Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Santa's Home Is Melting

Santa Claus will have more problems delivering gifts to kids all over the world this Christmas because his home in the North Pole is melting away and his worker elves are all virtually homeless. According to a new scientific study, the frozen sea ice within the Arctic Circle could disappear entirely by 2040.

It is getting hotter in the arctic regions and colder in the tropical zones. This is the phenomenon known as climate change.

Despite the Bush administration’s repeated insistence that climate change is "unproven conjecture" (the position of the oil industry which produced George W. Bush and Dick Cheney), more than 10,000 delegates from some 190 countries around the world gathered in Bali, Indonesia for two weeks in early December of 2007 to discuss the reality of climate change.

Even before the Bali Conference began, scientists from all over the world, including the US, were already unified in their view that climate change is indeed taking place and that the world needs to act now before its too late and that technologies are available and affordable to tackle the problem.

The conference venue was significant because, as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman noted, “Indonesia is now losing tropical forests the size of Maryland every year, and the carbon released by the cutting and clearing — much of it from illegal logging — has made Indonesia the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, after the United States and China. Deforestation actually accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars and trucks in the world, an issue the Bali conference finally addressed.”

Friedman interviewed Barnabas Suebu, the governor of Papua, home to some of Indonesia’s richest forests, who explained that his villagers cannot earn anything close to what they get from chopping down a tree and selling it to smugglers, who will ship it to Malaysia or China to be made into furniture for Americans or Europeans.

This is the same problem in the Philippines where virgin forests are being continuously raped by illegal loggers with connections to Philippine military and government officials. In last week’s column, I wrote about Ensign Philip Pestano who, according to a 1997 Philippine Senate report, was murdered in 1995 because he objected to his Philippine Navy vessel being used to load illegal timber from Tawi-Tawi and to off-load them in Cavite. That timber probably wound its way to China for products that were then exported to Wal-Mart stores all over the US.

International agreements that would seek to limit greenhouse emissions which cause holes in the earth's ozone layer (which create climatic changes) have long been opposed by the Bush administration which believes the limits would hamper American competitiveness with countries like China. Using China as an excuse is ironic because China’s rapid economic development has been largely fueled by American consumers’ insatiable demand for its goods. Net exports from China to the US accounted for 23 percent of Chinese greenhouse gas emissions.

The Philipppines was a major source of discussion at the Bali Conference after the environmental group, Germanwatch, released a report citing the Philippines as the world's top climate change victim in 2006 for the strong typhoons which caused the Legazpi Mudslide and the Southern Leyte Landslide. They were the world's 2nd and 3rd deadliest disasters of 2006 claiming the lives of 2,511 people and rendering almost 800,000 families homeless.

The natural disasters inflicted on the Philippines were always exacerbated by man-made disasters like the illegal logging which deprive the country of valuable forest trees that could stop the rain waters from flooding the lowland areas.

The Bali Conference delegates called on the Philippines to pass the Renewable Energy Bill, sponsored by Sen. Dick Gordon, which has in various forms languished in the Philippine Congress for almost 10 years. The bill will actively promote the development of renewable energy sources abundant in the country like solar, wind, tidal and geothermal and setting time-bound renewable energy targets. It will ensure that the Philippines will wean away from overdependence on power generated through fossil fuels like oil and coal which have been identified as major contributors to climate change.

Passage of the Renewable Energy bill is especially critical because of the rising price of oil which now costs more than a US$100 a barrel. “With the RE Bill,” Jasper Inventor of Greenpeace said, “the country will utilize its massive renewable energy potential. The Philippines' wind energy potential alone reaches up to more than 70,000 MW. Solar power is abundant in the country and is capable of producing 1500 hours of power annually at 5 kilowatt hours per square meter per day."

There is very little time left. Pass the Renewable Energy Bill now!


On a personal note, I would like to express my condolences to the family of Charles Mosser, a philanthropist and environmentalist who died in the Philippines on October 17, 2007 at the age of 82. Charles and his wife, Annabelle Indemne Mosser, amassed a fortune in San Francisco real estate, a part of which they used to invest in Annabelle’s home province of Negros. They bought or leased more than 20,000 denuded hectares of mountain land and funded the planting there of their goal of 18-M trees of which 2-M have already been planted.

In 2005, the Philippine Congress granted Charles Mosser the Philippine citizenship he had long sought.

On that note, I wish you all the happiest of holidays.

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