Skip to main content

So when do we start talking about climate change?


(This is an excerpt of the paper "Its Just a Buzzword from Above...." which Michael Canares presented in the most recent conference of the Development Studies Association of the United Kingdom, held at the University of Ulster, Coleraine Campus, Northern Ireland on September 2-5, 2009)


The review of local development plans of 60% of the municipalities in Bohol, Philippines revealed that climate change concerns are not incorporated into the plans. What the plans contain are environmental projects and policies that are not necessarily related to climate change issues, or drafted not with climate change mitigation and adaptation in mind. There has never been a climate change vulnerability assessment conducted, nor discussions related to mitigation and adaptation policies. Thus, it would seem that climate change as a global problem is never a local concern, precisely because of the reason that there are significant knowledge gaps that constrained problem recognition and solution.

The important question to be asked then is what and how much do local leaders in the province know about climate change. Knowledge, in this case, is not just about what climate change is, its causes, and its effects, but also about the relevant means by which climate change can be addressed and the role that local governments can play. What local leaders know will affect how they perceive the necessity and urgency of climate change as an issue and will correspondingly determine the manner by which they would react.

To answer the question, a survey was conducted with local legislators (Sangguniang Kagawads) to test knowledge on climate change issues, causes, and potential solutions (n=100). Local chief executives (mayors), non-government organizations representatives, and other stakeholders (n=30) were also interviewed regarding the same variables used in the surveys. Finally, a thematic analysis of the results of the survey and interviews was conducted. The results of the study are indicated below.

First, it is obvious that not one of the local government units covered in this study has actually assessed the risks and vulnerabilities of their specific areas to climate change. It is also evident that local government units have not actually analyzed local adaptation practices in the change of climate, which is present ever since humanity existed, as societies have to adopt coping strategies to unwelcome changes in climate (Adger et al 2003). If we have to locate the scientific debate regarding mitigation and adaptation in the local context, there seems to be a hollow in the discussion, notwithstanding the fact that planting trees, for example, are processes for carbon sequestration and proper solid waste management practices are necessary activities in ensuring reduced greenhouse gas emissions. But solid waste management programs were not a response to climate change challenge but a requirement of a national legislation – Republic Act 9003.

Second, it is evident that local officials only have a very basic understanding of the climate change issue. The admission of local government officials that there is no sufficient information available for them to understand the impact of climate change on people and livelihoods, the inability of some to answer the question of what possible solutions are necessary, and the absence of climate change language as “mitigation” and “adaptation” in the responses, indicate the lack of adequate understanding as well as a shallow appreciation of the issues. While indeed they think that local responses are important, they actually do not know how households and local governments can effectively respond.

Third, while most of them felt the urgency of a climate change response, they think that there is a far serious and urgent problem than climate change that needs to be addressed, like for example, the problem on poverty. In Bohol, poverty incidence in recent statistics showed that 38% of households live below the poverty line, using conventional income measures. The provincial government mandate is to contribute to the goal of reducing poverty. While some (48%) of the local leaders believe that the failure to address climate change issues in the long run will have extreme effects on poverty condition, they are caught between the tension of direct impact programs and long-term goals.

Fourth, it is not true that local stakeholders are indifferent to the issue of climate change. There is a growing concern to respond but how this is translated to action is constrained by the lack of information on what is to be done and on the lack of resources to pursue what could have been identified as priority action steps. The “indifference”, as can be gleaned from local development plans, is brought about by a myriad of causes that speak not only of the readiness of local governments but also of the lack of support from national and global actors in enabling the capacity of local stakeholders to participate effectively in mitigation and adaptation measures. For example, Bohol’s primary economic driver is tourism which is argued to generate significant greenhouse gas emissions especially the transport sector (Peeters 2007). How the effects of these activities on the environment need to be addressed, but local capacities are wanting in terms of analysis and assessment of these impacts.

So when do we start really talking about climate change? When?

Comments

Anonymous said…
When are we going to talk climate change? Quando? Quando? Quando? Quando?

