Ginhawa is a Filipino word which loosely translates to comfort and wellbeing. Many Filipinos aspire to achieve ginhawa as a way of life. Due to recent disasters and catastrophes, our notion of security and wellbeing has been challenged. In Ginhawa: Well-being in the Aftermath of Disasters, Lyra Versoza wrote about notions on ginhawa in the context of disaster. According to Versoza, disasters influence our notions on ginhawa by affecting our hininga (breath). That is why, Filipinos express distress through words tying back to hininga; paghahabol ng hininga (chasing one’s breath), kapos sa hininga (running out of breath), and ultimately, huling hininga (last breath).

Lying in the Pacific Ring of Fire, our country withstands at least 20 typhoons a year. In 2013, Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) claimed more than 6300 lives and affected more than a million families. When it is not being battered by typhoons, the country endures long spells of drought, heat waves, and floods. The effects of climate change is upon us and more and more Filipinos are being affected by it. Such is the need to address this issue that when the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) launched Ambisyon Natin 2040, a 25-year long-term vision for the Philippines, climate change was one of its main themes. The changing climate affects all countries in the world, but developing countries, like the Philippines, usually bears the brunt due to magnified risk factors and lack of resources to adequately prepare climate scenarios. Therefore, the country has to take actions in addressing these vulnerabilities, starting with striving to keep global temperature increase at 1.5ºC.

Members of Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and CARE International launch an online platform calling to limit global warming to below 1.5°C. The Philippines was the chair of the CVF in 2015.
Why 1.5ºC?

In 2015, the Global Climate Risk Index 2015 identified Philippines as the number one most affected country by climate change. In 2011, the Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) of Maplecroft, a global risks advisory firm, identified the Philippines as the sixth country at “extreme risk” due to climate change effects. Other countries in the list include Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, and Pakistan. In 2016, the country ranked 13th in the CCVI, an improvement attributed to better disaster preparedness, improved access to clean water, and more environment-friendly agricultural systems.

But the battle is far from over. Keeping temperature increase at 1.5ºC poses profound effects to the Philippines.

A study published by Earth System Dynamics, a 2ºC increase in temperature would further increase the likelihood of extreme weather events such as drought, heat waves, and typhoons. For a Southeast Asian nation such as the Philippines, extreme weather disturbances cripple the country’s economy by rerouting resources to disaster-related expenses from investment portfolios and social welfare services. As stated in the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan( NCCAP, 2011), the prevalence of disasters linked to climate change underscores the country’s vulnerability due to its large population, lack of preparation, and inadequate risk management.

Rising global temperatures threatens the country’s vast marine resources.

Agriculture, which accounts for a fifth of the country’s total economy and employs a third of the population, (National Framework Strategy on Climate Change (NFSCC), 2010) is also threatened by extreme weather variability. From 1990 to 2006, typhoons account 70% of loss in the agriculture sector while 17.9% is due to flooding. Adverse weather patterns will also expose top rice producers such as Nueva Ecija, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, and Camarines Sur to increased flooding and more frequent typhoons while Mindanao, where most of the country’s fruits and seafood are sourced, will be prone to El Niño.

The same study revealed that a 2ºC temperature increase would result in increased sea level rise; projecting a 50-centimeter hike by 2100. In the NFSCC, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) estimated that a one-meter sea rise can result to 129, 114 ha land loss. Marine life will suffer due to massive coral bleaching and is projected to affect the country’s 26,000 sq km coral reef area, home to more than 2,177 fish species. Sea level rise, coupled with coral bleaching, will cause irreversible damage to the lives of at least coastal families. Fisheries account for 4% of the country’s GNP (NCCFS).

The UNFCCC reports that in a 2-degree temperature increase scenario, biodiversity would be heavily affected too. Due to extreme ocean acidification and warmer temperatures, certain species would find it difficult to migrate for survival, thus disrupting patterns of natural ecosystems. Marine species harvested for food and other commercial purposes might be gone, affecting livelihoods of the families dependent on them.

The NFSCC lists down water sufficiency, ecological sustainability, and human security as other areas which would be heavily affected by the risks brought about by a 2-degree temperature increase. Displacement of communities and in-migration to urban areas is also predicted for Philippine cities, as more and more communities in the province opt to move to the city for economic prospects.

Climate Change and Politics

On March 1, 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. A historic outcome of COP21, the Paris climate deal was signed by 194 parties, legally-binding them to this global agreement. Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on climate change, will sponsor the document for concurrence, the last step in the ratification process.The President’s support for the deal is a welcome development considering his misgivings about it during his campaign. A policy brief published by the Ateneo School of Government and SSG Advisors, states that “pursuing climate action fulfills Duterte’s 10-point agenda.” Addressing climate change impacts is directly in line with seven of the President’s 10 agenda, including renewable energy, sustainable transport, urban decongestion, promoting community-based management of natural resources, improved crop diversity, among others. The policy guidebook further argued that since the Paris agreement carries the context of sustainable development, the Philippines can still pursue economic development while keeping an eye on its emission levels.

The Philippines has always been at the forefront of climate change negotiations. It chairs the Climate Vulnerable Forum, an alliance of 43 middle-economy countries and small island states. The country is also a member of the High Ambition Coalition, formed by 100 developed and developing nations. Both groups have campaigned to keep temperature increase to 1.5ºC.

Building resilient communities is significant in addressing the effects of climate change.
The Need to Act Now

Although current efforts seem to be promising, there is still a need for a more collective and collaborative action amongst nations to address climate change. An analysis by Carbon Brief found out that if carbon emissions carry on at 2016 levels, we only have four years left before we reach our carbon budget of limiting temperature increase to 1.5oC. Think about it, in a couple of years, the world as you know might change drastically.

Wellbeing is at the core of every individual’s aspirations for himself and for others. Ginhawa can only be achieved by Filipino families if their home is safe from the effects of the changing climate. To be able to do so, there is a need to revisit our reality and assess the actions that we commit against Nature. Ginhawa is not about having the material comforts of life, it is also about preserving the beauty and bounty of our country. It is about building resilience against disaster; ensuring communities will live on with fewer threats to their homes and way of life. As a nation, a collective action to urge our leaders to properly address climate change is imperative to ensure the wellbeing of not only us but of the future generations as well.

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Originally published in Rappler

Val Bugnot

About Val Bugnot

Val took up BS Development Communication from the University of the Philippines- Los Baños and is currently finishing her Master's degree in Community Development from the University of the Philippines- Diliman. Her work with various communities focuses on environmental justice, sustainable livelihood, and community-based resource management. As a development communicator, Val has solid background in knowledge management, content management and branding, website development, and others. During her free time, she enjoys mountain climbing, surfing, and playing musical instruments.