Climate Change Spells Hunger for Rural, Coastal Communities


MANILA — In the urban areas, climate change tends to be thought about in the abstract. But in the rural and coastal communities, the phenomenon is very tangible.

“Here in the cities, we tend to think of climate change only as a reason for having to postpone our outings, because it rained when we least expected it,” said Frances Quimpo, executive director of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC-Philippines). “But in the countryside, it’s a very real issue.”

For farmers, climate change can mean dire times ahead.

“Seasonal patterns affect farmers’ planting activities,” Quimpo told Bulatlat in an interview. “Since January, rainfall has been continuous. Because crops rarely get exposure to sunlight, they don’t grow well, they don’t bear fruit, because the process of photosynthesis does not take place.”

In the end, Quimpo said, “what all these boil down to is hunger for the farmers.”

The Philippines is part of what is known as tropical Asia. Based on data from the socio-economic think-tank Ibon Foundation, the Asia-Pacific region has experienced in recent decades a general trend toward warming, which is consistent with global temperature patterns. Southeast Asia has warmed by 0.32°C over the past 30 years.

In tropical Asia, which includes Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, there have been sequences of high-rainfall years followed by low-rainfall years. Globally, rainfall is projected to increase by seven percent in the 2050s and 11 percent in the 2080s. Sea level is expected to rise by 3-16 cm by 2030 and 7-50 cm by 2070.

It is not just the farmers, however, who are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Coastal communities have also been severely affected.

“Because of the drastic changes in temperature, the marine biodiversity is destroyed,” Quimpo said. “Coral reefs, which serve as habitats from many fish, are dying. This results in decreasing fish catch.”

According to Ibon Foundation, the Philippine regions most vulnerable to the effects of climate change include Southern Tagalog, the Bicol Region, the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, and the Bicol Region.

Quimpo said CEC’s efforts to address this problem at the community level have consisted of setting up rain gauges. Meanwhile, Quimpo said, in a recent dialogue the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has committed to enhancing its rainfall forecasts.

The biggest challenge in addressing climate change, however, lies in holding developed countries accountable.

“How can they be made to face their responsibility?” Quimpo said. “They are the ones who brought about climate change.”

In a 2007 report, the Nobel Prize-winning Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) traced the global warming observed over the past 50 years to human activities. The emission of greenhouse gases, the IPCC said, increased by 70 percent between 1970 and 2004.

The IPCC further said that carbon dioxide accounts for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly resulting from the burning of coal and crude oil. Ninety percent of carbon dioxide emission is from countries within the Northern Hemisphere. The Group of Eight (G8) countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK, and the US – and several other European Union member-countries are historically responsible for 65 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, with the US accounting for 20 percent of emissions in 2003.

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