The Economics of Natural Disaster PART 1

5 Dec

Climate Change is Serious Business

By Mariel Sadang


In the last few years, we have been hearing and reading about climate change, destruction of the ozone layer, global warming, waste segregation, reforestation, from people who are referred to or call themselves as “environmentalists”. Very few listened. It was not part of their daily agenda. It was not urgent, as far as they were concerned.

Yet, in the last two weeks alone, the Philippines has been hit by a storm that brought rainfall that has never been experienced before in Metro Manila. There were two strong earthquakes in Indonesia, a series of tsunamis in Samoa, and landslides in the Swiss Alps. And how could anyone forget that in the not too distant past, a hurricane battered New Orleans in the United States. Neither can the giant tsunami in Indonesia be erased from memory.

These are but a few of nature’s major challenges to mankind. In all instances, not only were lives lost by the hundreds, not only were properties destroyed in the millions of dollars, but everyone who knew was made aware of the power and might of nature and the extent of the devastation that it can inflict upon all of us.

It was timely that the warnings about climate change were again pronounced during the KamalAEAn talk barely three days before the worst typhoon was experienced by the present generation, and possibly the worst in the country’s history.

Tropical storm Ketsana, locally known as Ondoy, came as a shock to everyone, even to those who did not experience its fury. No one was prepared for its ravaging intensity; even the rich and the famous were not spared. It was an indiscriminate and unprecedented destruction. Lives were lost, homes and properties destroyed, and almost everything on its path left in complete ruin.

Now, it seems to me that we should all sit up and take notice of all the talk going around about climate change, global warming and environmental destruction. If we have been complacent or indifferent before, we should now be more attentive, more involved, and pro-active. This is no time to be noncommittal on issues relating to the environment.

Now that these great calamities are upon us, we realize that these have actually been foreseen by environmental experts. The effects of climate change, as KamalAEAn talk guest speakers Dr. Rosa Perez and Mr. Jose Tan stated, include increase in overall temperature, frequency and intensity of extreme climate events such as rainfall and river flow, coastal instability and upland instability. These factors then result in decreasing crop yields (translating to billions worth of losses to agriculture and industry which are sources of livelihood), unclean water resources, an endangered biodiversity and health problems such as widespread diseases.

Flash floods, tsunamis, landslides and even some earthquakes are related to climate change and variability. Climate change is not solely attributed to natural processes; it is triggered more significantly by anthropogenic activities and a much denser population. It is reasonable to believe that calamities are proof of how powerful Nature can retaliate against the people who neglect or abuse it. Everything that we are experiencing now is a consequence of the wrongful acts and practices that we have committed against Nature.

We now face a reality that challenges us to act immediately in order to save future generations from more catastrophes. Mitigation and adaptation policies have already been followed and agreed upon internationally to address the threats of climate change. It is now a matter of how domestic institutions execute and implement these policies. The Philippines, unfortunately, has not yet fully progressed in terms of establishing energy-efficient technologies, infrastructure and market mechanisms that help reduce or capture greenhouse gas emissions and make use of renewable resources. The government must not only focus on economic growth, business or politics, but must zealously work on protecting the environment.

Preventive measures that lessen or decelerate the impact of climate change should not only be undertaken by governing bodies – it has to be a concerted effort of all. Every grand solution starts at the level of the individual, and therefore each one of us should do our part in helping promote a more eco-friendly environment. Changing our practices and adopting a more energy-efficient means of doing things may entail some costs in the short run, but the benefits from these efforts are beyond measure and will be enjoyed by generations to come.

Surely, we can no longer bring back the lives that were lost, but we can save a million lives tomorrow thru acts of restoration, conservation and preservation today.

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