The Heat Is Online

Philippines Seen Especially Vulnerable to Climate Change

RP biggest victim of climate change--Filipino NASA physicist


Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sept. 12, 2008


MANILA -- The Philippines is very vulnerable to climate change and its diverse species will be the first to be wiped out if the temperature warms up, a US-based Filipino physicist said Friday.


"The Philippines is not emitting a lot of carbon dioxide, but it's going to be the biggest victim of climate change," Dr. Josefino Comiso said in a briefing organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Comiso, a senior scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) who has made studies on climate change, said the country is very vulnerable to a warming climate because it's home to a high diversity of species.


"A lot of these species are very vulnerable to even a slight change in temperature," he later told reporters. "If you change the temperature by even a fraction of a degree to 1 degree, a lot of species could disappear."

He further explained: "In the
Philippines, there's more diversity. If you lose 10 percent of them, we're talking of thousands of species."

Comiso, a contributing author to the report on climate change of Nobel winner Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, is in Manila for a visit to share his knowledge with the academe under the DOST's "Balik-Scientist Program."


The physicist said that the country's coral reefs, home to algae and hundreds of species of fish, are under immediate threat from a warming of ocean temperature, and bleaching.


:There's actually a symbiotic relationship within the coral reefs in the fact that you have algae residing in the reefs. And it's these algae that are producing the beautiful colors in the coral reefs," he said.

And coral bleaching could change all that, he said.


"When the reefs experience a slight change, even less than a degree of temperature, this would expel the algae," he said, pointing out that this would impact on food supply because fish feed on algae.

Six countries, including the
Philippines, contain over half of the world's reefs. Together with Indonesia, the Philippines has a high diversity of coral reefs, studies show.


Only 4 to 5 percent of the 27,000 sq km of the country's coral reefs are in excellent condition.


A wide range of plant and animal species are also under threat from a warming climate, while humans will become more vulnerable to diseases, according to Comiso.


"As the temperature in the country warms up, you can start breeding some harmful insects. Like for example the mosquitoes might become a lot more abundant, and you know for sure, mosquitoes can have a lot of impact on the health of population," he said.


Comiso echoed observations by climate experts that the Philippines was vulnerable to a rise in sea level and stronger storms as an offshoot of global warming.

"We've been having longer and heavier rainfall in the previous years. That may be associated with global warming as well because we know that SST (sea surface temperature) has been on the rise," he said.


"If you have a warmer ocean, you get more evaporation. You also get stronger typhoons in the process," he added.


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Climate change could devastate Philippines: NASA scientist


Agence France Presse, Sept. 12, 2008


MANILA (AFP) -- Climate change could have a devastating impact on the Philippines, leading to widespread destruction of the country's flora and fauna and flooding the capital Manila, a NASA scientist warned here Friday.


The continued melting of Arctic ice caps, brought on by climate change, could cause sea levels to rise by seven metres (23 feet), said National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) physicist Josefino Comiso.


He said the country's fish stocks would be depleted and many species of plant and animal life would die because of the change in

ocean temperatures caused by climate change.


Comiso said the slow melting of the ice caps should be more than "just an item of curiosity" for Filipinos.


"The Philippines is a country that is among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change," Comiso said.


"Slight changes in ocean temperature will lead to coral bleaching which will impact on the coral reefs on which the country's fishes feed."


Fish species are already starting to disappear from Philippine waters as delicate coral reefs, some of the biggest in the world, are destroyed in the archipelago, according to the international marine watchdog group Reef Check.


In a report last year the group said coral reefs were already suffering from severe bleaching.


Only five percent of the world's reefs -- which shelter and provide food for a vast number of marine species -- are still in pristine condition, according to Reef Check.


Comiso said the melting of the polar ice caps meant the sun's rays were no longer being reflected, but instead going into the Arctic waters and warming them up.


"Currents from the Arctic waters travel around the world to all the other oceans, including the waters surrounding the Philippines.

"Such warming would encourage the growth of algae in the world's oceans, which would gravely affect the world's food chain," he said.


He also noted that rising temperatures could reach a point where "various living creatures" would start to die in large numbers.


"Such temperatures would vary from species to species," he said. "But the deaths of these creatures would gravely affect the food supply chain."


Comiso, a senior research scientist at a NASA centre that monitors the effects of global warming, made the warning after attending a conference of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration.


He said he was working on a project, to be funded by the Manila government weather station, to monitor the effects of global warming in the Philippines.


The project, which will be based in a state university outside Manila, will coordinate its research with NASA.


Comiso was part of the United States Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice president Al Gore.