to rise by at least 20cm in the next 40 years.
More or less, the expected rise in Philippine sea-levels in the next forty years, of 20cm, is almost similar to the average global sea-level rise in a century and a decade, from 1901-2010, of 19cm.
Dr. Clavano also said that the highest expected sea-level rise are along the Paciﬁc seaboard from Samar all the way down eastern Mindanao, the Zamboangas, and the island provinces of Romblon and Marinduque in the Sibuyan Sea.
CONCENTRATION OF GREENHOUSE GASES
The IPCC’s take on the greenhouse gases emitted already in the atmosphere :
The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions. The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification.
The Philippines does not have an updated greenhouse gas inventory, having reported on it only once, during the submission of its First National Communication using data from 1994. It is supposed to submit its Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change but it seems work is still on-going to validate data on the report based in the year 2000!
The worrying aspect here is the matter of ocean acidification which results in the lowering of the ph levels of sea-water, affecting the chemistry of the water, which in turn affects the formation of the carbonaceous parts, including shells of many marine organisms and corals. The reduction in hardness of the shells and carbonaceous parts of marine organisms renders them vulnerable to predators ultimately leading to a reduction in the over-all productivity of the oceans. And we are even faced right now with the problem of over-fishing. Ocean acidification is bound to worsen this problem of declining fish catch. We will devote a separate blog post to this topic once definitive studies become available.
Over-all, with this recent IPCC report and their statement that “human influence on the climate ecosystem is clear”, climate change and the human element in it is now more definite. To put it in probabilistic terms, the IPCC says : “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
We better get ready for this change by getting used to its known effects in our daily lives- frequent rains, warm nights, stronger typhoons, erratic weather, etc.