A fine mess we got ourselves into

Orly Mercado

Posted on November 27, 2007

The newly released Human Development Report of the UNDP starts by borrowing the words of Martin Luther King speaking about the “fierce urgency” of a crisis. The terse warnings are all about the fact that nothing and no one can be insulated from the effects of climate change. This would include even the incorrigible skeptics who will continue to downplay the overwhelming scientific evidence up to the very end.

The realities the report confronts are really sad. The potential human costs of climate change have been understated. There are those who would be more vulnerable to extreme climatic events. They obviously are those living in poverty. And even in the unlikely event that governments act with the dispatch and solidarity required meeting the challenge, we cannot reverse overnight what we have done to our planet. In other words, even if the technology needed to reduce emissions is adopted, we still have to adapt to the effects of global warming. Mitigation is not enough. Adaptation will be a key to survival.

It’s a fine mess humankind has gotten itself into. The climate is definitely changing, and so are the natural hazards. And when disasters occur, the capacity to recover from them is made more difficult by inequalities. In the end, it goes back to the issue of poverty. My father used to say with a sigh, “mahirap ang mahirap” (it is hard to be poor).

A lot is riding on the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Bali in early December 2007. We will see who would “walk the talk.” Climate change is not only an environmental problem, it is now an overarching issue that encompasses most of the serious challenges we face in the realm of human development. A UNDP official put it so well when she called it “the envelope inside which all other agendas are to be placed.” Moreover,the threat to all of humankind is such that the cost of inaction is higher than the cost of action.

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