We don’t need $100,000, Mr. Thomas; we need action on greenhouse gas emissions

Aug 13

This July was the hottest July in the United States ever since they started keeping records.  In India, the monsoon rains are long delayed, resulting in the country’s second drought in four years.  Triple digit temperatures in New Delhi and other cities have already provoked the worst power outages in the country’s history and the expected bad harvest is likely to slice at least five per cent from GDP growth.   In Beijing, which usually suffers from a shortage of water, a storm on July 21 resulted in the worst flooding since records began to be kept in 1951, according to the Economist.  Meantime, here in the Philippines, the protracted “rainstorm with no name” (as PDI columnist Jose Montelibano christened it) that persisted for over a week plunged Metro Manila into a watery disaster that is now said to be worse than Ondoy. The ‘new normal’   It’s climate change, and Department of the Environment and Natural Resources head Ramon Paje captured the nature of nature’s wrath when he said that the “new normal” in our climate is unpredictable weather owing to the uncontrolled rise in the globe’s mean temperature due to greenhouse gas  (GHG) emissions.   If there is any doubt that the abnormal is now the norm, remember that this is shaping up to be the second straight year that non-stop rains have wreaked havoc in Southeast Asia.  Last year, the monsoon season brought about the worst flooding in Thailand’s history, with waters rushing down from the north of the country engulfing even Bangkok, affecting over 14 million people, damaging nearly 7000 square miles of agricultural land, disrupting global supply chains of transnationals with subsidiaries in the country, and bringing about what the World Bank estimated to be the world’s fourth costliest disaster ever. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the unceasing rainstorms is we could do little to prevent it.  We could have made it less calamitous by resettling informal settlers away from the floodways to Manila Bay and reforesting the hills and mountains that border the Metropolitan area.  We could have passed the Reproductive Health Bill much earlier and propagated family planning to reduce the human impact on the upland, rural, and urban environments.  We could have,...

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Philippine-style democracy on trial

Aug 04

In the coming week, two critical bills will move to center stage at the House of Representatives: the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) and the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.  The consideration of these two bills will test the mettle of Philippine-style democracy. Climax of RH debate? After 14 long years, the Reproductive Health Bill will finally be subjected to a vote on the House floor when a decision will be taken on a motion to terminate the debate on the bill.  Since prolonging debate till kingdom come has been the strategy of the anti-RH forces, success on the motion will be a sign that the pro-RH forces will most likely triumph when the bill finally comes to a vote after the period for amendments. 14 years of lobbying of members of Congress by the Catholic Church hierarchy against the bill went into high gear in the last few days.  In dramatic fashion, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, recently released on bail in connection with an electoral fraud case against her, showed up at the House last Tuesday to pull away seven members of the minority from their earlier support for the bill.   A representative of the hierarchy also announced that 140 congressmen and congresswomen were sure to vote against the bill, but Rep. Edcel Lagman, the bill’s prime sponsor, dismissed this as a psy-war effort to get the pro-RH side to reveal its own political map so that the bishops could then blitz vulnerable legislators. More and more people are shaking their heads as to why the Church hierarchy has poured so much effort and resources into stopping a bill that is so patently necessary to promote maternal health, bring about the economic takeoff the country so desperately needs, and promote a more benign balance between society and the environment.  These needs are so self-evident to most people in the country that the Church hierarchy’s stand is seen by many as an extension of its foolish battle against Copernicus’ theory that the earth moves around the sun. For other analysts, what is at stake for the hierarchy is not simply the credibility of a doctrine that contraception is morally wrong but the hegemonic ideological position that the Church has long...

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