Quantcast
Climate

How Is Climate Change Affecting the Philippines?

Haiyan, Thelma, Ike, Fengshen, Washi, Durian, Bopha, Trix, Amy, Nina. These are the 10 deadliest typhoons of the Philippines between 1947 and 2014.

What’s alarming is that five of the 10 have occurred since 2006, affecting and displacing thousands of citizens every time. Seven of these 10 deadly storms each resulted in more than 1,000 casualties. But the deadliest storm on record in the Philippines is Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda, which was responsible for more than 6,300 lost lives, more than four million displaced citizens and $2 billion in damages in 2013. So what’s going on—is the Philippines simply unlucky? Not exactly.

The Philippines has long been particularly vulnerable to extreme weather. Photo credit: The Climate Reality Project

The Philippines has long been particularly vulnerable to extreme weather. But in recent years the nation has suffered from even more violent storms like Typhoon Haiyan. On average, about 20 tropical cyclones enter Philippine waters each year, with eight or nine making landfall. And over the past decade, these tropical storms have struck the nation more often and more severely, scientists believe, because of climate change. In addition, two factors unique to the Philippines—its geography and development—have combined to exacerbate both this threat and its devastating consequences.

As Climate Reality heads to Manila, Philippines on March 14-16 for our next Climate Reality Leadership Corps training, we wanted to take a deeper look at how climate change affects the Philippines and the role geography and development play in making a tremendous challenge even greater.

Geography

The Global Climate Risk Index 2015 listed the Philippines as the number one most affected country by climate change, using 2013’s data. This is thanks, in part, to its geography. The Philippines is located in the western Pacific Ocean, surrounded by naturally warm waters that will likely get even warmer as average sea-surface temperatures continue to rise.

To some extent, this is a normal pattern: the ocean surface warms as it absorbs sunlight. The ocean then releases some of its heat into the atmosphere, creating wind and rain clouds. However, as the ocean’s surface temperature increases over time from the effects of climate change, more and more heat is released into the atmosphere. This additional heat in the ocean and air can lead to stronger and more frequent storms—which is exactly what we’ve seen in the Philippines over the last decade.

The Philippines also lacks natural barriers; as a collection of more than 7,000 islands there is almost nothing standing between them and the sea. In addition to their coral reefs, one of the best buffers against typhoons are the Philippine mangrove ecosystems. These mangroves help mitigate the impact of storm surge and stabilize soil but have disappeared by almost half since 1918 due to deforestation (an issue for another day).Other natural factors, like regional wind patterns or currents, can also increase the risk of tropical storms. Geography again plays a role here, as these factors affect different areas of the country differently, due to their unique circumstances. The graphic below from a report by the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources shows how the various regions in the Philippines can face a range of climate threats, based on where they sit on the map.The map also shows the regions most vulnerable to sea-level rise, another detrimental effect of climate change that can be exacerbated by the storm surge from tropical storms. Sea levels in the Philippines are rising at about twice the global average. And when especially strong storms like Typhoon Haiyan make landfall, this higher sea level contributes to storm surge that can rise upwards of 15-20 feet, displacing thousands or even millions of citizens in coastal communities. Which brings us to our next topic: development in the Philippines.

Development

Developmental factors have made it difficult for the Philippines to prepare and respond to disasters. Evacuation plans, early-warning systems and shelters are critical to dealing with extreme weather events. Warning and relocating thousands or millions of citizens when a storm is approaching would be a massive hurdle for any country—and in the case of a developing nation like the Philippines with nearly 100 million citizens spread out across thousands of islands, the hurdle becomes bigger still.

Then there’s what these storms mean for the Philippines’ economy. According to a 2013 statement from government officials, a destructive typhoon season costs the nation two percent of its gross domestic product. It costs another two percent to rebuild the infrastructure lost, putting the Philippines at least four percent in the hole each year from tropical storms. And when you’re a nation aspiring to grow and create better lives for your citizens, this regular hit to the economy is the last thing you can afford.

This is not an easy problem to fix, but we need to try. The first step is educating citizens both in the Philippines and around the world about what the nation is facing and about the practical clean-energy solutions available that can begin to address the harmful effects of climate change in the Philippines and beyond.

