We are at the crossroads of climate. The Philippines, an archipelago of over 7,000 islands rich in natural resources and diverse flora and fauna, is undeniably one of the most vulnerable to the climate.
We are urged to adopt adaptation to ensure our safety and the resilience of our communities. Adaptation is seen as a matter of survival. It is an urgent call to action. There is also a need to take science-based and risk-informed action to reduce disaster risks and address the growing impacts of climate change.
There must be an effective scheme that requires action on various fronts: good governance and institution building, social protection and efforts against poverty, investment in increased capacity and resilient infrastructure and sustainable resource management.
Our government and other stakeholders must adopt the Asia-Pacific 2021-2024 Action Plan for Implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. This includes targeted disaster risk communication studies to help residents interpret warnings and help guide communication strategies.
Flood control is seen as a development problem as well as a humanitarian concern, with the recommendation to prioritize cost-effective measures in poor regions at high risk of recurrent flooding, along with malnutrition prevention programs.
There are also a number of proven life-saving measures for storm impacts such as cyclone shelters, wind-resistant buildings and conservation of protective ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, which also act as carbon sinks and coral reefs. The effective deployment of early warning systems supported by increasingly accurate weather forecasts has the potential to protect vulnerable populations and save thousands of lives.
Standardized methodologies are needed to collect comprehensive national data on deaths due to natural hazards. Better data collection will improve appreciation and understanding of the impacts of disasters and improve analytics.
More in-depth data, such as disaster damage to buildings, disaggregated demographics and gender data, and the impact on local economies, will help decision makers prioritize and target new measures. This underlines the importance of a national disaster loss database, which is vital for the development of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with the Sendai framework.
Furthermore, it is equally essential to recognize the value of scientific and academic work in understanding climate and disaster risks that should inform policies and guide our actions. It is important to translate knowledge into action by bringing science and research more “understandable” to the grassroots level.
If our local planning is based on science and resilience, disaster risk reduction, climate adaptation and mitigation, and if all of our scientists share, operate and explain the importance of community-wide research, then we can have governments. more enlightened premises and more effective local governance.
The measure of resilience is not the number of policies, the size of the budget or the amount of assistance to communities, but the effectiveness of these mechanisms in saving lives, livelihoods and resources from climate impacts.
Come to think of it, it is science-based governance if we are to rid this planet of the scourge of poverty, further loss of species and biodiversity, the explosion of urban risk and the worst consequences of global warming.
A research paper published last Monday in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) revealed that there was ample evidence that climate change could become catastrophic. The research states that “we could enter such ‘endgames’ even at modest levels of warming. Understanding extreme risks is important for robust decision making, from preparedness to considering emergency responses.” This requires exploring not only scenarios with higher temperatures, but also the potential impact of climate change to contribute to systemic risk and other waterfalls.
Climate action cannot be solely the responsibility of the government. Each of us has a role to play. The end of this decade is the deadline of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 2030 is the year our scientists have declared as closing the window of opportunity to deflect the catastrophic effects of climate change. This decade is our last chance.
While we are improving in other SDGs, we are still a long way from achieving our goal. To be resilient, we need to achieve the SDGs because sustainability and resilience are closely intertwined.
The author is the executive director of the Young Environmental Forum and a non-resident colleague of the Stratbase ADR Institute. He has completed his climate change and development course at the University of East Anglia and an executive program on sustainability leadership at Yale University. You can email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @WiggyFederigan.