Floods in PH, heat waves in Europe, wildfires in US

Published August 6, 2018, 12:05 AM

by AJ Siytangco

One after the other, tropical storms Gardo, Henry, Inday, and Josie swept in from the Pacific these last few weeks, intensifying the “habagat” monsoon winds that dumped rains on many parts of the Philippines. We were fortunate that the storms never actually hit land, so the damage they caused was mostly due to the floods they caused.


In contrast to our floods, there have been wild fires all this time in the United States. And now heat waves are sweeping through Europe, with fish dying in Germany’s Rhine and Elbe rivers, Poland banning swimming along its Baltic Sea coast due to the sudden growth of toxic bacteria, nearly a hundred people dying in a wildfire in Greece, temperatures hitting 45 degrees Celsius in Spain and Portugal. Dozens of deaths have also been reported in Japan and Canada.

A study published in the online journal PLOS Medicine said the death toll from heat waves could rise by as much as 2,000 percent in some parts of the world, with areas near the equator expected to suffer the highest mortality rates. Colombia in South America could suffer 2,000 percent more deaths from extreme heat in the period from 2031 to 2080, compared with 1971-2010. It said the Philippines and Brazil are expected to have great increases in premature deaths.

It was in December, 2015, that the nations of the world met in Paris, France, where they discussed the growing threat posed by climate change. Industrial emissions, it was pointed out, were raising worldwide temperatures which, in turn, were melting glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, causing ocean levels to rise. The heat was also somehow intensifying the typhoons and hurricanes developing over the world’s oceans.

That United Nations’ Climate Change Confer­ence reached an agreement that was signed by 130 nations, including the Philippines, with each country submitting its proposed contributions towards the goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. Part of the Philippines’ proposed contribu­tions to the goal was a pledge to step up its use of renewable energy, such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal, as it gradually phases out its use of coal and other fossil fuels to produce power.

It is difficult to determine how much of the nations’ proposed contributions to the Paris Conference goal have been achieved in the years since that historic agreement was signed. But the world climate problem is evidently worsening as seen in the heat wave now ravaging Europe and the wildfires in the US and Greece.

We must stay on with the program we sub­mitted to the Paris conference, particularly our development of renewable energy. Meanwhile, we will have to live with the endless days of rains that have already closed our schools for weeks. And we must prepare for the typhoons that will inevitably hit our islands in the coming months.