Yolanda: the Messenger



It seems these days that whenever Mother Nature wants to send an urgent message to humankind, it sends it via the Philippines.  This year the messenger was Yolanda, a.k.a. Haiyan.

For the second year in a row, the world’s strongest typhoon, Yolanda, barreled through the Philippines, following on the footsteps steps of Pablo, a.k.a Bopha, in 2012.  And for the third year in a row, a destructive storm deviated from the usual path taken by typhoons, striking communities that had not learned to live with these fearsome weather events because they were seldom hit by them in the past.  Sendong in December 2011 and Bopha last year sliced Mindanao horizontally, while Yolanda drove through the Visayas, also in a horizontal direction.

That it was climate change that was creating super typhoons that were taking weird directions was a message that Nature was sending not just to Filipinos but to the whole world, whose attention was transfixed on the televised digital images of a massive angry cyclone bearing down, then sweeping across the central Philippines on its way to the Asian mainland. The message that Nature was sending via Yolanda–which packed winds stronger than super storm Sandy, which hit New Jersey and New York last October, and Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005–was especially meant for the governments of the world that are assembling in Warsaw for the annual global climate change negotiations (COP 19) scheduled to begin Monday, November 11.  Is it coincidence, ask some people who are not exactly religious, that both Pablo and Yolanda arrived at around time of the global climate negotiations?  Pablo smashed into Mindanao during the last stages of the Conference of Parties 18  (COP 18) in Doha last year.

COP 19: Another Deadlock?

It is doubtful, however, that the governments assembling in Warsaw will rise to the occasion.  For a time earlier this year, it appeared that Hurricane Sandy would bring climate change to the forefront of US President Barrack Obama’s agenda.  It did not, and, while trumpeting that he was directing federal agencies to take steps to force power plants to cut carbon emissions and encourage movement towards clean energy sources, Obama will not send a delegation that will change the US policy of non-adherence to the Kyoto Protocol, which Washington signed but never ratified.    Though 70 per cent of Americans now believe in climate change, Obama does not have the courage to challenge the fanatical “climate skeptics” that fill the ranks of the Tea Party and the US business establishment on this front.

It is also unlikely that the China, now the world’s biggest carbon emitter, will agree to mandatory limits on its greenhouse gas emissions, armed with the rationale that it is those that have contributed most to the cumulative volume of greenhouse gases like the US that must be subjected to mandatory emissions cuts.  And as China goes, so will Brazil, India, and a host of the other more industrially advanced developing countries that are the most influential voices in the “Group of 77 and China” coalition.  What the governments of these countries seem to be saying is that the carbon-intensive industrial development plans they are pursuing are not up for negotiation.

Dangerous Gap

According to the Durban Platform agreed upon in 2011, governments are supposed to submit carbon emissions reduction plans by 2015, which will then be implemented beginning in 2020.  To climate scientists, this leaves a dangerous gap of seven years where no mandatory moves of emissions reduction can be expected from the US and many other carbon-intensive countries.  It is increasingly clear that every year now counts if the world is to avoid a rise in global mean temperature beyond 2 degrees Celsius, the accepted benchmark beyond which the global climate is expected to go really haywire.

Countries like the Philippines and many other island-states are in the frontlines of climate change.  Every year of massive and frequent disastrous climate events like Yolanda and Pablo reminds them of the injustice of the situation.  They are among those that have contributed least to climate change, yet they are its main victims.  Their interest lies not only in accessing funds for “adaptation.” (A Green Climate Fund that would funnel, beginning in 2020, $100 billion a year from rich countries to poor countries to help them adjust to climate change has been set up, but contributions so far have been small and slow in coming.)   With typhoons and hurricanes now being on the cutting edge of extreme weather events, these frontline countries must push all major greenhouse gas emitters to agree to subject themselves to radical emissions cuts immediately, and not wait till 2020 to undertake this.

