Author: Antonio G. M. La Viña, Margarita Alexandra Reyes and Elirozz Carlie Labaria
Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Philippine Statistics Authority.
According to Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), within the next 30 years, all areas of the Philippines will be warmer by around two degrees Celsius, with our already scorching temperatures even higher during the summer months. The dry days will be dryer and will exceed 35 degrees Celsius, but rainy days will receive more rainfall during the monsoon seasons, at least in Luzon and Visayas. Mindanao, on the other hand, will receive less and less rainfall as decades progress.
The Philippines has already recently been at the mercy of catastrophic natural disasters, the most fatal of which was Typhoon Haiyan, but more extreme weather events are likely to affect the country over the coming years as well. We were identified in the the 2016 Global Climate Risk Index as one of the nations most affected by extreme weather events in the period 1995 to 2014, and we ranked first in 2013 when Typhoon Haiyan inflicted more than 6,000 deaths and over $13 billion in losses. Over the coming years, we will very likely continue to experience cyclones with stronger maximum sustained winds, especially during an El Niño event.
These extreme weather events have a social impact—risk reduction and management measures have to be put into place to minimize the damage from extreme flooding, prolonged and intensified droughts, more powerful typhoons, and intense storm surges. Without these measures, these disasters will wreak havoc on human settlements, damage public infrastructure, and exert even more pressure on food production and health systems. And of course, the people who will bear the brunt of this will be the urban poor and coastal communities, the people who are not only the most exposed to these disasters but are also the most socially and economically vulnerable.
The impacts of climate change aren’t just limited to natural disasters. Public health is another arena that will be directly affected by climate change. In an already hot country that is projected to get warmer, the rising heat stress can aggravate existing cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions in people, especially the elderly. Changes in the frequency and amount of rainfall increase the risk of the spread of water-based and vector-borne diseases. And the increased health risks add pressure to the provision of health and medical services in the country.
Agriculture, too, could be severely affected by temperature and rainfall changes by resulting in crop sterility, flooding damages to crops, and potential outbreaks of pests and diseases in plants and animals. In the marine sector, reef degradation from coral bleaching and fish migration affects harvest. If left unmitigated, decrease in crop production and fisheries yield will ultimately increase food prices, threaten food security in the country, and exacerbate poverty in the rural areas.