Editorial: Flood and Cebu City

EVEN before the pandemic, flooding during heavy rains had been a common occurrence in most urban parts of Metro Cebu, especially in Cebu City’s downtown area of Cebu City, and these were the common scenes: Individuals wading through murky floodwaters; small vehicles stranded in the middle of the road after experiencing engine trouble, causing traffic; residents securing TV sets, refrigerators and other essential gadgets from their houses inundated by an overflowing river nearby; smiling street children playing and swimming in a pool of flood, a display of innocence about their world that could become a super monster in the future.

Rain is a welcome respite after days of heat and dust. But when it becomes unceasing, the romantic story turns into a tale of horror.

Cebu City’s urban barangays in Cebu City near Kinalumsan River went through hell when the river swelled last Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. Poor residents living near the river had to secure their belongings. Others stayed on rooftops, watching the river’s rage. Flood-control projects seemed futile.

Calamities are like Greek gods unleashing their wrath and brute force.

Deadly typhoons and increasingly unpredictable weather are part of climate change, which has never stopped. The Covid-19 pandemic stopped factories, coal-fired plants and other industries that emit air pollutants when it raged in the early half of 2020, thus partly clearing the air of megalopolises like New Delhi in India, and industrial cities in China in Asia, in Germany and other big cities in Europe, United States and Americas. But it was only temporary, the dread of air pollution came back when the world economy slowly reopened.

The planet and human existence are fragile in the face of climate change. On Oct. 31-Nov. 12, 2021, the United Kingdom will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (UK COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. The UK COP26, in its website, states that the “summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Paris Agreement is a landmark international accord adopted by nearly every country in the world in 2015, including the Philippines, to combat climate change. It includes commitments from all major emitting countries to cut their climate pollution and to strengthen those commitments over time.”

“In an effort to ‘significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change,’ the accord calls for limiting the global average temperature rise in this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. It also asks countries to work to achieve a leveling off of global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral in the second half of this century,” according to the report of US-based environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The NRDC report further states: “To achieve the Paris Agreement’s original objectives, 186 countries—responsible for more than 90 percent of global emissions—submitted carbon reduction targets, known as “intended nationally determined contributions,” prior to the Paris conference. These targets outlined each country’s commitments for curbing emissions (including through the preservation of carbon sinks) through 2025 or 2030, including economy-wide carbon-cutting goals.”

Some of these countries are the US, China, India, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, South Korea and countries in the European Union.

According to the explainer published by UK COP26, the “commitment to aim for 1.5 degrees is important because every fraction of a degree of warming results in the tragedy of many more lives lost and livelihoods damaged.”

“Despite the opportunities we are not acting fast enough. To avert this (climate) crisis, countries need to join forces urgently,” it said.

Last Tuesday, Oct. 5, just weeks before the UK COP26, the Swedish Academy awarded the Nobel Prize in physics to three scientists—Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi—for their “work that found order in seeming disorder, helping to explain and predict complex forces of nature, including expanding our understanding of climate change,” the Associated Press reported.

“It’s very urgent that we take very strong decisions and move at a very strong pace” in tackling global warming, Parisi said.

Climate change is an existential threat to Cebu and the entire world. The heated-up planet has made typhoons fiercer and erratic.

Cebu City and the rest of Cebu could see more deadly weather disturbances and flooding could be more merciless if global temperature continues to rise. The planet’s survival depends on how fast the world leaders could address the climate crisis.