Climate describes the total of all weather occurring over a period of years in a given place.
This includes average weather conditions, regular weather sequences (wet or rainy season, summer, fall, winter, springl), and special weather events (like tornadoes and floods).
Climate change represents a change in these long-term weather patterns. They can become warmer or colder. Annual amounts of rainfall or snowfall (in temperate zones) can increase or decrease.
Interviewed in the National Nutrition Council (NNC) weekly radio program Radyo Mo sa Nutrisyon, hosted by NNC Executive Director, Assistant Secretary of Health Bernie Flores, Climate Change Commission (CCC) Vice-Chair, Secretary Mary Ann Lucille L. Sering explained that the terms global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably, but the two phenomena are different.
Global warming is the rise in global mean temperature due to an increase of heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere.
Climate change is a more general term that refers to changes in many climatic factors (such as temperature and precipitation) from the global to the local scale.
These changes are happening in response to global warming and other factors at different rates and in different ways. It could be hot and dry in northern areas of Luzon but cold and rainy in Mindanao.
Climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the “greenhouse effect”
The greenhouse effect is the rise in temperature that the Earth experiences because certain gases in the atmosphere trap energy from the sun.
The most abundant greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are: water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone (O3), and chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs.
Climate change is caused by increasing levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our atmosphere.
According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,”most of the observed increase in global average temperatures (global warming) is very likely due to the observed increase in human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations”.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is constantly being released through respiration, plant decomposition and the burning of fossil fuels. So while with every breath we release CO2 into the air, the main cause of GHG emissions and the main contributor to climate change is caused by human activity.
Some of the primary causes of climate change are fossil fuel combustion, industrial processes, deforestation, transportation and even buildings.
On a day-to-day level, since much of the energy we consume or products we use require significant fossil fuel input, every time we turn on the lights, use a gas stove, travel by car or airplane, grow or consume food, we contribute to climate change.
The climate plays such a major part in our planet’s environmental system that even minor changes have impacts that are large and complex.
Climate change affects people and nature in countless ways, and it often increases existing threats that have already put pressure on the environment.
Climate change impacts on water.
Rivers and lakes supply drinking water for people and animals, as well as being vital for agriculture and industry. Oceans and seas provide food for billions of people.
Climate change will have major and unpredictable effects on the world’s water systems, including more floods and droughts. Extremes of drought and flooding will become more common, causing displacement and conflict and less fresh water means less agriculture, food and income
Climate change impacts on forests.
Forests do so much: they purify our air, improve water quality, keep soils intact, provide us with food, wood products and medicines, and are home to many of the world’s most endangered wildlife.
In fact, an estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide rely on forests for their livelihoods, including 60 million indigenous people who depend on forests for their subsistence.
Forests also help protect the planet from climate change by absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), a major source of pollution that causes climate change.
Unfortunately, forests are being destroyed or damaged at an alarming rate by logging and burning to clear land for agriculture or livestock. These activities release huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Scientists estimate up to 20 percent of global carbon emissions come from deforestation – greater than emissions from every car, truck and plane on the planet combined. So instead of forests helping us to solve the climate crisis, deforestation is making the situation even worse.
Climate change impacts on food security.
Climate change will have a significant impact on food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food systems stability in many parts of the world. Climate change poses a significant risk of increased crop failure, loss of livestock and impact on local food security.
In some areas drier and warmer conditions are predicted, elsewhere wetter conditions are expected and will affect agriculture practices. It will affect human health and livelihoods, as well as people’s purchasing power, food markets and food security on a household level.
Climate change impacts on agriculture.
Agriculture is highly dependent on specific climate conditions.
Warmer temperatures may make crops grow more quickly, but warmer temperatures could also reduce yields.
Heat stress affects animals both directly and indirectly. Over time, heat stress can increase vulnerability to disease, reduce fertility, and reduce milk production, while drought threatens pasture and feed supplies.
Warmer water temperatures are likely to cause the habitat ranges of many fish and shellfish species to shift, which could disrupt ecosystems.
Overall, climate change could make it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and same places as we have done in the past.
Addressing climate change in the Philippine setting, Sec. Sering says that the capability of local government units’ to respond to the impact of climate change should be strengthened.
According to Sec. Sering, government’s focus now is on capacity development at the local level after recognizing that the response in climate change must be done locally.
Sec. Sering says, “Most of our expenses in disaster reduction is still very much reactive. We want to fuse climate and disaster risk reduction so that we can see more proactive planning.”
[Climate Change Commission Vice-Chair Secretary Mary Ann Lucille L. Sering on Radyo Mo sa Nutrisyon]
Climate change may be a big problem, but there are many little things we can do to make a difference. If we try, most of us can do our part to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that we put into the atmosphere. Many greenhouse gases come from things we do every day.
We can make a difference!
National Nutrition Council “Radyo Mo sa Nutrisyon” (Saturdays, 12:30pm to 1:00 pm; DZXL 558 kHz or at www.rmnnews.com/tv)
Philippine Climate Change Commission
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
USEPA Climate Change Kids Site