LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA — Low public awareness is a major barrier in addressing climate change, according to a professor of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, which is in the thick of integrating the university’s research on the mitigation and public sector adaptation of the global phenomenon.
“Officials and even the public say that we are doing well and we have other concerns like poverty and economy. That is why it is more difficult to convince people that we have to take action now,” said Dr. Rex Victor Cruz, professor at the UPLB College of Forestry.
Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that their major concern was educating the public on the best ways to address the challenges to food security caused by the new climate scenarios of supertyphoons, flash floods and droughts — the manifestations of climate change.
But a nationwide information drive and policy-lobbying will be done only after determining areas that would be hit hard by climate change.
He said UPLB scientists and researchers had been studying climate change for almost a decade. What needs to be done is to integrate the available research and fill in the gaps.
“Climate change has a lot of implications and we want policies grounded on something solid,” Velasco said of the program, which has an initial fund of P1 million.
Although climate change is a global phenomenon, the impact at the local level and the country’s contribution to the global effort of mitigation should be given attention, said Dr. Vicky Espaldon, co-chair of the program.
“We are faced with the impending risks of climate variability, occurrence of extreme events, like floods, drought, and supertyphoons. One effect of these scenarios is the reduction of agricultural production. Problem on food supply will soon emerge,” she said.
Espaldon added: “Our concern after the research is how we can draw the interest of the public.”
Two of the important studies of UPLB were led by Cruz and Dr. Felino Lansigan, professor at the UPLB Institute of Statistics and member of the technical working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Delving on local climate forecasts, the impact of climate change on the watershed, and the vulnerability and adaptation of communities in Southeast Asia, Cruz studied four sites in the Philippines — Pantabangan and Caranglan towns in Nueva Ecija province, and Maria Aurora and Alfonso Castañeda towns in Nueva Vizcaya province.
Cruz said the study, which covered 2002 to 2005, showed that rainfall would intensify in wet areas and very hot temperature was “very likely” in dry areas.
“The frequency and intensity of extreme events like supertyphoons, and excessive rainfall will increase over time,” he said.
The three successive typhoons late last year, a case that is rare, were examples of the changing climate scenarios, he said.
“This would result in a reduction in rice production. Farmers in Central Luzon will adversely be affected,” Cruz said.
Lowland agriculture, which depends on irrigation from the watershed, would be disrupted.
Cruz also explained that the poor were vulnerable because they did not have enough resources to relocate and shift to other livelihood.
Although the adverse effects of climate change seem to be threatening, the country can not directly mitigate the phenomenon, he said.
“We are a small country. And mitigating climate change has to be a global effort, especially from the highly developed countries which are the main contributors of greenhouse gases,” he explained.
Lansigan focused on a crop simulation model that could determine the crop yield based on the given climate forecast.
The model used the values of temperature, solar radiation and precipitation generated from the climate forecast to predict crop yield.
Based on the prediction, a farmer can adjust his cropping calendar to a date he knows he will have a good harvest. Niña Catherine Calleja, Inquirer Southern Luz