When ecological concerns permeates into our own personal system....
Miko Cañares said…
Agree. With that, you can say, that Ondoy floods is a wake up call for the NCR. But it will not be a wakeup call for Bohol. God forbid. We should not wait for anything bad to happen to do something.
bugsbunny said…
What happened in the metro could not be attributed directly to climate change, I should say. Well, location wise most of the metro is just sea-level...as data shows the rain's unprecedented volume causes the flash flood coupled with the almost all-concrete pavement in the area, so it happened. The rain that time was pouring continuously over the night so that there was massive land overflow and quite little percolation to the ground was evident.....with the decimation of open areas in the metro, really flash floods would be expected if heavy rains come...
Miko Cañares said…
To bugsbunny, I am no climate scientist, so I can not actually say it is or it is not. Though I have read and listened to experts talking about climate change and the recent flooding. Of course, I agree with your later points....poor urban planning is not only characteristic of Philippine cities but also of other cities in the world.

But there is a certain abnormality in the rainfall (which you described as at its "unprecedented volume"), as well as the frequency and strength of the typhoons in our jurisdication, mentioned by some hard science commentators. So I think that has to be somehow fitted into the equation.

Cheers!
Anonymous said…
Maybe the most influential paper I have read today.

Popular posts from this blog

10 Lessons from Loay, Bohol on How Local Government Leaders Should Fight Decisively Against the COVID – 19 Pandemic

“Some people ask me why I was very quick to deliver social assistance to people during this crisis. It’s simple. I have experienced myself having nothing. I can easily empathize with what people are experiencing on the ground.”
     - Atty.  Hilario “Lahar’ Ayuban              Mayor, Loay, Bohol

The COVID-19 crisis that plagues the world is impacting adversely every sector and every individual globally. In the Philippines, the rate of infection has been steadily increasing, partly brought about by the availability of test kits, and the lack of compliance with strict preventive measures. The ability of the country to combat and survive this pandemic is put to the test.  Despite the missteps on the part of the national government, local government officials all over the country have been facing the crisis head-on, with some local chief executives finding creative ways to stem the spread of the virus through preventive measures while at the same time temper the economic impacts on the li…

4 Reasons Why Following Bishop Abet on FB is a Good Thing To Do in this Time of Crisis

I met Bishop Abet Uy for the first time online.
Some three years ago, at the suggestion of a good friend of mine, Fr. Harold Anthony Parilla, I sent Bishop Abet a direct message via FB messenger. He replied, within a day or two and told me how I could proceed with something I wanted to do.I did as was instructed, and some few weeks later, he sent me, via messenger again, a thank-you note.
Such tech-savviness impressed me, especially for a prelate his age. I was not surprised that some weeks later, I learned that the Bishop was using social media to spread God’s message, in very accessible terms. I also personally witnessed events he presided where online footprint was created almost in real-time (or at least a few hours after the event concluded), making us aware of where he was, what he was doing in building God’s Kingdom here on earth.
Currently, his various Facebook accounts have thousands of followers (Teba Yu has 11,744 followers, Abet Uy has 63,337, while the Bishop Abet page h…

5 Ways to Build a Resilient and Sustainable Business: Lessons from Balai Cacao

The COVID 19 pandemic has significantly changed the way we live.For more than two months now, most of us, by force of governmental regulation, have stayed at home, avoided public and even social gatherings, set aside various recreation activities, and abstained from going to religious services.  These new patterns of behaviour, regardless of the involuntariness of its nature, have altered not only how we think and do things; they also significantly altered the way we produce and consume things.Businesses are severely affected by this pandemic.Mall sales had gone down, not only because they were closed for a while, but also because many people can no longer go there, including children and the elderly, (and those without quarantine passes) even when lockdown rules were relaxed. When religious celebrations were halted, sales for flowers and candles went low.When borders were locked, revenues of car rental companies, tour guides, and tourism-related establishments plummeted to nothing.Bu…