MANILA, APRIL 28, 2008
(STAR) By Helen Flores - Two top officials of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pag-asa) yesterday warned that climate change could worsen the country’s precarious food situation due to abnormal weather patterns that damage agricultural production.

Pagasa director Prisco Nilo and weather branch chief Nathaniel Cruz said in separate statements that changing weather patterns as a result of climate change could lower agricultural production in the Philippines.

“Due to climate change, some crops will be negatively affected. Occurrence of more extreme events will affect agricultural production,” Cruz said in a phone interview.

Nilo, meantime, said “it is likely that climate change will aggravate the world food crisis due to frequent droughts and floods that could destroy crops.”

Earlier, Pagasa’s climate data section chief Lourdes Tibig said the increase in greenhouse gases, which affects weather patterns, is already having an effect on crop yields in some parts of the country.

“The most vulnerable are marginal lands or lands characterized by poor soil conditions. Climate change will also have an adverse effect on those who live in flood-prone and drought-prone areas and those who practice monoculture,” Tibig said.

Tibig said changing weather patterns as a result of climate change could also lead to more rats and pests living in rice fields.

She said weather fluctuations could have a positive effect such as the application of irrigation scheduling to take advantage of the rainy season but the adverse effects outweigh the positive since a slight change in weather patterns could be devastating in areas where agriculture is the only source of income.

Tibig said global warming, for example, could lead to a decrease in rainfall, and warmer temperatures can damage crops and reduce yields. Animals and plants are also more susceptible to disease.

For agriculture, Tibig said rice, cassava and potato crop yields could increase by 15 percent under optimal conditions. Heat stress and decreased rainfall, on the other hand, affect yields of maize and sugar cane crops due to water shortage.

The United Nations-organized Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in November 2007 cited several signals that showed that climate change is happening all over the world. These signs include the following: 11 of the last 12 years are the warmest since 1850; more frequent hot days and nights and heat waves but less frequent cold days; more intense and longer droughts since the 1970s; and more frequent, persistent and intense El Niño since the mid 1970s.

Tibig said the report showed a 99 percent probability of warmer and more frequent hot days and nights and heat waves over most land areas in the coming years. She said more frequent rainfall over most areas would result in increased flood, landslide, soil erosion and mudslides.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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