Unorthodox Tactics

During the Doha negotiations last year, one of the leaders of the Philippine delegation cried when he pointed to the ravages inflicted on Mindanao by Pablo.  It was a moment of truth for the climate talks.  This year, our delegation must convert tears into anger and denounce the big climate polluters for their continued intransigence against taking the steps needed to save the world from the destruction that their carbon-intensive economies have unleashed on us all.  Perhaps, the best role our delegation can play is by adopting unorthodox tactics, like disrupting the negotiations procedurally to prevent the conference from falling into the familiar alignment of the rich North versus the Group of 77 and China, a configuration that guarantees a political deadlock even as the world hurtles towards the four degree plus world that the World Bank has warned will be a certainty without a massive global effort to prevent it.

Walden Bello represents Akbayan (Citizens’ Action Party) in the House of Representatives.

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  • illianni pansensoy

    The Rainbow of Tacloban

    After the storm’s bloodiest assault,
    nothing is left but broken homes,
    obliterated souls and shattered dreams,
    but beyond agonies and miseries,
    for the first time,
    through our turbulent evolution,
    contradictions are thrown out,
    cooperation defeated competition,
    humanity unites as one people to sympathize,
    nations at war stand together to fed the hungry victims of the typhoon,
    a turning point in our human history,
    the greatest leap of mankind,
    it’s a miracle,
    the rainbow of Tacloban City is a clear message,
    love will always prevail over hatred,
    that’s beautiful.

  • estipona

    Why these things happened in our country . It is not about climate change nor man’s inability to regulate his environment nor the excess of carbon dioxide spews in the air nor the amount of methane that traps heat from the sun but because of man’s iniquities, violating God’s commandments, teachings, requirements and living in sin for generations to generations.

    (Isa 24:1) The LORD is going to devastate the earth and leave it desolate. He will twist the earth’s surface and scatter its people.
    (Isa 24:2) Everyone will meet the same fate—the priests and the people, slaves and masters, buyers and sellers, lenders and borrowers, rich and poor.
    (Isa 24:3) The earth will lie shattered and ruined. The LORD has spoken and it will be done.
    (Isa 24:4) The earth dries up and withers; the whole world grows weak; both earth and sky decay.
    (Isa 24:5) The people have defiled the earth by breaking God’s laws and by violating the covenant he made to last forever.
    (Isa 24:6) So God has pronounced a curse on the earth. Its people are paying for what they have done. Fewer and fewer remain alive.
    (Isa 24:7) The grapevines wither, and wine is becoming scarce. Everyone who was once happy is now sad,
    (Isa 24:8) and the joyful music of their harps and drums has ceased.
    (Isa 24:9) There is no more happy singing over wine; no one enjoys its taste any more.
    (Isa 24:10) In the city everything is in chaos, and people lock themselves in their houses for safety.
    (Isa 24:11) People shout in the streets because there is no more wine. Happiness is gone forever; it has been banished from the land.
    (Isa 24:12) The city is in ruins, and its gates have been broken down.
    (Isa 24:13) This is what will happen in every nation all over the world. It will be like the end of harvest, when the olives have been beaten off every tree and the last grapes picked from the vines.

  • estipona

    (Rev 2:14) But there are a few things I have against you: there are some among you who follow the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak how to lead the people of Israel into sin by persuading them to eat food that had been offered to idols and to practice sexual immorality.
    (Rev 2:15) In the same way you have people among you who follow the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
    (Rev 2:16) Now turn from your sins! If you don’t, I will come to you soon and fight against those people with the sword that comes out of my mouth.
    (Rev 2:17) “If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches! “To those who win the victory I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give each of them a white stone on which is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.

    In these verses, Lord Jesus Christ gave warning to Christians who practices idolatry, sexual immorality and perversions and impose strict rules that destroys the faith and corrupts the faith to God, impose human traditions that goes against the Will fo God.

  • spiritnsoul700

    Yolanda sent a message to show proof and to open up Filipino eyes that foreign countries has always been giving out aids and coming to support and saving Filipinos for over 30 years. which had kept the Philippines above water besides ofws remittance

    This is a hard fact, Ofw remittance alone is not enough to save the country in times like this, Even Middle East countries whom number of Filipinos smear , hurling insults at, are doing their part in humanitarian contribution for Filipinos. Likewise The US Australia The UN the EU, Great Britain, Australia Europe Taiwan and many more, All these foreign countries and their nationals has not been spared from Filipino venom and insults here on the blog,

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