Climate Change, Demise of Life

Have you ever tried having a conversation with someone about climate change? Most people would just shun out when climate change, politics, or even topics like romance come across. Unless if they’re drunk of course. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real. As the popular saying goes, “Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan” (the youth is the country’s hope). Therefore, if the youth is informed, they are empowered. And what better way to do that than by knowing the risks, the facts, and the science behind what rich elites would call the greatest hoax in the history of mankind.

Climate change, also known as Global Warming, is the scientific consensus of the effects of human modernization on this planet. We have undeniably seen tragic calamities and dangerous weather patterns in the past decades that was recently unprecedented; destructive typhoons, melting ancient glaciers, catastrophic earthquakes, and we still wonder why this all happens. The burning of coal, oil, and wood is releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, almost everything we do releases CO2, and that is just the beginning.

Why climate change?
Global warming or presently called climate change was barely a topic in the media way back as early as the 50’s, or at least back then. Few reality shows in the US would depict scientific predictions of our future if we continue to rely on fossil fuels which have a negative impact to our environment. They would even present solutions like using solar panels in our homes (Yes folks, solar panels are no modern tech), and were looking into alternatives to produce sustainable, clean energy for all of us. It obviously didn’t make such an impact, not that we see it.

What went wrong?
However, despite the tremendous efforts of environmentalists and scientists to address this growing problem to the authorities, they seem to have a bigger problem than climate change itself; those people who cause it. On the side note; when you dissuade fossil fuel interests, you’re in for a big trouble. You are against wealthy people who will do anything in their power to protect their wealth. Have you ever wonder what happened to that invention that a Filipino scientist used water as fuel for automobiles? Imagine if the inventor’s idea was revolutionized, fuel for cars would not only be obsolete, it would be highly irrelevant. Oil companies would lose a big portion of their enormous profits, slowing down their business until it is no more, and they don’t really want that to happen. So what they do is that they surgically remove whoever or whatever that is standing between them and their fortunes.
As mentioned, climate change is nothing new; fact is, it has been in our knowledge for decades. We have known about this for a very long time, and the action seems not tangible. Many people have been wronged, humiliated, or even killed, and yet we are still in the vigorous process of getting the word out to the general public.

The science of climate change
When you talk about science, we are dealing with evidence through logical and strategic observation which we can quantify to make sense of such claims. The science of climate change, though being taught even to elementary students, is commonly and widely overlooked. This is probably because people have their own problems than to worry about climate change.
The science behind this problem claims that everything we do today, from what we buy, what we eat, how we consume, has a huge impact to the climate. Almost everything we use or consume releases carbon into the atmosphere. And that is a big deal.

The major catalysts
Just like any diseases that a person may experience, there are also major factors that greatly contribute to this problem; and that is fossil fuel. Oil powers most of the transportation sector, and coal powers most of the energy sector. In order to sustain our dependence to fossil fuels, we are moving into risky and extreme new sources. You will see mountain tops removed for coal, fracking for natural gas, offshore drilling for oil, and tar sands which is the most devastating way to produce oil. These extremely dangerous processes take away forests, and harm underwater life just so we can benefit from the bounties of nature.

When trees go away, so do we
Trees are burned as forests turn into farmlands
One of the major catalysts of climate change is the destruction of forests and even corals. Trees breathe in carbon dioxide and in response, releases oxygen which is the most important ingredient for life to blossom. Carbon dioxide is held safe for us by these trees while also giving us what we need. Until one day, when humans decided to cut off these trees for logging, and worse, burning it to create farm lands. When you burn those trees, it acts like a carbon bomb that releases enormous amount of stored carbon back into the atmosphere. We see this in rainforests in Indonesia where forests are intentionally set on fire to create farmlands for palm oil, which is by the way, the cheapest vegetable oil in the market. It’s in our cooking oils, processed foods, even in cosmetics and detergents. These huge companies are making huge profits using cheap sources just so they can save money, leaving behind a degraded planet. What could be more immoral than that?

For every cause, there is an effect
Haunting photo of a polar bear in its natural habitat
The effects of climate change are highly comprehendible. The most obvious one is the melting of the polar ice caps. Because of our absurd rate of burning and other activities that release CO2 in the atmosphere, the earth is heating; resulting into hotter summers and the melting of ancient glaciers that act as earth’s natural air conditioner. On top of that is the discoloration of the ice sheets, which results in sunlight not being reflected back into the atmosphere due to the change of its white color. But the most terrifying is the rising of sea levels; where melted ice is flushed back into the sea. We see this in small islands in Kiribati, Palau, or even in Miami Florida where people are struggling with flooding and other effects of sea level rise.

The players who play the cards
Obviously, we are talking about the big players in the climate change denialism camp. But first, why is there such a great opposition to the decades-old scientific evidence of climate change? As Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine says, “I think it’s the politics” and he got that right up front. Giant oil companies would lobby public officials to issue them permit so they can start burning forests to do their dirty business. They would bribe officials with influence to prevent any law that would deal with this problem. These people don’t have to win legitimate scientific debates; they just need to divide the public. And all those confusions and hatred are actually funded by a few players, a very large echo chamber of climate change denialism. Not only that, in order to beat the odds, they would find scholars and scientists with fairly impressive credentials who are willing to sell those credentials for fossil fuel interests. So to say, all of the denialism about climate change is either an ignorant misinformation due to corruption, or an intended denial to favor those who want to keep their wealth on earth.
Say for example, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick as the U.S. secretary of state. Ring any bells? Tillerson is the CEO of ExxonMobil. This oil and natural gas company has been sucking up the bounties of nature since 1972, leaving everything in their path similar to that of Mordor (from The Lord of the Rings). And for no surprise one of the biggest players in the said industry, just like Suncor, Shell, to name a few. And did I forget that Trump is also a big denier of climate change? He and several other rich men and women who knows and wants nothing but profits and interests, they are the number one enemy of this planet.

