Unsought Legacy

by Juan L. Mercado


How long can we dawdle in yesterday?  The  world already  moved on  to day after tomorrow.

This old question  acquired  greater urgency Friday, when  Science   published  National Center for Atmospheric Research analysis of 10 years humidity. Culled from  NASA satellites, the data indicates ” temperature surge could reach  eight degrees Fahrenheit by 2100

That’d overshoot  the threshold before disaster, drawn earlier by world leaders: a  3.6 degree Fahrenheit increase. Scientists John. Fasullo and Kevin Trenberth, however, report:  “The most closely matched humidity measurements, by NCRA, predicted the most extreme global warming.”

“In the Philippines, rice yields drop by 10 percent for every degree centigrade increase in night-time temperature,” BBC’s environment correspondent Richard Black wrote. As droughts dried reservoirs, yields fell by 10-20 percent over the last 25 years. More declines are ahead.

Here, “expect sea waters to rise by at least 20 centimeters in the next 40 years,”  Wendy Clavano wrote in an earlier  Environmental Science for Social Change analysis.  The severest threat stretches “along the Pacific seaboard: from Samar, down to eastern Mindanao.”

The new  NCRA data will  revise Philippine estimates.  That’d expand the number of threatened areas.

Already, “trees fail to flower,” Aetas of Bataan report.  (PDI/ 07 May 2012). “Bees are disappearing. Storms blow away our nipa huts as never before.”  That resembles Storm Sandy ripping the US Eastern seaboard last week.

Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research scientists in Swtizerland  documented what Aetas learned from seat-of-their-pants. University of Bern experiments span two decades, four continents and 1,634 plant species.

“Spring flowering and leafing advances 5 to 6 days per year for every degree celsius of warming,” notes  the journal Nature.  Bern scientists fret they “underestimated how much plants change.” A plant community that sprouts a week earlier demands  far more water.

Edges of the “Tropical Belt”—outer boundaries of the subtropical dry zones—have drifted toward the poles, notes Geoscience. Temperature and rainfall changes alter yields, including politically volatile crops like corn and wheat. The “most extreme summers last century could become routine end of this century,” predicts University of Seattle.

“Many crops are photosensitive,” notes Dr. Geoff Hawtin at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture. “We  can not just move (them) north or south. Tipping points could come quickly.”

“We’re seeing changes happening in ways we didn’t expect to see for hundreds of years,” 27 scientists, led by Oxford University’s Alex Rodgers, cautioned  In  their 2011  “State of  the Oceans” report to the UN.

As polluted seas warm, we enter “a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history,” they warned. Overfishing, pollution and climate change interlock “in ways not previously recognized.”

In  that far-warmer  world, fish sizes could shrink  by almost a quarter as  their metabolic rates  alter, says Dr. Walter Cheung of  University of British Columbia. “In the future, expect to see more smaller-bodied fish in tropical waters.”  And post fish populations will edge towards the cooler earth’s poles, probably at  36 kilometers per decade.

“Accelerated” changes include the melting of the Greenland ice sheets. Long trapped in the sea bed, methane gas  is seeping out.

Before the  Rio+20  Environmental  Summit  opened, two significant reports were published: (a) “A  Review of Evidence,” by  the journal Nature; (b)  United Nations’ “5th Global Environmental Outlook.”

“Meaningful progress was made in only four of 90 critical concerns,” UNEP said then. The four were making gasoline lead-free, easing ozone layer depletion, broadened access to clean water and beefed-up marine pollution research.

“Some progress” was achieved in 40 issues, including protected habitats for plants and animals. In 24, there was “little or no progress.” “Clear deterioration” was marked  in eight, among them coral reefs

Only four percent of Philippine reefs remain in “pristine condition.”  Other countries with equally threatened reefs include: Haiti,  Vanuatu, Tanzania,  Fiji and Indonesia.

Earth may be on the way to an irreversible “tipping point,” wrote Anthony Barnofsky  from the University of California. “It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point.”

Too late now to reverse  global warming with earlier tools like cutting emissions, Johannesburg- University geoscientist  Jasper Knight  and University of  Exeter Stephan Harrison told  Science  Daily. Focus instead on adaption policies to mitigate harsh impacts of altered weather. Slumping water tables in Cebu and Metro Manila are just one indicator.

Imelda Marcos, meanwhile,  wails the confiscated  Roumeliotes gems, with 37 carat diamond center piece be returned. Bickering  Estradas – JV and Jinggoy –  were  whacked by the family patriarch, still trying to shuck off  the stigma as first ever President convicted.  Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile leans on anybody crossing  his son’s  senatorial  campaign. Local officials try to gut the 20 percent development fund, after an airplane crash loosened Jesse Roberdo’s firm hand.

Obsession with the petty resonates  in prime time newscast’s unvarying intro: Magandang gabi bayan, patay (Or binaril, even sinaksak.)…Our grandchildren’s  unsought legacy is day after tomorrow’s ecological crisis. Officials wallow in yesterday squabbles. In “Midsummer’s Night(mare)”, Puck says:  “What fools these mortals be.”

(Email: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com)

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