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Climate Change and Philippine Deforestation

November 16, 2011 ·  By Fr. Shay Cullen

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Almost two decades after the Catholic Church leaders warned against an ecological debacle in the country, the disappearance of forests remains.

Almost two decades after the Catholic Church leaders warned against an ecological debacle in the country, the disappearance of forests remains.

The greatest hope we have for saving our planet from catastrophe is the dedication of those dedicated environmentalists and scientists who love creation and work tirelessly to protect it from the irresponsible tycoons of industry and corrupt politicians who cause global warming. Many choose to deny the scientific evidence that climate change is underway and damaging our world. They only have to ask the people of Bangkok why they are experiencing the worst floods in living memory. Millions of people around the world are suffering severe deprivation, disease and death because of the extremes of climate change caused by prolonged droughts, intense storms, cyclones, and raging hurricanes.

There is one vital number, 390, that is going to determine the future of every living creature on our planet. Like it or not, believe it or not, the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere is increasing daily. It is now at that dangerous level of 390 parts per million CO2(ppm). This heavy concentration is too much already and the planet is reaching a tipping point where there will be no way to reverse the trend. The number 450 ppm is the absolute last chance.

The scientists, environmentalists and other knowledgeable people who have intently studied global warming say that concentration of CO2 has to be reduced to 350 ppm for us to avert a planetary global disaster. The human race has to realize that there is environmental and climatic disaster underway as the earth heats up and global temperature edges upward to the 2% centigrade rise. This is essential to prevent reaching the point of no return.

Acidification of the oceans will surely kill millions of fish and marine life and the melting of the arctic ice sheet will be irreversible and will bring on that destructive rise in sea levels. Witness the recent break off of a huge slab of the Antarctic glacier, a piece the size of Manhattan.

In Bangladesh, 30 million people were displaced last year due to floods, tens of millions more will be displaced in the coming years. With the rising sea levels, it will reach one meter in the next ten to twenty years. They are forecasting catastrophic effects of climate change and the government is demanding compensation from the highest polluting countries. Australia has passed a law that compels polluting industries to pay for the pollution they cause.

In the Philippines, only 9% of the original forest cover remains but this is being illegally logged and hacked-to-death by loggers that flout the law and act with impunity  protected by corrupt politicians who fund their  reelection with the proceeds.  Hypocritically, their reelection propaganda usually says they will fight corruption, end impunity and give environmental protection top priority.

Philippine Environmentalists and anti-mining advocates were outraged recently when the chief of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Leo Jasareno, announced at a mining conference that President Aquino had given mining corporations an exemption from the strict Executive Order 23 (EO23) that forbids the cutting of trees in natural and residual forests provided that they would join the National Greening programme that aims to plants 1.5 million trees in the next six years. The Office of the President has denied the report and said that the President only announced the names of the six companies that already had exemptions. This is a troubling revelation. No exemptions ought to be given and large scale open-pit mining must be stopped.

Executive Order 23 is the only bulwark that is holding back the waiting chain-saw gangs of the loggers and insatiable desires of the mining corporations. They want to get at the minerals under the forests. That means large scale forest destruction and many more related environmental and human disasters like landslides, river and sea poisoning, dangerous dams holding back toxic mining sludge, loss for ancestral land rights, loss of farming land and natural water sources.

The burning of cleared forests causes a huge release of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, that’s a whopping 16% of all gasses released worldwide and equal to all the gasses released by almost every vehicle, plane or ship in the world. To make matters worse, the loss of the trees themselves will leave huge amounts of CO2 unabsorbed. Forest trees are the CO2 sponges of the planet.

I am not sure if  the 2000, two-meter tall, grafted fruit tree saplings that I plant annually through the  Preda Fair Trade  will be of any help  but it will off-set  the emissions I create. We can all do something to stop the deforestation and planting a tree is a good start to heal a wounded planet.   shaycullen@info.com

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