A multi-year comprehensive study to assess the potential impacts of different climate change scenarios including rise in sea levels among associated hazards in key cities across the Philippines is now in the works.
According to Dr. Rodel Lasco, Executive Director of the Oscar M. Lopez Center, the study will look at key hotspots as case studies in selected cities of the Philippines, and will include coastal mapping and decision-making tools.
The first of a two-part virtual fora last Aug. 5, which gathered members of the academe and research institutions in the Philippines and abroad, government agencies, policymakers, and organizations leading community-based initiatives, was among activities for the multi-year comprehensive study, Lasco said.
The forum “Taking stock: Why should we be concerned about the climate and sea level changes?,” was organized by the Climate Change Commission (CCC) and its National Panel of Technical Experts (NPTE), in partnership with the Oscar M. Lopez Center, to mobilize community-based climate action and mainstream climate change knowledge into development policies and practices.
Facilitated by Dr. Carlos Primo David, chair of the NPTE, the forum aimed to share good practices, innovative technologies, and latest policy reforms on sea level rise.
The event included presentations by Dr. Benjamin Horton, Director of Earth Observatory of Singapore on “Mechanisms of Sea Level Changes: Global/Regional/National Perspective."
Horton introduced the South East Asia SEA Level Program (SEA2), an initiative of the Earth Observatory of Singapore, which aims to understand and integrate the internal and external mechanisms that have determined sea level changes in the past, and which will shape such changes in the future.
The research program impacts upon the ecological, ethical, social, economic, and political challenges specifically facing coastal regions.
"This is a holistic program. We aim to understand what is happening on the solid earth, what this has to do with groundwater withdrawal, with tectonics. We want to understand an array of local, global, and regional processes in sea level. These will combine together with future projections of daily sea level and extreme events. It’s a holistic program where we look at the impacts of coastal adaptation measures," Horton said.
"The Earth Observatory of Singapore wants to work with our partners in South East Asia to provide projections of sea level at the local scale, at decadal time scales, to make countries of Southeast Asia a safer and more sustainable place," he added.
Dr. Laura David, Director of the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) also explained about the "Current And Future Risks And Impacts of Sea Level Changes."
She presented data on Climate Exposure Clusters and Coastal Marine Habitat Distribution, which shows that the entire Philippines will actually experience significant amounts of sea level rise, accounting for about twice to even three times that of the global average.
She also discussed the declining mangrove forests of the Pacific Islands and resulting – increased exposure to storm surges, increased coastal sedimentation, decrease in biodiversity and biomass, and release of sequestered carbon.
She also discussed the effects of sea level rise on the fisheries sector.
"There are about 1.6 million fishers in the Philippines. Twenty-seven percent of them belong to the municipal fishery, or associated directly with the habitats of coral, mangrove, and seagrass. So if these (marine resources) start dying off, we’re talking about loss, not only of food availability for the entire Philippines, but of labor, of loss of livelihood for our fishers," David said.
Dr. Fernando Siringan, Professor of UP-MSI likewise discussed "Sea Level Rise from the Perspective of Marine Geophysics/Geology."
He emphasized the connection to sea level rise of groundwater withdrawal, and of aquaculture as an economic activity that provides benefits to the people but is also a threat and a factor.
"It is essential that we know the direction, style, and rate of vertical motions of our coasts. We should minimize the local human-induced causes of sea level rise. There is a need to shift the focus of development to higher grounds accompanied by continuing efforts to protect our coastlines," Siringan said.
CCC Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman emphasized the importance of convergence of different sectors in advancing climate research to help the communities survive and thrive.
"This forum is one important step toward a broader cooperation across sectors on dealing with the increasing threat of rising sea levels to our communities. Rest assured that the Climate Change Commission shall continue to advance research on the slow onset impacts of climate change in the country. We shall also hold more online learning exchanges such as this — experts’ forums that inform and explain climate science to the public," he said.