Global Warming and East Asia: The Domestic and International Politics of Climate Change

By Paul G. Harris | Go to book overview

11

The Philippines in the climate change arena

Joy V. Galvez


Introduction

As scientists refine our understanding of global warming and climate change, sea levels are on the rise, global temperatures continue to increase, and prolonged drier or wetter spells continue to wreak havoc in many countries. Increasingly, many countries and populations are not able to cope with impacts of a rapidly changing climate. Less developed and developing countries now have to contend with the potential impacts of a warmer climate - in addition to dealing with their domestic economic development, national security threats, and other problems. Among these countries is the Philippines.

The Philippines is a hot spot for natural hazards. Being an archipelago consisting of approximately 7,100 islands and rocks, it is highly vulnerable to projected impacts of climate change. It can be very wet during the wet season and very dry during the dry season. Floods and droughts are common. An average of twenty tropical cyclones pass through the Philippines’s area of responsibility every year, nine of which cross land (Tibig 2001:61). These cylones cause storm surges and river flooding that result in millions of pesos in damage to the country’s agriculture and infrastructure. When the rainy days have gone, dry spells are not too far behind. Reduced water supplies and changes in precipitation mean low agricultural yield that can exacerbate food shortages.

The Philippines is regarded as one of the highest priority countries in the world for conservation concerns. It has enormous biological diversity in both animal and plant species, and an extraordinarily high percentage of uniqueness (or endemicity) among these species. Sudden temperature changes could lead to rapid deterioration, possibly extinction, of plant and animal species. Unfortunately, the Philippines also has a very high rate of deforestation and other forms of habitat destruction, depleting further the natural resource base at an alarming rate. Its forests have been steadily shrinking at an average rate of 2 percent (approximately 550,000 hectares) per year. The country’s remaining forest area is 5.6 million hectares, down from 20 million hectares a century ago (ESSC 1999:18-22). The 32,400-kilometer coastline is home to an estimated three million people who sustain their livelihood from fishing, tourism, and coastal farming. But due to increase in population in the coastal areas and destructive fishing practices, there

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