Environment New Year’s Eve revelry loser


By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:34:00 01/02/2009

Filed Under: Environmental Issues, Festive Events (including Carnivals), Global Warming, Climate Change

MANILA, Philippines—So you welcomed 2009 with a bang but in the eyes of environmentalists like Heherson Alvarez, there was one clear loser in the New Year’s Eve revelry on Wednesday—the environment.

Alvarez, the presidential adviser on global warming and climate change, expressed dismay over what he said was the general disregard for the environmental impact of exploding firecrackers to mark the close of the old year.

He said much of the blame should be placed on members of the middle class who came out with “big ones that exploded like bombs.”

Unlike them, the poor were limited to small firecrackers and their exertions were largely held back by the evening downpour, Alvarez said.

“We’re still very Oriental in our thinking that firecrackers drive away evil spirits,” Alvarez said.

“We are not aware that we are creating a new demon that will devour our very existence.”

Alvarez pointed to the serious problem of global warming, one of the main contributors being carbon dioxide emissions.

When he was environment secretary in 2001, Alvarez said his agency recorded a 2,000-percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions as a result of firecracker explosions during New Year celebrations in urban areas.

He said it would be no surprise if a similar test today would reveal another enormous leap in carbon dioxide emission levels.

Besides the middle class, Alvarez also denounced the companies that manufacture the more sophisticated types of pyrotechnics.

“There were organized steps to explode more firecrackers from people who were supposed to better understand the issue of climate change,” he lamented.

“Private companies should be banned from manufacturing firecrackers.”

Alvarez attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland, where it was deemed that the problem of global warming could reach its “tipping point” in 50 years.

“By then, we would have altered the world’s temperature by two degrees Centigrade from pre-Industrial Revolution levels,” he said.

He warned that the natural repercussions would be intense flooding in low-lying areas, some of which he identified as Manila, Malabon, Guimaras and Cebu.

“More than 60 percent of our living space would be under salt water,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez said part of the solution would be a clear change in the public’s mentality on issues such as firecracker use.

The government, for instance, should expand its campaign against firecrackers beyond the idea of “protecting people from harming themselves,” he said.

The government this year came out with advertisements showing gory images of body parts wounded in firecracker explosions. They were meant to discourage the public from using pyrotechnics by learning from others’ mistakes.

“The injuries are bigger and far more serious with global warming,” Alvarez said. “We’re threatening our way of life, our very civilization.”

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