Concern raised over badly conceived climate-change adaptation measuresBy Dr. Flor Lacanilao
Regarding the work of scientists and media in climate disasters, the typical news report in the Philippines on climate-related issues often lacks evidence-based information, which means properly published experts or studies. For example, the news report ‚ÄúReclaiming land seen as measure to deal with climate change‚ÄĚ
(Philippine Daily Inquirer
, November 1, 2012) mentioned a department secretary, a bureau director, an architect, a government reclamation agency, and the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Science or NIGS (‚ÄúKey role of scientists & media in climate disasters,‚ÄĚ Philippine Daily Inquirer
, November 8, 2012). But no scientist or properly published study was cited at all. And the report failed to mention the well-published NIGS geologist Dr. Alfredo Mahar Lagmay.
Here is another example of a news report in a recent issue of the journal Nature
, showing how scientists and engineer scientists discuss plans on climate adaptation:
Malcolm Bowman (who specializes in storm-surge modeling at Stony Brook University in New York) has ‚Äúadvocated a system of sea barriers or dykes,‚ÄĚ like those in London, the Netherlands, and Russia. The system pictured by Bowman and others consists of an 8-km-wide barrier, 6 meters high, that can be opened and closed at the entrance to the harbor, and other structures. The cost is about US$15 billion; by way of comparison, estimates of the damage caused by Hurricane ‚ÄúSandy‚ÄĚ is between $30 billion and $50 billion.
On the other hand, some scientists worry that a single focus on sea barriers could be counterproductive‚ÄĒlike disrupting river outflow, increasing sedimentation, upsetting ecosystems, and exacerbating flooding in areas that are not protected. Also, sea barriers do not protect against severe storms that produce inland flooding.
Cynthia Rosenzweig (co-chair of the New York climate panel and a senior scientist at NASA) says, ‚ÄúSandy clearly shows that we have to do the barrier studies now‚Ä¶ But I think we need to consider an integrated and holistic set of solutions, and not put all of our eggs in the barriers.‚ÄĚ Scientists and government officials must ensure that any rebuilding is done with the long view of global warming in mind, she adds. (Full text in ‚ÄúHurricane sweeps US into climate-adaptation debate‚ÄĚ
, November 8, 2012)
The way governance of science and education in the Philippines goes, I think the message to the Filipino academic scientist can be seen in the Science
editorial last week, which says in part:
‚ÄúScientists insist on believable data both in work and in public life. Bright young scientists do not accept nonsense from those in power, and they will not be eternally patient with those responsible for it. The response of the scientist to nonsense is both conceptual and practical: to recognize it, expose it, and try to fix it.‚ÄĚ (‚ÄúThe Scientist as World Citizen,‚ÄĚ
November 2, 2012).