Sanchez: World Act

Nature Speaks

IT USED to be like voices in the wilderness. The first time I heard of climate change was in the 1990s. I attended scientific conferences for NGOs in the province or in Manila, and in international conferences. Scientist resource persons tried to explain along the line of deforestation, monocultures, greenhouse gas emissions.

As a non-scientist, though, I understood the concept in broad strokes. Paradigm shift freon-based air conditioning and refrigeration, energy conservation, and the reduction of fossil fuels. I tried to understand and explain through personal experience. If I cannot explain it, that means I barely understood it.

I understand concepts if I experienced it. Then came the series of El Niños and La Niñas, with corresponding pestilence of armyworms, locusts, and even a horde of invading rats.

Then, the Visayas experience the megastorm and the storm surge of Typhoon Yolanda when it hit our country in 2013. Yolanda broke world records when it made landfall as the world's strongest typhoon with winds of 190-195 miles per hour. Over 6,000 lives were lost, thousands unaccounted for and left billions of pesos' worth of destroyed properties.

In the early 19th century Joseph Fourier, a French pioneer in the study of heat, showed that the atmosphere kept the Earth warmer than it would be if exposed directly to outer space.

By 1860, John Tyndall, an Irish physicist, had found that a key to this warming lay in an interesting property of some atmospheric gases, including carbon dioxide. By the turn of the 20th century, Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist, was speculating that low carbon-dioxide levels might have caused the ice ages, and that the industrial use of coal might warm the planet.

I am thus alarmed that Negros Occidental might go for building a coal-fired plant. Thank God, the Diocese of San Carlos and environmental groups such as Green Alert strongly opposed it.

But these efforts might not be enough. Worldwide, what none foresaw was how fast, and how far, the use of fossil fuels would grow. In 1900 the deliberate burning of fossil fuels almost entirely, at the time, coal-produced about two billion tons of carbon dioxide. By 1950 industrial emissions were three times that much. Today, they are close to 20 times that much.

National hero José Rizal correctly put, "The youth is the hope of the fatherland." Except this time, the youth is the hope of the world.

Millions of people, including hundreds of thousands of children, took to the streets in 150 countries, including the Philippines, as the largest climate protest in history gets underway. Global Strike 4 Climate Change rally started in Sydney before spreading to Delhi, London, and Los Angeles.

Demonstrators are demanding world leaders take greater action to combat the effects of climate change, as each month sees new weather records broken.

This year alone has seen the hottest month ever recorded on earth, record-breaking wildfires in Siberia, huge swathes of the Amazon burned, and the most powerful storm ever to make landfall hit the Bahamas.

The fact that these climate protests were coordinated mainly through social media augur for the movement. Let's see what happens in the coming weeks.


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