WE are standing at the climate crossroads. The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands rich with natural resources and diverse flora and fauna, is undeniably one of the most climate vulnerable.
We are urged to embrace adaptation to ensure our safety and the resilience of our communities. Adaptation is viewed as a matter of survival. It is an urgent call to action. There is also a need to undertake science-based and risk-informed actions to reduce disaster risks and address the growing impacts of climate change.
There must be an effective scheme that requires action on a number of fronts: good governance and institution building, social protection and anti-poverty efforts, investments in augmented capacity and resilient infrastructure, and sustainable resource management.
Our government and other stakeholders must adopt the Asia-Pacific Action Plan 2021-2024 for the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. This includes focused studies on disaster risk communication to help residents interpret warnings and aid in steering communication strategies.
Flood control is regarded as a development issue in addition to being a humanitarian concern, with a recommendation that priority be given to cost-effective measures in poor regions at high risk of recurrent flooding, together with malnutrition prevention programs.
There are also numerous proven life-saving measures for storm impacts such as cyclone shelters, wind-resistant buildings and preservation of protective ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, which also serve as carbon sinks and coral reefs. Effective deployment of early warning systems supported by increasingly accurate weather forecasts have the potential to protect vulnerable populations and save thousands of lives.
Standardized methodologies are needed to collect comprehensive national data on deaths from all-natural hazards. Better data collection will improve appreciation and understanding of disaster impacts and improve analyses.
More in-depth data, such as disaster damage to buildings, disaggregated demographic and gender data, and impacts on local economies, will help decision-makers prioritize and target new measures. This underlines the importance of a national disaster loss database, which is vital to the development of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies aligned with the Sendai Framework.
Moreover, it is equally essential that we recognize the value of science and academic work in understanding climate and disaster risks that should inform policies and guide our actions. It is important to translate knowledge into action by bringing more “understandable” science and research to the grassroots level.
If our local planning is based on science and resilience, disaster risk reduction, and climate adaptation and mitigation, and if all our scientists share, operationalize and explain the importance of research up to the community level, we can then have more enlightened local governments and more effective local governance.
The measure of resilience is not the number of policies, size of the budget or the extent of assistance to communities but how effective these mechanisms are in saving lives, livelihoods and resources from climate impacts.
Come to think of it, it is about science-based governance if we want to deliver this planet from the scourge of poverty, further loss of species and biodiversity, the explosion of urban risk and the worst consequences of global warming.
A research paper published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) last Monday revealed that there was ample evidence that climate change could become catastrophic. The research states that “we could enter such ‘endgames’ at even modest levels of warming. Understanding extreme risks is important for robust decision-making, from preparation to consideration of emergency responses.” This requires exploring not just higher temperature scenarios but also the potential for climate change impacts to contribute to systemic risk and other cascades.
Climate action cannot be solely the government’s responsibility. Each of us has a role to play. The end of this decade is the deadline of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 2030 is the year our scientists have declared as the closing of the window of opportunity to deflect the catastrophic effects of climate change. This decade is our last chance.
While we are improving in other SDGs, we are still far from reaching our goal. To be resilient, we must attain the SDGs because sustainability and resilience are closely interlinked.
The author is the executive director of the Young Environmental Forum and a nonresident fellow of the Stratbase ADR Institute. He completed his climate change and development course at the University of East Anglia and an executive program on sustainability leadership at Yale University. You can email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @WiggyFederigan.