Author Topic: The need for an information caravan on our climate-change vulnerabilities  (Read 5712 times)

Joe Carillo

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Forum member Dr. Flor Lacanilao furnished the Forum a copy of this letter from Prof. Helen T. Yap of the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute to her fellow scientists and colleagues regarding the country’s need for a no-nonsense information campaign on climate change, vulnerability of human settlements, and adaptation:

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December 21, 2011

Dear TOWNS* sisters and colleagues in science,

As one thinks beyond the immediate urgency of the current situation in northern Mindanao and parts of the Visayas, it is really high time to put long-term measures in place.

During casual conversations with colleagues at the Marine Science Institute, it has already been clear for a long time that certain geographic areas in our country are/were “disasters just waiting to happen.” One that was specifically mentioned, in fact, was Cagayan de Oro.

I know for a fact that my colleagues in the sciences have been very unselfish and untiring in their information campaigns by holding seminars, not only with fellow academics but also local government officials and other sectoral representatives.

Now that major, even unthinkable disasters have ravaged the whole length of our archipelago, from north to south, it is really high time for all citizens, especially those in high places and who are well-connected, to get together and put long-term measures in place. One question that begs an answer is, How come the warnings of our scientists habitually go unheeded? What is wrong, really? (What is wrong with our government, our government departments?)

An immediate project that TOWNS can embark on is an information “caravan” that will target strategic destinations in the archipelago, particularly those that have suffered from natural disasters combined with the inadequacies of our system—e.g., Isabela, Central Luzon, the Marikina Valley, the Bicol Region, Panay Island, and now Northern Mindanao, just to name a few. Not only the local officials should be engaged but also the citizens on the ground, because it is they who are most affected (as we are sadly witnessing, yet again).

Among highly qualified TOWNS sisters active in this area are Laura David, Alyssa Alampay, Hilly Roa Quiaoit (the latter, I understand, is now acting President of Xavier University and is leading the relief effort there).

Just a small addendum: One can talk about relocating people who live in vulnerable areas, but they need help in this—they need new settlements, new sources of livelihood.

On this rather sad note, may I wish everyone the best for this season, however one can manage.

Helen

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*TOWNS is the acronym for The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service, awards presented every three years to Filipina women ages 21 to 45 for excellence in their respective lines of work and “who have contributed positively to strengthening national capability and in shaping the nation’s future.”

florlaca

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Re: The need for an information caravan on our climate-change vulnerabilities
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2011, 11:18:36 AM »
In response to the call of Prof. Helen T. Yap of the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute for greater climate change awareness among Filipinos (“The need for an information caravan on our climate-change vulnerabilities”), I would like to share this March 2011 report on the climate commitment of the American College & University Presidents.

Here’s the introduction and executive summary of that report:

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HIGHER EDUCATION’S ROLE IN ADAPTING TO A CHANGING CLIMATE

Executive Summary

Climate change poses serious threats to human civilization, yet it offers opportunities to create a better future. Colleges and universities face clear and growing risks from climate disruption, and it is critical that presidents, trustees and those with fiduciary responsibility for these institutions be aware of these risks. Addressing these risks can provide the opportunity to recreate institutions of higher education for the 21st century, equipping them to be safe and secure in the face of change, more actively engaged in solving real-world problems, and reorganized to better provide the education and research needed to create and maintain a sustainable society.

This report, prepared by the Higher Education Climate Adaptation Committee — a group of experts and institutional leaders convened and coordinated by Second Nature in support of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) — finds that higher education institutions:

1. Have a critical role to play in preparing society to adapt to the impacts of climate disruption by providing research and education around adaptation strategies and science.

2. Need to increase their curricular offerings on climate adaptation, both through mainstreaming the information in core courses and offering electives that specialize in the topic.

3. Face direct risks to their operations and infrastructure from the impacts of climate disruption.

4. Have the unique opportunity to role-model solutions in their own operations.

5. Can serve as “hubs” in their local communities for creating, testing, and disseminating knowledge about regional climate projections and adaptation strategies, and should work directly with their local communities to explain the science and implement solutions.

6. Should acknowledge the inequitable distribution of climate impacts across populations, with low income and communities of color being in most need.

7. Should aim to identify adaptation strategies that also contribute to mitigation efforts.

8. As a whole, have not focused on adaptation sufficiently to date.

Higher education has taken a leadership role in climate mitigation — that is, preventing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It now must take the lead in climate adaptation — that is, preparing for and responding to impacts of climate change.

Updates to curricula across a diverse range of disciplines will be key to addressing climate adaptation to ensure professionals understand the impacts of climate change and the best practices for responding to them.

By providing cutting-edge scientific and social scientific research, higher education has already made fundamental contributions to climate adaptation efforts by identifying the most pressing climate impacts — but there is still a large, and growing, need for additional research, especially related to (a) very localized questions regarding specific ecosystems and (b) specific communities, especially in relation to the most vulnerable populations in our society.

Campus operations and infrastructure are vulnerable to climate disruption and senior administrators, trustees, planners, and facilities professionals need to be familiar with the financial and safety risks posed. Institutions have opportunities for experimenting and role-modeling adaptation solutions for the rest of society in campus operations.

Colleges and universities have begun collaborating with local communities on climate adaptation efforts providing expertise and additional capacity. They have the opportunity to serve as “hubs” in their communities on adaptation issues and help their regions prepare for the impacts brought on by climate disruption.

Examples of how institutions are approaching climate adaptation in each of these four areas — curriculum, research, operations and risk management, and community engagement — are provided below.

The report recommends that college and university presidents, trustees and other senior administrators, particularly business officers, take a proactive approach to climate change adaptation, including the following actions:

1. Understand the expected impacts of climate disruption in their region.

2. Conduct an analysis of what financial and human health and safety risks these impacts pose to the institution.

3. Identify and prioritize strategies for reducing these risks that whenever possible also contribute to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and integrate those strategies and actions into the institution’s climate action plans and campus master plan.

4. Evaluate academic offerings on climate adaptation and expand as needed to ensure all graduates have a sufficient understanding of the risks and how to address them in their personal and professional lives.

5. If applicable, evaluate research activities and pursue opportunities for generating new knowledge that will help society adapt to climate disruption.

6. Engage leaders in local communities in a dialogue to identify opportunities for the institution to provide education, research, and pilot projects on adaptation; and for larger projects that can be pursued in collaboration to improve the resiliency of the region’s infrastructure, energy systems, water system, food systems, and transportation systems.

7. Take leadership in assuring that communities in the institution’s region have access to credible, informative science, and that access is extended particularly to communities that are likely to be most impacted by the effective of climate change.

Given the scale and urgency of the threats posed by climate change to every aspect of our society we issue a call to action for all colleges and universities in the country to address the challenges of climate adaptation by explicitly recognizing the need to adapt to the changing climate and taking steps to prepare society to do so through education, research, operations, and community engagement efforts.

Click this link for the Full Text of the Report