There was a time when the world was told that the global population was headed for starvation. Thus, in The Population Bomb, author Paul Ehrlich claimed that overpopulation and famines would lead to worldwide deaths due to lack of food by the 1970s. Then in 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen testified before the US Congress that the “greenhouse effect” was very prevalent and could lead to dangerous levels in global temperature.
Needless to say, like COVID narcissists that warned of complete human decimation if everyone did not get vaccinated, none of those environmental warnings came true.
And yet the Marcos Administration has chosen to put climate change at the forefront of its foreign policy agenda: committing to expand renewable energy and move away from coal, natural gas expansion, and reliance on fossil fuels.
The Philippines also committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75% in 2030, doubling down on a previous 70% target under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which the Philippines ratified in 2017. The Agreement, incidentally, also allowed the Philippines to have access to the Green Climate Fund, which runs into the billions of dollars, allocated for developing countries as encouragement to adopt climate change policies.
The biggest casualty if such policies push through is our transportation sector, which has been dubbed as “the largest source of air pollution and energy-related Greenhouse gases (GHG) (34% of total GHG emissions) in the Philippines, whereby road transport is the largest contributor (with over 80%). In October 2015, the Philippines submitted their official conditional GHG mitigation target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), in which the Government stated an emission reduction target of 70% until 2030 with international support” (see transferproject.org).
The most unfortunate reality about all this climate alarmism is that — even though we are putting a huge portion of our transport sector at risk — as well as possibly undermining our businesses with incredible amounts of additional costs to address so-called climate change, the Philippines simply is not a factor due to its relative size. It currently contributes merely 0.35% share in fossil CO2 emissions (as of 2016) and even if it does meet all its climate change targets, its responsibility is nowhere near that of China (with 127,05 million tons Carbon dioxide equivalent* or CO2e), the USA (6,001 million tons CO2e), India (3,394 million tons CO2e), the EU (27 countries, with 3,383 million tons CO2e), Russia (2,476 million tons CO2e), Japan (1,166 million tons CO2e), Brazil (1,057 million tons CO2e), Indonesia (1,002), Iran (893 million tons CO2e), and Canada (736 million tons CO2e). Compare that with the Philippines’ mere 133 million tons CO2e (in 2020; see wiki and macrotrends.net).
But ultimately, the climate change hysteria is just that. According to David Siegel in an entry in his blog Shortfall (“Important Peer-Reviewed Papers on Climate Change,” November 2021): “Simple statistical analysis shows that the majority of peer-reviewed findings are false or meaningless, and the press will take any paper and blow it up into a headline. But people often ask me for peer-reviewed papers refuting the standard dogma of climate alarm, and there are many. Keep in mind that all atmospheric data before 1980 is suspect, and all ocean measurements before 2005 are worthless. Everyone knows Antarctica is not warming, so I’ll focus on trying to figure out man’s role in the climate. When I ask people who are sure that humans are having an alarming impact on the earth’s climate, I ask them to name one single paper that convinced them. So far, I have never gotten a paper.” (For more information on the accuracy of environmentalist papers or studies, see Climatecurious.com).
And yet the ridiculousness of the Philippine stance on climate change is all the more highlighted when one realizes that even if the Paris Agreement targets are met, it still wouldn’t mean much in terms of climate effects but humongously so in terms of economics. There is really no point in bankrupting Philippine business when doing so won’t even save the planet.
This is because even “if the US delivers for the whole century on the President’s very ambitious rhetoric, it would postpone global warming by about eight months at the end of the century. Now let’s add in the rest of the world’s Paris promises. If we generously assume that the promised carbon cuts for 2030 are not only met (which itself would be a UN first), but sustained, throughout the rest of the century, temperatures in 2100 would drop by 0.3 degrees — the equivalent of postponing warming by less than four years. Again, that’s using the UN’s own climate prediction model,” writes Bjorn Lomborg (“The Paris Climate Agreement Won’t Change the Climate,” www.lomborg.com, January 2017)
“But here’s the biggest problem: These miniscule benefits do not come free; quite the contrary. The cost of the Paris climate pact is likely to run to 1 to 2 trillion dollars every year, based on estimates produced by the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum and the Asia Modeling Exercise. In other words, we will spend at least one hundred trillion dollars in order to reduce the temperature, by the end of the century, by a grand total of three tenths of one degree,” he writes.
And yet, while carbon emission alarmism has gone unabated, another — a more obvious problem — remain under the media’s radar. “The Philippines is considered the third-largest contributor to plastic waste worldwide, contributing to an estimated 0.75 million metric tons of ocean plastic every year. Dubbed as the ‘sachet economy,’ the Philippines is notorious for irresponsible trash haulers and open dump sites that cause the plastic to spill into the seas. Contrary to popular belief, however, this waste is not solely generated by the country alone. The Philippines is only one among the many Southeast Asian countries that receive illegal imports of plastic waste from developed countries. Indeed, the Global North is just as accountable for what is considered a domestic problem” (“The Face of Plastic,” Stanley Guevarra, www.ateneo.edu/news/2022/07/18/face-plastic, July 2022).
Which hasn’t stopped policymakers and even media from continuing to advocate the wearing (and eventual throwing away) of thousands of masks: Thus, in Baguio City alone, “an estimated 417,834 facemasks are disposed daily, generating 3,585 kg/day of additional waste” (“Face mask and medical waste generation in the City of Baguio, Philippines: its current management and GHG footprint,” Lunag, etc., Journal of Material Cycles and Waste Management volume 25, January 2023).
Doubling down on the Paris Agreement is the wrong solution to a problem that needs to be identified with better clarity. In the meantime, simply enforcing current Philippine laws — such as RA 8479 (Clean Air Act) and RA 9275 (Clean Water Act) — would certainly go a longer and more effective way.
Finally, perhaps now is also not the time to demonize fossil fuel use in the country.
* According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e means the number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential as one metric ton of another greenhouse gas.
Jemy Gatdula is a senior fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence