Whew! 36˚ Summers: So this is What Climate Change Feels Like


By Charmaine Caparas

I've lived in a tropical country all my life yet I still find it impossible to deal with the debilitating heat of summer. A few weeks back, Manila recorded a temperature of 36 degrees Celsius, driving many folks to seek respite inside the city’s many gargantuan shopping malls or just about any enclosed space with air conditioning they could find.

Here’s the thing: I'm no different. Last Monday night, I found myself in the mall, attending a free film screening sponsored by the Climate Change Commission of the Philippines. Yes, it was for work, but I would definitely choose sitting comfortably in a cool cinema with a free movie to sweating profusely at home.

The British-made documentary was called Thin Ice and it discusses our out-of-control CO2 emissions and how it fuels climate change as evidenced by the rising temperatures in the Arctic, Antartica and, well, the rest of the world.

Could CO2 emissions be the culprit of our 36-degree summers?

Greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere trap the heat on the Earth's surface, making it a whole lot warmer on land and in the ocean. This also means more evaporation which brings heavier rainfall than usual, which invariably causes flooding. Here's a two-minute animated video on how climate change fuels extreme weather.

In fact, people living in Asia and the Pacific are the most vulnerable populations to the disastrous effects of climate change. Last year, the Philippines and Pakistan recorded the highest number of fatalities from natural disasters. Hundreds of thousands of families are uprooted and forced to move as a consequence of extreme weather events brought about by climate change.

The urgency of developing effective strategies and mechanisms that will enable countries to adapt and mitigate these climate risks cannot be overemphasized. In September 2012, the International Organization for Migration and the Asian Development Bank launched APMEN (Asia-Pacific Migration and Environment Network). It is an online platform designed to build capacity on climate change, migration, and environmental issues in Asia and the Pacific.

Mr. Andy Bruce, IOM Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, said that accelerated climate change is likely to increase the scale of migration flows in the region.

"(It is) a region in which millions of people have already moved internally or across borders due to natural disasters and other environmental events. APMEN was created to make it easier for researchers, policy makers and key opinion leaders to come together and share information on this very important topic," he said.

Working primarily through a new and evolving online communication platform (www.apmen.iom.int), APMEN promotes new research, information exchange and dialogue, intending to fill the existing data, research and knowledge gaps on the migration-environment nexus.

The network is working towards centralizing relevant research and information and offering a virtual space for exchange and learning. After all, we are at that point where we have the ability to predict our climate future through scientific research and experimentation. APMEN encourages researchers and key opinion leaders to take part in the knowledge sharing so that we may find effective ways to address these climate challenges.

APMEN is poised to be the largest repository of publications, news, events, photos and videos related to environmentally driven migration in the world's most populous region.

The reality is that the world, as we know it, is fast changing, from one flooding to the next drought. We should not be afraid, but instead, hopeful that through a collective effort, we can eventually find a solution to adapt and mitigate the life-threatening forces of nature.

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Charmaine Caparas works as a Communications Specialist for IOM