We’re going to do just that at our next Climate Reality Leadership Corps training on March­ 14­–16 in Manila, Philippines, led by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. We invite you to learn more about how you can make a difference in fighting climate change by applying to become a Climate Reality Leader. Applications for our Manila training are open through Feb. 8, 2016.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

NASA Scientist Dying of Cancer Attacked by Climate Deniers

Abu Dhabi Desalination Plant to be Powered by Off-Grid Rooftop Solar

Why 2015 Was the Hottest Year on Record

Carl Pope: Global Leaders on Pace to Rescue the Climate

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Food
Chris So / Toronto Star / Getty Images

Nebraska Lawmakers Want to Ban the Word 'Meat' From Vegetarian Substitutes

By Dan Nosowitz

Nebraska is the country's second-leading producer of beef, and is in the top ten of pork producers.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
A northern cardinal and finch in the snow. Mark Moschell / Flickr

Is Winter Miserable for Wildlife?

By Bridget B. Baker

While the weather outside may indeed get frightful this winter, a parka, knit hat, wool socks, insulated boots and maybe a roaring fire make things bearable for people who live in cold climates. But what about all the wildlife out there? Won't they be freezing?

Anyone who's walked their dog when temperatures are frigid knows that canines will shiver and favor a cold paw—which partly explains the boom in the pet clothing industry. But chipmunks and cardinals don't get fashionable coats or booties.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A green sea turtle, one of the animals whose population has increased because of Endangered Species Act protections. Mark Sullivan / NOAA

Marine Mammals and Turtles Protected by the Endangered Species Act Are Bouncing Back

The Endangered Species Act works. That's the conclusion of a peer-reviewed study undertaken by scientists at the Center for Biological Diversity and published in PLOS ONE Wednesday.

The study looked at 31 populations of 19 species of marine mammals and sea turtles in the U.S. that had been granted endangered species protections and found that around three-quarters of them had increased in size.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Students demonstrate in Brussels Thursday calling for climate action. NICOLAS MAETERLINCK / AFP / Getty Images

12,000+ Belgian Students Skip School to Demand Climate Action

Around 12,500 Belgian students marched in Brussels Thursday, joining a growing movement of young people around the world who have started skipping school to demand climate action.

"There is actually no point going to school if our world is going to die," 16-year-old demonstrator Mariam told BBC News in a video.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
A prototype of GE's massive new wind turbine will be installed in the industrial area of Maasvlakte 2 in Rotterdam. GE Renewable Energy

World's Largest Wind Turbine to Test Its Wings in Rotterdam

Rotterdam's skyline will soon feature the world's largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine.

GE Renewable Energy announced on Wednesday it will install the first 12-megawatt Haliade-X prototype in the Dutch city this summer. Although it's an offshore wind turbine by design, the prototype will be installed onshore to facilitate access for testing.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Colorful, fresh organic vegetables. fcafotodigital / Getty Images

A New Diet for the Planet

By Tim Radford

An international panel of health scientists and climate researchers has prescribed a new diet for the planet: more vegetables, less meat, fresh fruit, whole grains and pulses, give up sugar, waste less and keep counting the calories.

And if 200 nations accept the diagnosis and follow doctor's orders, tomorrow's farmers may be able to feed 10 billion people comfortably by 2050, help contain climate change, and prevent 11 million premature deaths per year.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Children's books about the environment. U.S. Air Force photo / Karen Abeyasekere

This State Might Require Public Schools to Teach Climate Change

Reading, writing, arithmetic ... and climate science. That doesn't have the same ring as the "three Rs" of education, but Connecticut could one day require the subject to be on the curriculum, The Associated Press reported.

A Connecticut state lawmaker is pushing a bill to mandate the teaching of climate change in public schools throughout the state, starting in elementary school.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
NASA's ICESCAPE mission investigates the changing conditions in the Arctic. NASA / Kathryn Hansen

These Eye-Opening Memes Show the Real 10-Year Challenge

Before-and-after photos of your friends have probably taken over your Facebook and Instagram feeds, but environmentalists are using the #10YearChallenge to insert a dose of truth.

Memes of shrinking glaciers, emaciated polar bears and coral bleaching certainly subvert the feel-good viral sensation, but these jarring images really show our planet in a worrying state of flux.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!