Deadly typhoons in the Philippines will increase as the world warms, what do we do?

The Philippines is currently experiencing it’s third severe typhoon, with every one of these typhoons making landfall only one week after another. Unfortunately, these severe typhoons will only increase as the world warms.

Look at this map below. It shows the worst case scenario if we continue with business as usual and don’t mitigate our carbon emissions. The map shows how much increase in severe typhoons Asia would experience. The Philippines, depending on where you are in the country, will experience an average of 1.25 times to 3 times more severe typhoons compared from 1981-2000. What’s the science behind this? Basically, as the world warms, ocean temperature also warms, which causes typhoons to get stronger. The warmer the ocean, the stronger the typhoon.

Map and data from McKinsey and Company’s Report: Climate risk and response in Asia: Research preview

“A warmer sea surface generally provides more energy for storm development and thus favours higher intensification rates and more intense typhoons.” -Dr. Mei Wei, University of California

So what should the Philippines do? First, we need to take climate change seriously. I find it strange that we are one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and experience many climate impacts and yet, we don’t seem to talk about it or take it seriously. We seem to only think about it when disaster is about to strike, instead of preparing beforehand.

Second, we need to create hazard maps locally. We need to know which hazards Filipinos face in every community so that we can prepare better.

Third, we need better climate adaptation plan both nationally and locally. Each LGU should have a plan on how to adapt to climate change based on the impacts they face. There will be no one size fits all solution to this, the topography of the Philippines is varied so impacts will be varied.

Fourth, we need to mainstream climate change like we mainstream gender. It is an intersecting issue. Climate change is an issue of poverty (poorer people will be impacted more), gender (women are more likely to have the burden of taking care of children and finding money after a disaster, making them vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation), economic (climate change will impact economies with many countries’ GDP at risk), health (more diseases spread easily in a warming world and not to mention increase in heat stroke among the elderly), peace and security (the less resources we have, the more we compete for it) etc. We can’t see climate change as a separate silo, they are interconnected.

Fifth, we need better funding for our scientists. We need to have better projections of where we are going to be in the next 50, 100, 150 years. Most studies on climate change are western and there’s little data on the Philippines. We need more data to be more informed and we need to fund our scientists to do this.

Sixth, we need better science communication. We should explain climate change, its impacts, its hazards in a way that could be understood by communities especially vulnerable to climate change. Better yet, we need our communities to be active participants in this process. We need them to understand what they face and we need to work with them to find solutions for their communities.

To do all of these we need good governance. We need a government that will look at climate change as a science, as a social, political, and economic issue. And we need a government that will take a rights-based approach on how to mitigate and adapt to climate change. There are so many things to do and we are running out of time. We must start now. Are we going to continue to pretend that climate change isn’t a big deal and only think about it when disaster is already about to strike?