Climate Change in Islands


Growing up in the Philippines, tornados, hurricanes, and the floods that would follow were a common occurrence in my childhood. In the rainy season (between July to December), it would not be uncommon for low-lying areas of my island (called Panay, in the Western Visayas Region) to have floods as high as four meters. Can you imagine Katrina happening every year? During intense hurricanes, people living in these areas would be in a rush to get everything out of their houses to be taken to higher ground. Anything that could be carried, including refrigerators, TV sets, etc, are immediately taken out. One time, a cousin of mine was in such a mad rush to leave that he forgot his pregnant wife in the bedroom (he came back to get her of course). More recently, people back home have also been complaining to me about the intense heat. When I visited about a year and a half ago, I myself noticed that the temperature was much higher than when I was living there only 5 or 6 years previous.



While the whole world will suffer from unmitigated climate change, island states are prone to experience it first and suffer the most. Recent findings published by the Fourth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that the effects of global warming and climate change are far more catastrophic in small island developing states. These island nations (51 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Oceania and the Indian Ocean) are in the greatest danger of being literally wiped out of the planet. In addition to rising sea levels, climate change also causes an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes. A rise in the temperature and acidity of sea water would also destroy coral reefs and coastlines, and with it an entire region's biodiversity.


Despite clear signs of the looming effects of global climate change, island nations like the Philippines are unable to address the problem adequately due to extreme poverty. Even though dependence on activities like large-scale logging and mining will increase the likelihood of having typhoons and intense heat in the long run, people have no choice but to favor their short-term economic benefits. Seacology's work is extremely important in countries like the Philippines because it provides small island nations (most of which are developing states) an alternative to extraction of natural resources. Seacology provides islanders with their most dire needs, such as schools, medical facilities, and fresh water supply, for which they would otherwise have to sacrifice their precious natural resources in order to acquire.


Scientific studies and findings are not the only indicator of the grim future islands face due to global climate change. Islanders themselves have noticed the loss of land and increase in flooding. Tuvalu, a tiny archipelago in the south-western Pacific Ocean, has been experiencing heavy storms and flooding, which has resulted in a noticeable loss of coastal land. Since the highest point in Tuvalu is just above five meters, rising sea levels could easily wipe it off the planet. Seacology stepped in to assist with the establishment of a two-acre lagoon-based mangrove nursery/reserve and the planting of 1,000 mangrove seedlings along the coastline, providing protection from tidal and storm surges. To provide an alternative to mangrove extraction, Seacology also refurbished their existing handicraft center by adding two rooms to use for training, meetings and handicraft production.


Islands nations are becoming increasing aware and responsive of the threat posed by climate change, but they can only do so much. According to the IPCC study, small island developing states altogether produce less than one percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The greatest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions are highly industrialized countries like the US and China. Seacology reduces GhG emissions through the establishment of land, mangrove and marine reserves, which serve as potent carbon sinks to trap GhGs, the main driver of climate change. You can help too, by carpooling, recycling, reusing, and perhaps, by supporting Seacology.


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This page contains a single entry by Karla Gregorio published on May 15, 2009 2:00 PM.

Seacology Knows How to Throw a Party! was the previous entry in this blog.

New Study Supports Seacology's Conservation Work is the next entry in this blog.

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