By Alex Villafania
AS the summer sizzles to 35 degrees Celsius, indications point to the heat being caused by massive amounts of manmade carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions that result in ultraviolet rays from the sun being trapped into Earth’s atmosphere, thus causing global climate change.
The climate change has greatly affected the environment, particularly extreme cold and hot temperatures in different parts of the world, more powerful storms, destruction of temperature-sensitive crops and animals, and rise in seawater level due to the melting of the polar ice caps, among others.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration
(PAGASA) noted an increase in worldwide air temperature of 0.74 degrees Celsius from 1906 to 2005. While this is just a small figure, it already has major effects on the weather and seawater rise.
PAGASA Acting Director Martin Rellin Jr. said that the past 11 years were the warmest in over a century and a half, and there have been more intense droughts since 1970. He also said that in the next two decades, warm temperature will have an increase of about 0.2 percent per decade.
“What do we expect? Warmer and more frequent hot days and nights, more frequent rainfall and increase in tropical cyclones. We have pumped enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to warm the planet for many decades to come,” Rellin said.
Scientists under DOST said they are already conducting several studies and mitigation activities to curb the negative effects of global climate change. In a recent press conference, DOST Secretary Estrella Alabastro and several of her agency directors presented several programs related to climate change.
Alabastro said that there have been dozens of activities in the past related to climate change in the Philippines, notably those related to the El Niño phenomenon, one of the effects of global climate change. The Philippines was host to the first International Conference of Tropical Forests and Climate Change in 1998, then of another follow-up conference in 2003.
Just late last year, the Philippines also hosted an extension conference regarding agriculture sustainability and land degradation and deforestation mitigation.
Alabastro also said the DOST has been releasing annual papers on environmental management, all revolving around mitigating the effects of climate change.
Alabastro noted one of their more important projects, which is the establishment of high-tech CO2 monitoring stations in at least three major sites in the Philippines. She noted that these will monitor longterm CO2 emission in forest ecosystems and investigate the biological responses of vegetation.
Plants vs greenhouse effect
Likewise, in his report, Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development
(PCARRD) Executive Director Patricio Faylon said among the programs that they have started before include carbon sequestration through tree farms, which was started in Leyte and was done as a means of absorbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
PCARRD also conducted a study called "Biomass and Carbon Sequestration of Forest Tree Plantation Species" that identifies tree species that store biomass and actual carbon storage.
Faylon noted that a new project that the PCARRD will be pursuing is called "Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Strategies in Natural Resources, Agriculture and Rural Communities," which is expected to provide the basis in formulating strategies and mitigating measures to address impacts of climante change at the community level.
"We’re working with the International Center for Research and Agroforestry, the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau, and the University of the Philippines Los Baños for within the next three years,” Faylon said, adding that they have received a budget of P7.7 million to pursue the study.
Along this line is a new anchor program that helps swine farmers manage cleanliness of their facilities and also double their opportunities by turning swine waste into biogas or fertilizer.
Reduction of pollutants
An ambitious effort to curb the production of greenhouse gases is to reduce the use of fossil fuels in vehicles, which is said to account for about 70 percent of all pollutants that destroy the atmosphere. This means the use of alternative fuel sources that produce less carbon dioxide but are equally effective as fossil fuels in terms of producing power for engines.
Former Congressman Juan Miguel Zubiri started off with the passing into law of the Republic Act 9367 or the Biofuels Act. This led to research and development programs of the Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Development
(PCIERD) to identify alternative fuel sources. One such product that has potential is a local plant called Jatropha curcas, otherwise known as tuba-tuba
, whose seeds produce the oil that can power up engines
PCIERD Deputy Executive Director Raul Sabularse has also signed an agrement with the Mapua Institute of Technology
and several companies from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority
to develop the first commercially viable Philippine-made electric car
"These R & Ds in alternative fuels are now going forward and we expect that we’ll come up with viable products soon," Sabularse said.
Alabastro said that climate change has made significant impact on the country’s environment but none of the end-of-days sort. However, Alabastro asked all levels of the society to do their part in reducing the effects of climate change, most especially by adopting a change in lifestyle.
Alabastro noted that everyone should keep an open mind as to how to deal with climate change.
"There’s a great number of ways to protect the environment and prevent any further effects of climate change. Every little bit helps," she said.