Climate Change, ignore it with the future of humanity at stake

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By Robert L. Domoguen

Mountain Light

Monday, September 1, 2014


ANY talk on climate change is anathema to some people. To most of these folks, “it is just the earth regulating itself.”

That is a cute phrase, almost slogan to me. I think the phrase has scientific backing, a body of thoughts or evidence on the subject published in a journal elsewhere, or even a book. It is not yet readily accessible and all we get are condescending remarks and cute phrases from those who know, on occasions.

I did my own search and got some information on the “thermostat hypothesis,” indicating that the earth’s climate might yet regulate itself. It is something new that might evolve as a field of study yielding conclusive findings on a host of specific subjects and other related theories. That leaves us still with unpleasant thoughts and dangerous possibilities on how humanity must respond to climate change problems and concerns. If the earth’s climate is self-regulating, should we wait for that to happen before we plan to adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects, for instance.

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People communicate scientific work aside from the scientists themselves. Complaints from scientists, whose work were misinterpreted and misused, litter our history. Take the “thermostat hypothesis,” for instance. The above phrase I quoted in the lead paragraph of this article came from a social media user.

I assume, he read articles on the “thermostat hypothesis.” The scientists, Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climatologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at La Jolla, California, with a colleague, Dr. William Collins, in an article published on the British journal Nature presented evidence arising from their study on thermostatic mechanisms in the Pacific Ocean, indicating that the earth’s climate might regulate itself.

Nature’s thermostatic mechanisms, coming into play with findings from climate science and oceanography is simply good news. Its discovery forms part of the body of knowledge that help us understand climate change. These scientific studies to include greenhouse effect and global warming inform and help us formulate actions and the right attitude in responding to current problems in our environment, not to ignore them.

It is not possible to talk about climate change independently from greenhouse effect and global warming. They are associated to each other but they differ in some of their distinct functions and combinations of processes in their interaction with the earth. I will use below, a presentation by the Philippine Rice Research Institute differentiating greenhouse effect, global warming and climate change.
“Greenhouse effect is the process by which radiative energy leaving a planetary surface, like the earth, is absorbed by some atmospheric greenhouse gases called (GHGs). The GHGs transfer this energy to other components of the atmosphere, and it is re-emitted in all directions, including back down towards the surface.”

To explain its relation to global warming, “solar radiation in the form of light waves passes through the atmosphere, most of this radiation is absorbed by the earth and radiated back into space in the form of infra red waves. Part of the infrared waves is trapped by the atmosphere making the earth just warm enough to be livable. But because of too much GHGs that thicken the atmosphere, most if not all of the infrared waves are now trapped making the earth warmer. Human activities have increased the natural greenhouse effect by adding GHGs to the atmosphere causing the earth’s average temperature to rise.

Climate change refers to changes in measures of climate such as temperature, and rainfall for a given area persisting for an extended period of time, typically decades or longer. Climate change can involve cooling or warming. Climate change may result from natural factors (changes in the sun’s energy, volcanic eruption, etc.), natural processes within the climate system (changes in ocean circulation, etc.), and human activities (burning of fossil fuels, agriculture, etc.).

Global warming refers to an increase in average global temperature, which in turn causes climate change.”

The PhilRice definition of climate change is enough for the purpose of this article, which is to show the relationship of climate change with greenhouse effect and global warming. I also wanted us to know, which PhilRice does authoritatively, that human activities causes climate change.

On several occasions, I encounter the perception that “all discussion on climate change is hyped to create or generate money.” I do not know how that is done and for what purpose. In our forum on climate change at PhilRice, studies they conducted on the manifestations, global and local projections on climate change, high risks areas, and impacts on the nation’s health and economic life.

Specifically on agriculture, increases in temperature could cause widespread occurrences of pest and diseases. It could also cause a reduction in the grain yield of major crops. In rice, a rice of 1 degree Celcius in temperature reduces yield by 5-7 percent due to heat stress, decreased sink formation, shortened growing period, and increased maintenance respiration.

PhilRice has developed technologies responding to current problems on rice production out of the manifestations and projections on climate change. Some of these technologies are already in the farmers hands. Doing research and transferring technologies to our farmers need considerable investment. Compared with Asian countries, agricultural research the Philippines, is still the lowest at below 1 percent of the GDP. The unfairness of comments against well meaning efforts to generate technological responses to the effects of climate change really hurts.

I hope I am not scaremongering but speaking of pest and diseases rises in temperature causing widespread occurrences is not only a problem for agriculture but human well being as well. Here we need not be science-based in our discussions. In the few decades of my existence in the highlands of the Cordillera, dengue affected mostly those living in the warm lowlands. Just as many tropical crops are now being cultivated in our highlands, an indication of climate change, dengue is also widespread in our highland communities nowadays.

The scientific explanation for this goes back to the rises in temperature that we are experiencing. I hardly encounter lichens in our warmed highlands, one that is still common throughout our cold and moist climate some three decades ago. With the disappearance of the lichens, due to a rise in temperature and longer dryness, which these could not tolerate to survive, come now new viruses and organisms that reproduce faster will replace the memories and experiences of climate the generations before us have had. A new consciousness can argue and believe there is no such change in the climate and that all problems associated to it is just “the earth regulating itself.” I could hardly understand how this thought got configured, and how it will affect human consciousness and human conduct.

Given what we know about climate changes, the implications of that thought to me accepts the reality that a new generation battling widespread viruses spread by vectors like mosquito that can now reproduce faster at higher altitudes with rising temperature, is how it is with life on this planet. If that is how we must now think, pray tell me about the future it brings. If we oversimplify and ignore climate change, will the current civilization endure and not collapse.

If we wait and see, that may be too late, even if humanity has to pay with its life and future. We lose more, including our rights to exercise our mind and body, to learn and do something right together, we being part of the natural order and the ecosystems of life therein.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 02, 2014.

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