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January 10, 2013 · 


By Fr. Shay Cullen 

Ferocious storms, tornados, incessant rains, floods, bitterly cold winters and drought-ridden summers are the extreme weather conditions that are being experienced all over the world. Climate change is upon us, we can feel it. New York was devastated by hurricane “Sandy”. In Tasmania, Australia, drought and forest fires, the worst in decades, are destroying homes and communities. In the Philippines, typhoons and tropical storms are coming one after the other. The recent super-typhoon “Pablo” killed over a 1500 people. Many died when rampaging flood waters carried hundreds of illegally cut forest logs down the mountains smashing all that lay in their destructive path. The rain saturated deforested hills gave away to mud slides that buried villages in minutes killing hundreds including small children. Many more were swept away to their watery graves.

The destruction of the tropical rain-forests is one major cause of these man-made tragedies. Powerful politicians belonging to dynastic families are behind most of it. It happens in flagrant violation of the law with presidential nose-thumbing impunity.  The dedicated and honest forest protection officials of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) can’t stop it either.  DENR official Alfredo Almueda, 59, was murdered by two assassins in Barangay Villa Sur on New Year’s Day. It appears he was lured to a killing field by a false tip-off. The anti-logging forest specialist Melania Dirain of the DENR was shot and killed in her office by assassins in Sanchez Mira, Cagayan on Feb. 7 last year.

The massive worldwide forest destruction is having a serious effect on the world climate; it is contributing to global warming. Forests are like great green carbon sponges, they absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) that comes from the burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas. The worst and dirtiest source of CO2 is from coal-burning power plants.

Such irresponsible human behavior that denies the truth about climate change and allows global warming to reach its tipping point, the point of no return, the planet and all living creatures are facing a dangerous situation. That time is getting closer by the day when the planet’s temperature exceeds two degrees increase. That’s when the destruction gets even worse and reversing it is probably beyond human ability.

Yet politicians and business tycoons the world over cannot accept the plain facts, the indisputable scientific truth of dangerous global climate change. They are irresponsibly blinded by the vast profits they are earning from the production and sale of fossil fuel to power industry. There are alternatives in renewable energy industries, like geothermal, wind power and solar power. But they can’t let go of the quick and easy profits. When strong determined government, backed by public opinion, puts a tax on the amount of CO2 that industries and corporations emit will there be a chance for change. Australia, South Korea and California have done this recently and it’s a breakthrough of sorts. It may be too little too late. 

Burning coal for electric power generation is on the increase and in 2011 it caused, with other sources, another 3% increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. In the Philippines, the international coal peddling moguls have captured the politicians in their net of greed and ten new coal plants are planned in a country where geothermal, solar and wind power electrical generation opportunities are abundant. It’s a growing industry now worth US$4 trillion and providing millions of jobs. Germany is leading in renewable energy and will reduce its carbon emissions by 40% in seven years. If the global temperature increases above 2 degrees centigrade (2c), it will have reached a tipping point where dramatic change will occur rapidly. Already the Arctic and Antarctica ice sheets have melted dramatically and ocean levels have risen.

Storm surges and higher tides will devastate coastal towns and cities as what happened in New Jersey during hurricane Sandy. Food production will be greatly affected. In the Northern countries, wheat and corn production will benefit from warmer climate and production will increase by 2% as it is predicted but in the countries south of the equator, in the poorest countries with huge populations, there will be an estimated 7% decrease in food production. Famine will be an even greater possibility. To stay below the 2˚C temperature increase and prevent these disastrous events, emissions have to be curbed and there is only an 80% chance of that happening. The recent climate talks in Doha will achieve little. It is the political decisions to stop burning coal and oil and turn to renewable sources of energy and low emission natural gas is what will save the planet from catastrophic climate change.  


(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

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