MANILA, JULY 28, 2007
 (STAR) By Helen Flores - Government scientists yesterday refused to attribute to global warming the unusual weather patterns being experienced by the country, saying it would take at least 50 years of scientific study to make such a conclusion.

“We need at least 50 years of observation to make such claim,” said Lourdes Tibig, chief of the Climate Data Section of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

The statement, however, is contrary to popular belief as well as other foreign scientific studies.

In its latest report, the United Nations-organized Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that Asia is likely to experience drastic flooding, water scarcity, hunger risks and disease problems in the next years considering the rate of global warming.

The report also cited that global warming can induce mass extinction of species within 60 to 70 years.

The IPCC report concluded that major advances in climate modeling and the collection and analysis of data gave scientists worldwide a “very high confidence” in their understanding of how human activities are causing the world to warm.

Global warming is defined as the gradual warming of the atmosphere “perhaps due to the greenhouse effect.” Increasing carbon dioxide in the air may have contributed to global warming.

Tibig said she refused to give statements on the impact of global warming in the Philippines when asked by a fellow scientist during a meeting of the IPCC because of limited scientific evidence.

“Unless I have scientific evidence, I will not compromise the integrity of the Filipino science community, particularly of Pagasa,” she said.

In a separate interview, Dr. Nathaniel Servando, Pagasa deputy director for research and development, said more thorough studies are needed before concluding that recent events are the result of global warming.

He said climate variability should also be considered.

He added that data are still “insufficient” to make a statement on the impact of global warming in the Philippines. This despite a recent study conducted by the weather bureau which showed that the country’s temperature is increasing, consistent with global observations.

Servando said there are some factors that need to be investigated further, such as sea level rise, intensity of typhoons and rainfall condition, among others. Research on these are currently being undertaken by Pagasa, he said.

Most parts of the country received below normal rainfall in the past two months, and the dry spell would likely persist until the third quarter of 2007. All the dams that the weather bureau is monitoring are said to be at critical levels.

Low inflows of water into the dams that propel hydropower plants such as Angat, Magat, Pantabangan, San Roque and Binga, due to rainfall shortage, also affected power distribution in some areas in Luzon.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) earlier said global warming threatens to submerge parts of Manila and wipe out entire islands.

“The Philippines is extremely vulnerable to the ravages of climate change,” it said.

Last year, super typhoons “Paeng,” “Queenie” and “Reming” hit the country, leaving thousands of people dead, billions of pesos worth of property damaged, and power and communication lines in different parts of the country cut.

Rosalina de Guzman, Pagasa supervising weather specialist, earlier said the normal cycle of an El Niño phenomenon is from two to seven years.

However, it was observed that the weather phenomenon had become frequent in the last 10 years, in which it was succeeded by a La Niña phenomenon.

These include the 1997 to 1998 El Niño phenomenon, which was followed by the 1998 to 1999 La Niña; 2000 to 2001 La Niña which was followed by the 2002 to 2003 El Niño phenomenon; 2004 to 2005 El Niño; 2006 to 2007 La Niña, followed by 2006 to 2007 El Niño, and the probable 2007 La Niña phenomenon.

La Niña refers to abnormal cooling of sea surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific and is characterized by excessive rainfall.

El Niño, on the other hand, is a weather phenomenon associated with the unusual warming in the Equatorial Pacific, which usually brings below normal rainfall.

President Arroyo, on Feb. 20, created a task force that will formulate an action plan to protect and preserve the environment and avert the effects of global warming following the reports of IPCC on global warming.

A local scientist earlier blamed overpopulation as one of the causes of global warming.

“Overpopulation itself causes heat,” said Jose Aldea, chairman of the Capiz Scientists and Inventors Society.

“Have you been in a moviehouse full of people? (The population) has exploded uncontrollably and accelerated tenfold. Man has pursued relentless activities, which include burning fossil fuels that raise the carbon dioxide level. Call it a bad greenhouse effect,” Aldea said.

In 2000 the population in the Philippines was at 76.5 million, according to the National Statistics Office. It is expected to reach 88.7 million this year.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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