By Jessica Pag-iwayan
Friday, Sept. 27, marked the last day of the weeklong global student #ClimateStrike kicked off by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg the week before, on Sept. 20, in New York. This students’ strike aims to call the attention of world leaders, giant conglomerates, and every individual on earth about the seriousness of climate change and that we have to make immediate actions to save our planet before it’s too late.
In the Philippines, hundreds of students from different parts of the country participated in this youth movement. The Department of Education (DepEd) even released a memorandum telling schools and other educational institutes to “excuse” their students who would join the #ClimateStrike. Spearheaded by Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines together with other climate organizations, students from various locations such as Quezon City, Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, and Palawan went on strike.
But is climate change so serious that it necessitates students as young as gradeschoolers taking a day off their studies to go out and join street rallies, wanting their voices to be heard?
The temperature rise
Because of the increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, there has been a rise in global temperature. Based on a report by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “the planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 0.9 degree Celsius since the late 19th century.”
Locally, this year, Metro Manila set a new record for the hottest day on a dry season, at 35.9 degrees Celsius. This may not be the hottest day ever in Manila, but it is almost as bad as the 38.5 degrees Celsius recorded on May 14, 1987.
This continuous rise in global temperatures has consequences. Our oceans are suffering. Reports show that “the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean show warming more than 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.” Ice sheets in the polar region have also been melting at a faster rate. People from Iceland, for example, held a funeral on August for the first glacier they had lost because of climate change. That same month, Greenland’s ice sheets lost 12.5 billion tons of water in just one day, the highest recorded melting in a single day.
The Philippines on the map of climate change
According to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP) annual Global Index Report, the most alarming fact is that the Philippines is among countries most at risk of experiencing the brunk of these climate hazards. IEP founder and executive chairman Steve Killelea told ABC that the Pacific islands “are going to be massively impacted by rising sea levels.”
In another study, Metro Manila ranked second on a list of major cities around the world that are sinking. Reports indicate that Metro Manila is sinking by around 10 centimeters annually. The municipality of Bulakan in Bulacan, as well as other neighboring towns in Pampanga, has been sinking by around four to six centimeters every year since 2003.
The Philippines has also been experiencing extreme weather, which is another effect of climate change. Just this year, the country had an El Niño that caused shortage in water supply, particularly for Metro Manila residents. In August, Typhoon Ineng left Ilocos Norte in a state of calamity with over P1.1 billion in damages to infrastructures and local livelihood.
Local officials supporting #ClimateStrike
As the global #ClimateStrike created history in different parts of the world, our local government officials stood with the youth. Senator Sonny Angara applauds Greta for her courage in fighting for the world’s future. “We admire her for delivering that powerful message on the world’s big stage,” he told Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, referring to Greta’s powerful speech at the recent United Nation’s Climate Summit where she told world leaders “we are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”
Antique congresswoman Loren Legarda also expressed her support. “I stand by the Youth Strike for Climate Philippines—united with the youth all over the world in the Global Climate Strike, and with its demand for ambitious and faster climate action,” she said in a press statement. “The climate emergency is unequivocal and the only fitting response is to change our ways, from our way of thinking and living, to our way of pursuing development. Heeding the demands of our youth is not a choice but a moral imperative, our moral responsibility for the generation of today and of the future.”