The low, dark clouds, the rumble of thunder, the flashes of lightning, and the rising wind-bending branches all indicate a powerful typhoon is approaching, and that means danger, worry, and concern for the thousands of small farmers and their families and another week of loss, hunger, hardship, and survival. City dwellers worry less with their strong buildings and water drainage systems to protect them. But living in a bamboo hut with a grass roof or flimsy metal sheet roofing is not secure against the force and might of the all-destructive typhoons and floods that frequently hit the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.
The consequence of climate change is here; there is no doubt the Philippines endured 19 typhoons and storms in 2022, and they are increasing in number. Every year, they destroy harvests, houses, roads, and river embankments and cause landslides, floods, death, and destruction. Climate change continues to intensify and grow worse and more intense because of the non-stop burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil to generate electricity. They must be replaced with clean, renewable energy plants.
Yet, wealthy and secure politicians and business leaders ignore the dire threat to the nation and the planet. They do not see or care about the gathering catastrophe that is engulfing the planet and hurting children above all else. Pope Francis does care, and millions more, and he has spoken out in strong criticism of the world order that does too little to stop global warming and save the planet. The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has warned in a new report that children are the most vulnerable of all.
The world temperature is coming ever closer to the tipping point of no return when the global temperature reaches 1.5 degrees hotter since the pre-industrial era and cannot be reversed. That is when one disaster will cause another in an unstoppable chain reaction of destruction. Humans have caused this, and the 10 richest nations are 70 percent responsible for it all.
The children are the most vulnerable to climate change and at risk, according to the recent report from Unicef titled "The Climate Crisis is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children's Climate Risk Index" launched recently at the UN headquarters in New York. This is part of an ongoing research project that analyses the vulnerability and risk factors of how climate change is endangering children. Children are impacted by storms, floods and landslides.
In other parts of the globe, drought kills everything. Children and people die. There are water-borne diseases from floods, loss of their possessions and flimsy bamboo and grass-roofed homes are blown away. This also causes psychological stress and diminishes their education and well-being. If they are sent away to distant relatives because of poverty, they can suffer malnourishment and the loss of their parents’ love and protection. They are even vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse.
The Unicef report finds “approximately 1 billion children — nearly half the world's 2.2 billion children — live in one of the 33 countries classified as "extremely high-risk." The Philippines is 31 in ranking of this “high-risk” list of countries due to natural disasters caused by climate change.
A few wealthy nations are causing the most climate damage. Ten industrial rich nations are responsible for 70 percent of the massive amount of global emissions of CO2 that causes global warming and disastrous climate change. Just nine percent of the damaging CO2 emissions are caused by the 33 nations that are suffering most of the damage to their environment by climate change. Children suffer the most devastating consequences.
Pope Francis in his most recent encyclical letter on climate change named Laudate Deum (Praise God) pinned the blame for the growing climate crises on the irresponsibility of and uncaring attitude of big business and government officials that seek their own wealth gain at the cost to the planet and the poor. “Our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point,” he wrote. He pointed out the irreversibility of the damage. “Some effects of the climate crisis are already irreversible, at least for several hundred years, such as the increase in the global temperature of the oceans, their acidification and the decrease of oxygen,” he said in a profound statement.
It is the higher temperatures of the oceans that are greatly contributing to the more frequent and more powerful storms and typhoons. When governments and industry leaders ignore the truth and continue to rely and subsidize oil exploitation and promote fossil fuel, they cause climate disasters to develop. To promote fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, they slow down investment and development of renewable sources of energy like wind and solar power, geo-thermal, hydropower, bio and hydrogen power plants. They leave the problems unresolved and, as Pope Francis says, the result is more disastrous effects of global warming that creates “the probability of extreme phenomena that are increasingly frequent and intense.”
The Catholic Church has its ultra-conservative elements which Pope Francis referred to as “certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church.” For those in the Church and outside it that deny and ignore the crises of global warming and its effects, he had this to say. “Despite all attempts to deny, conceal, gloss over or relativize the issue, the signs of climate change are here and increasingly evident. No one can ignore the fact that in recent years we have witnessed extreme weather phenomena, frequent periods of unusual heat, drought and other cries of protest.”
The greed and exploitation of liberal capitalism has much to answer for, the Pope said. The money moguls and investment gurus that ignore the global crises must be challenged. Pope Francis challenges them: “Regrettably, the climate crisis is not exactly a matter that interests the great economic powers, whose concern is with the greatest profit possible at minimal cost and in the shortest amount of time.”
Government and industry have to accelerate investment in the expansion of renewable energy projects. It seems some government officials are part of the problem protecting the coal and oil industry. The Philippines has massive wind, solar, geo-thermal and hydro possibilities and resources that are inexhaustible sources of clean energy. These are the safest and most economical alternatives to coal and oil-burning power stations.
Instead of these natural forces of nature destroying us, we must turn them into positive, life-saving sources of clean energy, promoting life and the well-being of people, protecting children and the planet.