Climate change deadline

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By Erma M. Cuizon

Sun.Star Essay

Sunday, March 16, 2014


A friend from New York called me up on the day after the storm Yolanda, asking how Cebu was doing under the storm blast. But she also has a story of a simple Filipina living in the Big Apple being harassed by the effects of climate change, encountering floods and snow blasts in a Western country.

Industrialized countries, like the US, are taking time in forming a stronger international agreement on gas emission reduction. Let's hope it will not be too late when the time of discernment comes.

So we continue to deal with typhoons and incessant rains, also the rising sea levels and storm surges, besides earthquakes that come without warning. And it's not just us in Asian islands and the Middle East fresh from the experience of Yolanda, Basyang and Agaton. It's not just our pain in the experience.

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Some days ago in world news, I read about the US Democrat senators coming together for a talkathon on climate change. But they weren't talking with the intention of passing a climate change bill this year. There was a bill passed in 2006 by the Democrat-controlled House which the Senate stalled. There were even a number of Democrats who did not show up in the recent all-night stand on climate change because they're running for re-election.

So, there were speeches during the talkathon, like one Democrat senator talking that the meeting was not really about a specific legislative proposal. "It's about showing the environmental community, young people and anyone paying attention to climate change that the Senate is starting to stir and we want to get some actions going."

So, what came out of the talk in 14 hours was hot air, as a report says.
While we have typhoons in wind blasts, in my friend’s home, there is the scary snow problem.

For many years, she has taken New York as her home and has adjusted to the weather of the place. She used to love the December morning walk under snowflakes to her parking area a couple of big blocks away from her studio to get to her car. At day’s end after work, she’d drive back to the Park area, then skip lightly as in a dance to the building where her condo is, short of singing a happy tune like in the movies.

But things have changed. Today a walk in the snow-turning ice is scary if you don’t watch out, she says in a long telephone call. You’d slip in the icy sidewalk in a time like now when snowflakes don’t stop falling during a snow storm or does, but only to give way to rain, then back to snowflakes. A pack of snow and ice between air would drop from the heavens with more weight than snowflakes.

In driving, the formation of ice on the road needs the use of a set of tire chains. It’s called “the gear to fight the polar vortex,” as an ad goes. But my friend never got to learn how to strap it correctly. So she has stayed in the house while the snowflakes come between days and there’s a mess of life in snowflakes and ice and in the news about the number of people freezing to death in the snowstorm.

In blizzards, the wind-chill reading could dip or plummet and snow could be almost as thick as half the height of a yellow cab. There’s hardly a way to run away from a snowstorm, you could freeze outside and inside the house in a sub-zero temperature.

In 2015 there will be another UN Climate Change Conference, will there be a difference?

In 1997 in Kyoto, Japan was where industrialized nations met supposedly to reduce greenhouse gas emission. But of the global fossil fuel industrialized countries, there were those who didn’t sign the protocol in the conference where 37 developed countries met, like Canada which is one of the top oil producers in the world.

As though we can afford to wait before nature’s deadline, guess what kind of agreement the 2015 conference in Paris will have.

Do we have time to pack up?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 16, 2014.

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