By Walden Bello
August 13, 2012
This July was the hottest July in the United States ever since they started keeping records. In India, the monsoon rains are long delayed, resulting in the country’s second drought in four years. Triple digit temperatures in New Delhi and other cities have already provoked the worst power outages in the country’s history and the expected bad harvest is likely to slice at least five per cent from GDP growth. In Beijing, which usually suffers from a shortage of water, a storm on July 21 resulted in the worst flooding since records began to be kept in 1951, according to the Economist. Meantime, here in the Philippines, the protracted “rainstorm with no name” (as PDI columnist Jose Montelibano christened it) that persisted for over a week plunged Metro Manila into a watery disaster that is now said to be worse than Ondoy.
The ‘new normal’
It’s climate change, and Department of the Environment and Natural Resources head Ramon Paje captured the nature of nature’s wrath when he said that the “new normal” in our climate is unpredictable weather owing to the uncontrolled rise in the globe’s mean temperature due to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If there is any doubt that the abnormal is now the norm, remember that this is shaping up to be the second straight year that non-stop rains have wreaked havoc in Southeast Asia. Last year, the monsoon season brought about the worst flooding in Thailand’s history, with waters rushing down from the north of the country engulfing even Bangkok, affecting over 14 million people, damaging nearly 7000 square miles of agricultural land, disrupting global supply chains of transnationals with subsidiaries in the country, and bringing about what the World Bank estimated to be the world’s fourth costliest disaster ever.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the unceasing rainstorms is we could do little to prevent it. We could have made it less calamitous by resettling informal settlers away from the floodways to Manila Bay and reforesting the hills and mountains that border the Metropolitan area. We could have passed the Reproductive Health Bill much earlier and propagated family planning to reduce the human impact on the upland, rural, and urban environments. We could have, in short, taken measures to adapt to changing climate patterns. But to prevent the fundamental shifts in regional and global climate was something we could not do.
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