PH doing badly vs climate change

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DR. WILLIAM DAR

(First of three parts)
I recently got hold of two reports on the effects of climate change that made me feel a great sense of fear. Great fear, I would even say.

The report entitled “Fragile Planet, Scoring climate risks around the world” from HSBC Global Research and released only last March ranked the Philippines at third among countries “most vulnerable to climate change”
behind India and Pakistan.

The other report, essentially a briefing paper entitled “Global Climate Risk Index 2018, Who Suffers Most from Extreme Weather Events?” by think tank German Watch, placed the Philippines at fifth among countries most affected by climate change from 1997 to 2016. It was released also last March.

If those facts do not make you cry, then I do not know what will. And I am not kidding.


In 2012, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), which I headed from 2000 to 2014, stated in a report that most countries in Temperate Asia and Tropical Asia were “highly vulnerable” to the effects of climate change affecting their food and fiber production, water resources, and coastal ecosystems. Tropical Asia consists of countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.

My column in The Manila Times entitled “Asean, PH ‘highly vulnerable’ to climate change” published on August 18, 2017 discussed much of ICRISAT’s findings and solutions it put in place with its partners in alleviating the effects of climate change in parts of India and Africa.

For this three-part column-series, I will discuss much of what is contained in the two reports, and offer solutions that will make smallholders and stakeholders in the agriculture sector cope with and become resilient to the effects of climate change.

PH sensitive to ‘extreme events’

Based on the report from HSBC, the Philippines was also at No.1 among countries that are sensitive to “extreme events” followed by Thailand and Pakistan.

It said that overall “average annual costs incurred globally, attributable to climate-related weather events, amounted to 0.14 percent of GDP [gross domestic product]during 2007-2016, an increase of 7 percent above the level experienced in the previous decade.”

The report continued that the annual costs of the impact of climate change are highest in Thailand, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Oman, or an average of 1 percent of GDP from 2007 to 2017.

“The increase in costs vs 1997-2006 has also been higher in these countries. In large economies like China, India, and the US, costs range between 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent of total GDP,” it added. This means that countries that have greater wealth, as gleaned also from their GDP, have a better chance of coping with the effects of climate change.

But climate change does not only impact economies – it inflicts a terrible toll on people who are either displaced or killed.

According to the HSBC report, the Philippines along with Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, and Kenya had the highest share of people affected annually by disasters caused by climate change on average from 2007 to 2016.

Unfortunately, the Philippines registered the highest number of people affected by climate change based on the report, or 102 people per 1,000 population. That is 10.2 percent of the country’s total population, which I find staggering.

Thailand’s ratio of people affected by climate change events during the same period was 83 per 1,000 and China 63 per 1,000.

While the HSBC report said the figures may have included “double counting” as a result of the same group of people being affected by two different extreme weather occurrences, it said the ratios still indicate the type of challenges countries like the Philippines, Thailand, and China face when it comes to adapting to climate change impact.

The HSBC report also said the situation is worsening in some countries like the Philippines.

“The trend is worsening in some countries. For example, in the Philippines the average annual number of people affected jumped from 46 during 1997-2006 to 102 during 2007-2016. Additionally, the country also saw the highest absolute increase,” it added.

Now, if that does not make you to want to cry more, I do not know what else will.

If there is any consolation, the number of people per 1,000 affected by climate change jumped by almost 10 fold in wealthy countries like the United States.

“Chart 8 [of the report]captures the higher levels of Asian sensitivity to extreme weather events, with Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Pakistan all stand-out examples in terms of both the number of people affected and the costs. The US also saw a significant jump to 32 people per 1,000 population during the last decade compared to 3.6 in the previous decade, which we believe highlights that climate change affects economies of all size and affluence,” the HSBC report said.

The German Watch report

The German Watch report said that over the 20-year period from 1997 to 2016, the Philippines was ranked at fifth among countries that were most affected by climate change. The other countries in the Top 10 were Honduras, Haiti, Myanmar, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic.

What is astonishing is that while the Philippines was ranked at fifth among the 10 countries, we had the biggest number of climate change-related events during the period at 289. Vietnam was ranked at second with 216 climate change-related events during the period.

If there is any consolation, the Philippines was a distant third behind Thailand in terms of total losses estimated, or almost $2.9 billion over the 20-year period compared to Thailand’s $7.7 billion.

While there is reason to be very worried over the findings of HSBC Research and German Watch on the effects of climate change, we need not end up crying all the time because we have to move forward.

I say this because it is smallholder farmers who are the most affected from the agriculture sector’s reeling from the effects of climate change. And it is them who are the currently among the least resilient when it comes to dealing with extreme weather events.

So how do we help the smallholder farmer cope that will help assure the country has enough food to feed its growing population?

I will discuss the solutions in the next two parts of this column-series.

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