Climate change in the Philippines
Philippines is a strategically vulnerable country; it sits right on top of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and is exposed to the ravages of storm coming from the Pacific Ocean. But the question remains, how safe are we from the effects of climate change? The answer is that we are not. In fact, no country is. Earth is like a boat; when the boat sinks all of its passengers go with it. Unfortunately, we are so divided that each country tries to make a smaller boat out of the sinking one. That doesn’t really work like that; if we want to survive we must do it together. Those countries who contribute less to the effects of climate change will experience the worst effects of it. Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest recorded typhoon, and the October 2013 earthquake, are just a glimpse of what’s coming in the future if we continue to leave scars on this little blue planet.
Climate change may not be very popular especially in countries like Philippines, where corruption is far more than a problem, it’s a disease. Climate change, however, is still kept on textbooks to remind us that the basic topics like greenhouse gases are yet another step towards understanding the greatest threat to life on earth.

Innovation nation
TESLA's Gigafactory located in Nevada, USA
In the midst of the revolution against such massive disinformation about climate change, we are lucky enough to have big players readily on our side. Tech giants like TESLA which is owned by Elon Musk, is making such a revolutionary impact in combating climate change. Their action is to provide cheap and sustainable energy sources not just to the urban communities, but also to those secluded areas with no access to electricity.
Tesla’s Gigafactory, an insanely huge manufacturing facility in Nevada, is running on 100% renewable and clean energy through solar panels, windmills, and batteries. Gigafactory, according to Musk, was built to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. By producing cheap lithium battery packs used to store energy from solar panels and windmills, they are innovating our energy sources for humanity to move towards progress without harming the environment. Their cooperation with Panasonic and other strategic partners is a progressive step towards the production of battery packs for their planned mass production of electric cars. According to Elon Musk, it would require 100 more Gigafactories to transition the whole world to renewable energy sources. Definitely not impossible, but his hope is that companies much bigger than TESLA will do the same thing, as TESLA alone couldn’t possibly build a hundred more Gigafactories.

The power of carbon tax
Carbon tax, in its simplest definition, is the tax you put on any activity that puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is an economic strategy to discourage harmful habits that does harm to both humans and the environment. When you raise the tax, you raise the price. Hence, people tend to consume less of it. That’s lesson number one in economics. Take for example, cigarettes. You may wonder why cigarette packs today are more expensive than it was years ago, and it also comes with a fair warning to those who use it. Cigarette manufacturers would put warning signs on each pack, and as of recently, they have adapted the desperation of the authorities by putting disgustful images of the effects of smoking.
However, the terms of carbon tax should not be up to raising more and more taxes only. Carbon tax is meant to increase tax, and to decrease other taxes as well. So when you raise a carbon tax on a certain commodity, you can decrease other taxes in response, like payroll taxes. This strategy is favorable both for us and the environment, as we are rebalancing our economy based on our present situations. Carbon tax is not all bad; the high prices of oil, cigarettes, and other carbon-emitting commodities are there for a reason. And when you know where these taxes go, there will be no complaining.



The countries in response
Sweden's policy for green growth prioritizes clean energy
China has recently surpassed the U.S. as the number one polluter in the whole world. It may not be surprising to see news of Chinese people buying packed fresh air from Canada, or wearing masks every time they step outside. Chinese people are vigilant about climate change, and the major reason is that climate change affects their everyday lives. Harmful fumes of toxic air roam around their cities and these are due to the fact that China is the manufacturer of the world. Almost every international commodity exported to countries like Philippines and to the West are made from China. Huge factories that would release toxic wastes into the atmosphere are rampant.
However, despite this status, China has grown more effective in combating climate change than any economic giants in the world. This is because the people are the ones who are experiencing the worst effects, especially the poor ones. And the media has been very helpful too. Yes, Chinese papers and broadcasters do talk about climate change on a constant basis. And when the people are informed, they are empowered. This popular support helped motivate China’s policy for green growth. They do not let factories operate in the dark, manufacturing facilities are mandated and required to submit their data every hour, and people can even check it in their smartphones through a specialized app.
Another country who has been very effective and actually very successful in combating climate change is Sweden. In fact, the whole country runs on 57% renewable energy and aiming for a goal of 100% by the year 2040. This is due to their policy of phasing out all their nuclear and coal plants for a greener future and replacing them with renewables like solar, wind, and hydro-electric power sources. Plus their Prime Minister is an honorable man. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced that his country is aiming to be the world’s first fossil fuel-free country.

What is the right thing to do?
When people know the truth about climate change, one thing pops out in their mind; they want to be part of the solution. But as we grow and adapt in our environment, we forget the things that really matter. We know that smoking is harmful, yet people still use it, it grew into a very large industry that authorities are having a hard time just getting it out of the minds of the people. And just when you think that every decision you make in your everyday life doesn’t matter, it actually does. Do your part by doing what you do best. And the right thing to do is not that hard; don’t just stand there and do nothing. Make a difference, or better yet, be the difference.

-John Walter Calipes

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