Lessening carbon emissions and preparing for disaster can be done together
Posted by butalidnl on 15 October 2009
This blog post is my contribution to Blog Action Day
Typhoons Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma), which caused extensive damage in the Philippines through extensive flooding and landslides, were unprecendented in Philippine history. They are also graphic proof for the ordinary Filipino that the climate has indeed changed, and that we should take action to respond to this. The range of responses that people want is quite wide: from those calling for radical steps to cut our carbon footprint, to those who want more disaster preparedness, and even those who want to prosecute corrupt officials for diverting emergency funds. There are even those who think that the typhoons are a scourge from God, as punishment for the sins of the country’s leaders.
The proposed actions generally fall in two categories: first, those which seek to lessen the country’s carbon footprint, and thus contribute to lessening the greenhouse effect; and second, those which seek to protect lives and property from the ravages of such a changed climate (and in particular, the phenomenon of severe rainfall that comes with typhoons). And the problem is that many Filipinos may feel that the latter is the priority, and that the country can ill afford the “luxury” of limiting its carbon emissions.
But the two categories are not really mutually exclusive. There are steps which can be taken – and I believe should be taken – which address both the overall carbon footprint while increasing disaster preparedness.
This has become a “motherhood” issue when it comes to floods and even climate change. Millions of trees have been planted (although a lot more, I believe, have been cut down at the same time) but we don’t have much to show for it. What we need to do is not simply to plant the trees, but to make sure that the trees are planted where they are needed most, and that there are people that nurture and protect these trees. This could be done in various ways. A community could be given a whole area of forest for their protection, which is paired with that community’s right to harvest from this forest. People could be paid to act as forest rangers, whose task is to protect the trees. And the trees should be planted especially in watershed areas – hilly or mountainous terrain – where they help to hold the soil (lessen siltation downstream). Trees should also be planted in places which experience dry periods as a result of climate change; the trees help to retain the water and thus help prevent droughts.
And at the same time, the trees would absorb carbon dioxide from the air, and lessen the overall carbon footprint of the country.
People were scandalized by all the garbage that clogged the rivers, mixing with the flood waters, and with some garbage even ending up hanging from electricity lines when the flood had receded. The handling of garbage in the Philippines is primitive – it is just a matter of gathering the garbage from households, etc and dumping them somewhere – where people go through them looking for things to resell (and in vary dirty conditions). And some people merely dump their garbage in the most convenient open space or waterway. But Metro Manila has grown too big for this primitive handling of garbage. We need to put in place a modern garbage collection and processing system which would recycle everything that could be recycled. Segregation of garbage should be done – preferably at the source. So, paper, plastic, tin cans, glass, “green waste” (leaves, and other compostable materials), electronic products, appliances, should be gathered separately. This could be done either by stimulating people to gather them house-to-house, just like what they already do for used iron, paper and glass. We could also put up a modern garbage handling plant to fully segregate the “rest” garbage. Experience in other countries show that more than 90% of the garbage can be recycled. This leaves only a small amount of garbage which could either be incinerated or placed in landfills. And energy can still be generated by this: incineration plants could be used to produce electricity, and landfills could be set up to produce biogas.
Recycling garbage is not only good for helping to unclog the drainage system of Metro Manila; it also helps to lessen global warming. The materials which are recycled don’t have to be produced from scratch – and this in turn saves on the energy used to produce them.
Expand the Light Rail Transit System
The LRT system in Metro Manila was able to operate even under flooded conditions during Typhoon Ondoy, for the simple reason that it is elevated. It would be a good idea to consolidate and expand the extent to the LRT system in order to provide more commuters with reliable all-weather transportation. Expansion should be considered also in places such as the C5 highway or the South Expressway. In addition to expanding the places reached by the LRT, its capacity should also be increased by adding more trains.
An expansion of the reach and capacity of the LRT has also definite benefits for the world’s climate to a modest degree. LRT passenger growth will be at the expense of cars, buses and jeepneys – and this will mean a reduction in gasoline and diesel consumption, resulting in less CO2 emissions.
The three measures above will, in addition to making the country more prepared for disaster and lessening carbon emissions, also help to stimulate the economy and provide jobs to many people.