IPCC synthesis report urges leaders to act



The synthesis document of the Fifth Assessment Report (called AR5) has some good news and bad news — but mostly the latter.  “Global mean sea-level rise will continue for many centuries beyond 2100,” it said.  “The few available analyses that go beyond 2010 indicate sea-level rise to be less than one meter above the pre-industrial level by 2300.”


The AR5 synthesis report also pointed out that “sustained mass loss by ice sheets would cause larger sea-level rise.”  What is more frightening is that “part of the mass loss might be irreversible.”


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientific intergovernmental body under the auspices of the United Nations was first established in 1988, it produces reports that support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is the main international treaty on climate change.


The ultimate objective of the UNFCCC is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (that is, human-induced) interference with the climate system.”


The IPCC reports cover “the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”


In 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to IPCC and former US Vice-President Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”


The latest IPCC synthesis report is indeed bad news for the economy of Davao City.  The recent “Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Change Impacts,” published by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), said that sea-level rise may create problems for Davao City’s ports.


“Located along the relatively shallow channel between the city and Samal Island, these port facilities are a nerve center for Davao City’s economy, and serve a variety of ships handling both cargo and passengers,” the risk assessment said.


In a seminar on climate change some years back, Councilor Leonardo Avila III said that Agdao district, Panacan, Sta. Ana wharf, part of the Lanang, Bajada and Matina areas, the whole of downtown area, including the City Hall, will be completely submerged. These areas will virtually be part of the Davao Gulf, he said.


As a result, 40 percent of the city’s total population will be forced to evacuate to higher areas like the districts of Buhangin, Catalunan Grande, Calinan, Mintal and Paquibato. Since the downtown area is already inundated, businesses have also to be relocated to higher areas.


The sources of water, already a crisis in some parts of the city, are also at risk.  “Davao has traditionally tapped surface water from its rivers as its main water source,” the WWF/BPI report said.  “It prides itself in the relatively high quality of its drinking water.  However, salt intrusion has already been reported in city districts to shore, especially in portions of the city where groundwater extraction continues.  Sea level rise may aggravate this situation.”


The AR5 synthesis report also stated that “ocean acidification will continue for centuries if carbon dioxide emissions continue.”  It added that ocean acidification “will strongly affect marine ecosystems and the impact will be exacerbated by rising temperature extremes.”


Ocean acidification is touted to be global warming’s evil twin.  “Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually finds its way to and dissolves in the oceans, causing the water to become ‘acidic’… reducing the ability of the coral reefs to deposit calcium carbonate or calcify,” explained Dr. Edgardo Gomez, the founding director of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute.


Davao City is part of the Davao Gulf, which is known for its marine biodiversity.  It is a hub for both wild-caught fisheries and aquaculture.  “Rising sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification are likely to lead to marginalization of coral reefs and sea grass beds, spawning adverse effects for this sector,” the WWF/BPI report said.


Of the four cities included in the WWF risk assessment (the three others were Baguio, Cebu, and Iloilo), Davao City has been singled out to be “the least vulnerable city” among the cities identified.  “It has the opportunity to do things the right way,” the study said.  “It has a good hold of sustainable development in water, power, food security driven by agriculture, climate smart zoning, mass transit, land use and infrastructure as well as efficient land and sea access to centers of development nationwide.”


The WWF study suggested: “The trick is to maintain this sustainability over the decades ahead when climate change impacts is expected to worsen in other cities.”


By the way, for those who are not familiar with climate change, it is very simple.  “We are increasing emissions of greenhouse gases and thus their concentrations in the atmosphere are going up. As these concentrations increase, the temperature of the earth rises,” said Prof. Robert Watson, former IPCC chair.


“While human activities during the past century have damaged a long list of nature systems, most of these problems are local or regional in scope and can be revered in years to decades if sufficient effort is exerted,” Christopher Flavin wrote in his book, “Slowing Global Warming: A Worldwide Strategy.” “Changes to the earth’s atmosphere on the other hand are global and irreversible not only in our lifetimes but in our children’s and grandchildren’s as well.”

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