Merry Christmas, Mother Earth!

Many scientific researches indicate that some celestial objects collided with Mother Earth millions of years ago creating incredibly powerful explosions that led to life extinction of the dinosaurs and other pre-historic creatures. Recently there was news on a certain Planet X Nibiru that some predicted to hit the earth last month. While such risk of collision remains Mother Earth presently face a similar threat of catastrophe pose by her own inhabitants: global warming!

Studies on global climatic conditions showed strong relationship between the rise in earth’s temperature and increased emission into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases (GHGs), like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons. The frequent and substantial emissions from these GHCs produce heat beyond the earth’s normal absorption capacity. The excess heat is stored in the atmosphere, terrestrial ecosystems and the oceans, thus creating an imbalance. This results in rising sea levels, stresses in fresh water supplies, threat of species extinction, increasing temperatures, and other detrimental impacts on human and natural systems.

Our planet’s temperature changes due to natural causes such as volcanic eruptions and solar activities. Of note is the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991 when the earth’s temperature went down by half degree Celsius. The Ice Age era lasting 10,000-30,000 years significantly reduced the earth’s temperature and caused the sea level to fall some 120 meters from present level. But even as the polar temperatures rise to 3-5 degrees Celsius in subsequent warming periods the sea levels were still 4-9 meters higher than the current benchmark.

The past 200 years saw the proliferation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the largest in volume among the GHGs. The Industrial Age starting in 1750 increased CO2 emissions by a third to 400 parts per million(ppm) in 2013. Half of this increase occurred during the past 30 years. (Plants live at 150ppm CO2 and doubling that would translate to an increased growth rate of 33% more.) Human population contributed most discharges of the GHGs into the atmosphere as people use fossil fuels in factories and electric power plants, utilize refrigerants for cooling homes and offices and for industrial purposes, cut trees for construction and paper manufacture, and put fertilizers, that emit nitrous oxide, to their crops and other agricultural produce.

Human GHGs discharges are ten times more than those coming from natural sources. In 2010 coal accounted for 41% of the GHG emissions while oil contributed 34%. These amounts are 49% higher than the figures recorded 10 years earlier. Scientists calculates that global temperature will rise by 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade for the next two decades and sea level will register 3.1 millimeters increase annually.

Alarmed by these climatic changes the United Nations in 1998 formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to “review and assess scientific and other information on human contributions on climate change.” In partnership with the World Meteorological Organization and UN Environment Program, IPCC made 5 Assessment Reports that raised concerns over Climate Change. It called on individual governments to reduce GHGs emissions, enact meaningful and strict energy legislation, and encourage citizens to change their mindset and ways towards sustainable living. Climatologist Helen Marcus powerful statement on global warming summarizes the IPCC’s and other concerned parties’ view: “Climate change is real, and we are killing our planet more everyday.”

The IPCC initiatives, contained in the 2007 Kyoto Protocol and 2017 Paris Agreement, supported by other private groups, are slowly gaining positive responses. For example, in Singapore Professor Tommy Koh urges ASEAN banks to “align portfolios fully with the Paris Agreement” and influence business practices in approach to sustainable development where climate risks abound. In Africa a civilian-led organization helps their government in protecting and conserving the elephants and other endangered species in their territory. In the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu hosted in October 2017 the 12th session of Conference of Parties on Convention of Migratory Species and Wild Animals attended by some 1,000 participants from 93 countries. This conference came out with a Philippine-sponsored Manila Declaration to highlight the contributions of migratory wildlife to sustainable development in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism, trade, transport and energy, and how to protect and conserve those creatures. Relatedly a Philippine cause-oriented group is urging the government to stop using coal to generate electricity.

These small steps taken by some countries may serve as reminders to others that our planet needs a concerted effort to reduce GHGs emissions to prevent global warming. As a maritime country the Philippines may focus its attention on how to effectively manage its oceans, forests, and other natural resources along the lines enunciated by IPCC and existing municipal laws. Indeed a daunting task for a developing nation but the only way to help “save” the planet and its living species.

As we wait for commitments and compliances to UN-led initiatives to ameliorate global warming we enjoin the world community to celebrate the Christmas season, and might as well greet our home planet: Merry Christmas, Mother Earth!

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