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Ketsana underscores climate change imperative

Manila - A father carries his daughter on his back as they wade through putrid, brown flood water in suburban Pasig district in Manila. At least 246 people were killed by tropical storm Ketsana on 26 September
A father carries his daughter on his back as they wade through putrid, brown flood water in suburban Pasig district in Manila. (Jason Gutierrez/IRIN)

The devastation and loss of life in the Philippines from tropical storm Ketsana is a strong indicator of events to come if industrialized nations fail to adequately tackle climate change, Filipino officials warn.

The Philippines government has requested international humanitarian assistance and is undertaking massive relief operations after Ketsana struck the country on 26 September, leaving at least 246 people dead and more than 730,000 displaced, according to the country's National Disaster Coordinating Council.

Three days later, Ketsana pummelled Vietnam's central coast and has moved on to Cambodia, leaving dozens dead in its wake.

Philippine officials said the storm underscored the need for progress in the talks about a new deal under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty (UNFCCC) under way in Bangkok, and for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

"The death, the pain and the damage in the Philippines help us to understand the necessity of an earnest negotiation," Heherson Alvarez, head of the Philippine delegation to the talks and presidential adviser on climate change, told reporters.

Countries at the climate change talks in Bangkok are arguing over the burden of cuts in greenhouse gases and Alvarez urged industrialized nations to commit to substantial reductions.

"We should cut deep and cut early in order to moderate these destructive typhoons," he said. "Think of Manila. Think of what can happen in this world."

Alvarez said the Philippines experiences about 20 typhoons a year; they have been increasing in speed over the past 30 years from 100km to up to 200km per hour.

The Philippines is gathering scientific data to show the effects of climate change on the country, but Alvarez said there was evidence to show a correlation between an increase in the level of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and the severity of typhoons.

"We have no other reason to believe that these are desultory events," he said.

Graciano Yumul, under-secretary at the Philippine government's national Department of Science and Technology, pointed to changing weather patterns in the world's second largest archipelago nation, including rain during the country's normally dry summer months from April to June.

During summer this year, "a lot of people died because three typhoons hit the country. Summer is supposed to be dry, not wet," said Yumul.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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