Climate debt news
The Philippines is once again suffering from the impacts of a typhoon. Capital City Manila had the highest rainfall in its history on Saturday as Typhoon Ondoy swept across Luzon Island.
At least 140 people are reported to have died due to flooding so far, with tens of thousands losing their homes. Nathaniel Cruz from the Philippine weather agency said: “This could again be a manifestation of climate change. Due to climate change, we should expect more extreme weather events like extreme rainfall."
Last summer I visited Manila and a province on the eastern coast of Luzon called Albay. Tropical storms are part of life in the Philippines, but scientists have shown that storms and typhoons have already got stronger due to climate change. In Manila I saw the remnants of Typhoon Frank, which overturned a ferry killing 800 people.
Albay is often the worst affected region of the Philippines, lying directly in the path of typhoons coming from the east. When I visited last year, people were still trying to rebuild their homes and lives after Typhoon Reming devastated the region in 2006, killing over 1,000 people.
We are always told no single disaster can be said to be caused by climate change. But that’s not how the people I met in Albay look at things. For them, climate change is a reality as the strength and devastation of typhoons increase. And whilst people were working hard to rebuild lives, strengthen warning systems, build safer homes and even move further inland, ultimately none of these things can address the root cause of the suffering.
Virgilio Perdigon from the local university told me: “The UK is eight time zones away from the Philippines, but whatever you do to the atmosphere will be felt over here. So we plead to the UK government not to push through new coal power stations, as the effects will be felt not only in the UK but by poor people here in the Philippines.”
Thankfully for the people of Legazpi, Ondoy passed them to the north. But Virgilio has told me Albay is now on alert for two further storms which have originated in the same part of the Pacific as Reming in 2006.
The root cause of the suffering caused by climate change is our use of fossil fuels. Our consumption over the last few decades has contributed to disaster in the Philippines seen this weekend. Guilt is a useless emotion, but I still feel guilty.
What we do now will determine how much stronger typhoons in the Philippines will be in 20, 30, 50 years time. Today the UK Met Office has produced a report showing that in the lifetimes of many of us alive today we could see unimaginable increases in temperature if we keep burning coal, oil and gas.
In 20, 30 years time, will guilt be our only possible emotion, as we hear the reports of truly unimaginable typhoons sweeping across the Philippines?
Or will we be thankful that together we took action to end our addiction to fossil fuels?