On climate change, are you for or against us?

Published August 23, 2021, 10:00 AM

by Loren Legarda

It might be too late to save our planet and ourselves, unless we move right now

MANILA DUST, MANILA DUSK In a study in 2019, the Philippines ranks third in air pollution deaths. In photo is the skyline of Manila

[Editor’s note: This is drawn word for word from the deputy speaker’s statement on the IPCC Working Group I’s assessment report ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis’ that we are warming the planet more rapidly than the direst of predictions.]

In the grim novels kids these days like to read, they would often refer to a time during which humanity had a chance to turn things around. A chance to prevent the catastrophe. The threat in these books are no longer nuclear war or some technology that would obliterate half the population.

It is climate change. And we have come to a point at which we have to say this — you are either for us or against us. 

Every warm body not doing his or her share, every politician still voting to keep fossil fuels normal, every corporation not making a beeline for sustainability. These will all have to be things of the past, if we are to see the planet reach a 1.5°C limit in the next decades.

The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report that really does not tell us what we don’t already know, only worse. We have to drastically scale up mitigation efforts to keep the global average temperature below 1.5°C to prevent or reduce chains of terrible consequences to all of us.

Working Group I’s contribution to this Sixth Assessment Report entitled “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis,” says in no uncertain terms that we have in fact warmed the planet and the changes we are seeing are more rapid than even the most dire predictions. 

Humanity has caused irreversible changes and consequences not seen in thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years. And it is saying we will, we will reach 1.5°C in the next two decades and that keeping it within that range will not happen if we, the whole planet, does not reduce emissions of global greenhouse gases big, fast, and not a day later than today.

We need nothing short of immediate, rapid, and massive reductions if we are to see a planet that we will still recognize. 

Liwanagin natin ng mabuti.

Lalo pang titindi ang init at hindi lang basta uri ng init na kaya ng ating katawan.

Hahaba pa ang tag-init at asahang magiging madalas ang mga araw na ganito.

Ang epekto ng ganitong mga pagbabago sa kalusugan ng tao at sa agrikultura ay hindi pa natin matiyak pero ito lamang ang alam natin sa ngayon — hindi kaya ng kasalukuyang mga sistema ng agrikultura at kalusugan ang mga pagbabagong ito.

Noon pa man ay atin ng pinag-uusapan na magkakaroon ng mga tag-tuyot at delubyo.

Magkakaroon din ng mga pagbabago sa pag-inog ng amihan at habagat.

Dadalang at uunti ang ulan, tataas ang karagatan, at sasakupin nito ang kalupaan. Ang mga sakuna na dati ay nangyayari kada 100 na taon ay maaring dumating na ng mas madalas hanggang umabot ng taon-taon.

Matutunaw ang yelo at mas lalong dadami ang posbibleng mga tagapagdala ng sakit gaya ng lamok na nagdadala ng malaria.

Hindi na natin maikakailang mangyayari ang mga ito. At sa kasalukuyang kalagayan ng mundo, hindi na rin nalalayo ang panahong mararanasan na natin ang mga ito.

Every warm body not doing his or her share, every politician still voting to keep fossil fuels normal, every corporation not making a beeline for sustainability. These will all have to be things of the past.

Maraming maaring simulan ang mga magsasaka at mangingisda ngayon upang tiyakin ang kanilang seguridad sa mga darating na sakuna. Sa katunayan, mas may pagkakataon pa nga silang lampasan ito kaysa sa mga nakatira sa lungsod. Magtanim ng mga puno lalo na ang mga punong namumunga, payabungin ang agrikultura, at magpunla ng iba’t ibang uri ng tanim, at higit sa lahat ay protektahan ang mga natitirang kagubatan. Ilan lamang ito sa maaaring gawin upang mapataas ang antas ng agrikultura, mapanatili ang suplay ng tubig, at mapanatiling malamig ang kapaligiran.  

I turned 60, months before the global pandemic was declared. I aim to be actively serving the Filipino people for a few decades more and I want to be able to face those decades knowing that I was instrumental in making the Philippines and the world face this crisis and take the right path.

I have been advocating for mitigation and adaptation for many years and I have been successful to a certain extent. However, my advocacy will remain in the fringes if the drivers of the economy and the financial institutions do not see this way forward.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will be in Glasgow, United Kingdom where world leaders will convene to decide the fate of the planet. Last year, the IPCC reported that we had a decade left to turn things around. This year, countries will be making promises how much they can do. We will be discussing how countries are faring in updating their targets and Nationally Determined Contributions.

But if we rely only on commitments under the Paris Agreement, we will not be able to limit the warming to 1.5°C.  We must do more.  

Our government has committed to no longer allow new coal-fired power plants. I have authored laws requiring that our energy mix favors renewable energy. Our NDC requires the condition that we supported in our task of reaching our targets. I am busy all the time because the message has to get out there and it has to penetrate the halls of power heavily and with great impact.

We are expecting more Working Group reports that would likely only convince us that we who fight for climate are on the right track.  Humanity will ignore us at the peril of humanity.

I repeat, at this point, you are either for us or against us.

Loren Legarda, a three-time senator, is representative of Antique and house deputy speaker in the Congress.

 
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