climate-change risks

The Possibility Effect

Unlikely events hardly figure in our minds, until they actually happen.

Last week as I was preparing for a visit to my folks in Manila over the Christmas holidays, the news on the storm that hit the southern Philippines recorded about a hundred deaths. By the time I landed, the toll had gone up ten fold due to landslides.

If I was told before hand that the chances of death should a heavy typhoon strike the island of Mindanao was .004 of a percent, I would have disregarded it. But that actually translates to 900 deaths in a population of twenty one and a half million in the south, which is what has happened so far.

The fact that the weather pattern is quite mild there makes policy makers discount the risks and allows them to permit activities like mining, logging and human settlement with ease prior to the event. I say that because these things slip under the radar of the media and the public at large.

It only takes a severe disturbance that was Typhoon Sendong to alert us to the possibility of such an event and the negative impact that comes with it. Immediately afterwards, we all become overly cautious, and the tendency is to overestimate the occurrence of it. We become risk averse. After some time, the memory of it fades and we return to a state of indifference.

The shifting nature of our psyche makes it incumbent for government to have risk policies in place to deal with unique or unlikely events. We often go from one extreme to the next, alternating between indifference to hyper vigilance, from policies that disregard environmental damage to ones that absolutely restrict any form of economic activity for fear of the risks involved.

Risk policies would help to provide a rational global assessment of risks and the impacts involved and prepare us for such “black swan” events through regulations that minimize the environmental impact of economic activities to disaster preparedness to cope with any threat and its aftermath.

As I blogged earlier around the middle of this year, the risks are already quite substantial due to climate change and overpopulation in vulnerable locations. Here, for the benefit of those who missed it is an excerpt from what I previously posted ,

The Center for Global Development has tried to quantify the effects of severe weather events. In its report, the country ranks 4th most vulnerable country in the world to be directly impacted by extreme weather events. We are ranked below China (1st), India (2nd) and Bangladesh (3rd). If you consult their working paper on the effects of these events, you will find out what that means for the population.

Between 2008 and 2015, the likelihood of severe weather events is placed at 58%. While the impact of these disturbances can be mitigated through higher income and better regulations, about 5% of the total population could suffer. With our population expected to rise above 100 million in the next five years, that means about 5 million Filipinos will be in need of some form of assistance from natural disasters.

I guess, when you read something like that in the abstract, it doesn’t quite hit you as hard as when you read it in the wake of such devastation as we have witnessed recently. Despite the charitable giving from locals and the international community, the government’s response in the form of policies and resources will still be critical.

The Daily Roundup: 25 January 2011

Manila execs to skip HK probe on hostage tragedy”  by Sophia Dedace

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno are not keen on attending the Hong Kong government’s investigation on the Aug. 23 Manila hostage tragedy.

At a news briefing Monday, Lim said there is no need to attend the proceedings of the Hong Kong Coroner’s Court in February since the Philippines has already investigated the hostage tragedy through the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC).

Read more at GMA News

Budget deficit in 2010 seen to hit nearly $7 billion

The Philippine budget shortfall in 2010 is seen to have reached P310.4 billion ($6.99 billion), equivalent to 3.7 percent of forecast GDP growth for the year, a senior official said today.

This is four percent higher than 2009. But is lower than the programmed deficit of P325 billion ($7.32 billion) or almost four percent of the GDP.

Read more at The Philippine Star

Race vs time in beating climate-change risks to farms” by Imelda V. Abano

The Aquino administration had better hurry up in making the Philippines self-sufficient in rice through, among others, extensive irrigation and postharvest facilities—this, before intensifying climate change brings fiercer cyclones and dreadful flooding, and before other extreme-weather events make self-sufficiency impossible even with flood-resistant varieties.

With such failure to attain suffiency, according to experts, adequate imports of rice from neighboring countries that would also be on the same climate-change boat cannot be an option, as these nations look out for their own people first.

Read more at Business Mirror

$4-B new exports revenue seen”  by Max V. De Leon

THE electronics industry recorded its highest ever annual investments total at $2.318 billion in 2010, which could easily result in an additional $4 billion in exports.

“Before, we used to say that for every $1 of investment, it will result in $3 of exports. I can’t say now if that rule of thumb still holds, but I’m sure that once the $2 billion worth of projects become fully operational, they can generate at least $4 billion in additional export revenues [per year],” said Ernesto Santiago, president of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries of the Philippines Inc. (Seipi).

Read more at Business Mirror

Malacanang, Church OK informed choice in family planning” by Ana Mae G. Roa and Jo Javan A. Cerda

THE PALACE and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) held another dialogue on the reproductive health (RH) issue yesterday, underscoring the importance of free and informed choice on family planning, a Palace spokesperson said.

It was the second of such meetings between both parties after initial talks last December when the government and Church hierarchy agreed to pursue an information drive on both natural and artificial methods.

Read more at Business World

Philippines’ global peace index ranking plunges” by Jojo Malig

Rampant crime, terrorism and insurgency contributed to the big drop of the Philippines’ Global Peace Index (GPI) ranking in 2010.

The Philippines placed 130th on a list of 149 countries in the 2010 GPI, according to astudy published by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

Read more at ABS-CBN News

Weak jobs recovery likely to continue” by Paul M. Icamina

WEAK recovery in jobs is likely to continue in 2011 as record highs in global unemployment continued for the third straight year since the start of the economic crisis, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO) in a new report.

Despite a sharp rebound in economic growth in many countries, official global unemployment stood at 205 million in 2010, according to the annual Global Employment Trends 2011 report that the ILO will release today.

Read more at Malaya Business Insight

Avoiding an ‘Empty PDP’” by Cielito Habito

ONCE UPON a time—during the Ramos presidency in 1992-1998, specifically—it fell on my shoulders to lead the work of formulating the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP). This document is considered to be the country’s development “bible,” the guiding blueprint that defines the country’s development strategy over the six-year period coinciding with the term of a president. As such, it is seen to embody the incumbent leadership’s vision, goals and strategies for securing the country’s future and uplifting the lives of its people, something every newly elected president is expected to unveil soon after taking office.

Read more at Philippine Daily Inquirer

Globe offers fiber-to-home Internet service” by Paolo Montecillo

Amid increasing demand for higher speeds and bigger downloads, Ayala-led Globe Telecom Inc. has launched the new Globe Tattoo Torque—the fastest Internet connection for homes in the Philippines.

Tattoo Torque, which offers speeds up to 150 megabytes per second (mbps), is the first direct-to-home fiber-optic cable Internet connection in the Philippines.

Read more at Philippine Daily Inquirer