, APRIL 4, 2007
 (STAR) By Katherine Adraneda - Some 700 million square meters of land in the Philippines may be submerged gradually as the global average temperature rises and causes sea levels to rise, a study by an international environment group revealed yesterday.

In a press conference, Greenpeace released the briefing paper entitled "The Philippines: A Climate Hotspot," which presents an overview of how extreme weather conditions threaten people, the economy, the different species and ecosystems.

The Greenpeace study discloses "never-before seen maps" that illustrate the extent of the impact of climate change in the Philippines.

"As experts predict climate change impacts to worsen in the coming decades, the question is how much will the country be affected? Unfortunately, what we have discovered is that the stakes are much higher than what we have originally imagined," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia climate and energy campaigner Abigail Jabines.

Jabines said their study revealed that "the entire Philippines is a climate hotspot" and the country is "vulnerable to the worst manifestations of climate change."

"And unless this disaster is averted, the costs in human lives and economic losses will continue to rise to catastrophic proportions," she added.

Based on the maps shown, climate change can "irrevocably alter" the country’s coastline.

Conservative estimates from Greenpeace predict that a one-meter rise in sea level may affect 64 of the country’s 81 provinces, which cover at least 703 of the 1,610 municipalities, and submerge almost 700 million square meters of land, including islets, across the country.

The one-meter rise in sea level, which Greenpeace attributed to thermal expansion, sets aside the melting of ice sheets of the Greenland and West Antarctica, which would pose an additional two- to four-meter increase in sea level.

Greenpeace said that certain portions of the land in the 703 municipalities may be submerged in water by 2095 to 2100.

"A one-meter rise in global sea level can occur sooner with the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets if global carbon dioxide emissions are not immediately curbed," Jabines said.

"In a worst case scenario of complete melting of the ice sheets, global sea level is projected to rise between seven to 12 meters," she added.

The Greenpeace study also identified the top 20 provinces in the country, which are vulnerable to a one-meter rise in sea level. These are Sulu, Palawan, Zamboanga del Sur, Northern Samar, Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan, Cebu, Davao del Norte, Bohol, Camarines Sur, Quezon, Tawi-Tawi, Masbate, Negros Occidental, Camarines Norte, Capiz, Catanduanes, Samar, Zamboanga del Norte, and Maguindanao.

Greenpeace said that Sulu has the highest land area that is vulnerable to a one-meter eustatic rise in sea level at 79.7 million square meters.

The group predicted that 90 percent of the land area of the municipality of Pata in the province, and 34 percent of the land area of the municipality of Marunggas are vulnerable to a one-meter rise in sea level. In Palawan, Greenpeace said that 64.2 million square meters of land are vulnerable.

Greenpeace pointed out the threats posed by the eustatic rise in ocean level to human settlements, tourist hubs, and vital ecosystems such as estuaries, mangroves, and coral reefs.

World Heritage sites in the Philippines such as the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and Tubbataha Reefs Marine Park are susceptible to inundation and storm surges.

The group likewise noted that sea level rise also provides a higher base for storm surges due to typhoons, which increases the destructiveness of floods and storms to coastal settlements and infrastructure such as piers and ports.

"As a developing country with very little access to vital resources, the Philippines has a low ability to adapt and a lower ability to cope with disasters brought about by climate change impacts," Jabines said.

Another grim reality

Climate change not only exacerbates the country’s socio-economic and environment problems, it also threatens the country’s rich cultural heritage, as well as some of the rarest and most diverse fragile ecosystems in the world.

"And grimmer still is the fact that climate change will amplify the socio-diverse burdens already shouldered by Filipino families, such as hunger and water scarcity," Jabines added.

Because of these, Greenpeace urged the government "to take greater leaps toward lasting solution," and to anticipate and face the worst impacts of climate change.

Greenpeace said the government should immediately implement measures that would take into account how local governments can prepare through effective coping strategies and disaster preparedness.

They said that the Philippines must also embrace renewable energy and promote energy efficiency to cut carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 30 percent by 2050.

Greenpeace pressed the government to implement policy mechanisms like Renewable Energy Bill to initiate the change.

"The government must start reducing its dependence on fossil fuels, particularly coal, for its energy source. The government must choose an energy development path built on clean and renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency to pave the way for a truly secure and sustainable future," Jabines said.

The Greenpeace paper was released ahead of the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Brussels this Friday, which updates its assessment of the global impacts of climate change.

Last February, the IPCC concluded that the occurrence of global warming was due to human activities.

The United Nations report also said that more drought, heat waves, floods and stronger hurricane, rapid melting of ice sheets and rising sea levels could be expected in the coming years if the temperature continues to go up.

The IPCC predicted the global average of surface temperature to rise by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Centigrade by 2100.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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