Global warming and destructive logging: a deadly combination

Feature story - January 5, 2006
Climate change and destructive logging proves to be a deadly combination, as abnormal weather patterns caused by climate change continue to wreak havoc with the recent floodings in Oriental Mindoro, Isabela, Palawan, Quezon, Bicol, and Caraga.

The deadly combination of abnormal weather patterns associated with climate change and continued destructive logging -- which together brought on the recent catastrophic flooding in Oriental Mindoro, Isabela, Palawan, Quezon, Bicol, and Caraga -- will continue to wreak havoc in the country unless concrete steps are taken to curb both climate change and logging, Greenpeace warned Thursday.

"Catastrophic floods have already been attributed to extreme precipitation associated with climate change . But even more extreme devastation results when such abnormal weather events combine with the effects of destructive logging," said Von Hernandez, Campaign Director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "The Philippines has already experienced the impacts of this deadly combination many times in the past, the worst among them being the Ormoc tragedy in 1990 and the Aurora and Quezon disasters of 2004. These disasters will continue to recur so long as measures to mitigate climate change and stop logging are not undertaken," he added.

Last month's floods which occurred almost simultaneously in various provinces throughout the country have displaced tens of thousands of families living in the affected areas.

In a Greenpeace report released November last year entitled "Crisis or Opportunity: Climate Change Impacts and the Philippines" author Leoncio Amadore PhD, one of the Philippine's foremost meteorologists, determined that the impacts of climate change have already been manifested in the Philippines by extreme climate occurrence such as, floods, droughts, forest fires, and an increase in tropical cyclones(1).

"Climate change will aggravate the misery of an already over-burdened Filipino community," explained Amadore,"Countries must combine both adaptive strategies such as disaster-preparedness programs and, continuous vulnerability assessments along with emission reduction measures such as displacing fossil power with renewables and energy efficiency."

Logging, meanwhile, has exacerbated the effects of heavy rains. Continuous logging-both legal and illegal-severely compromises the natural carrying capacity of the forests, which act as effective barriers against strong winds, rains, and landslides during typhoons, to provide protection from natural calamities. Citing statistics,

Greenpeace said that an average of 500 lives is lost every year due to the 17 to 22 typhoons that pass through the country annually. This figure more than doubled in the November-December 2004 floods and landslides. Ten times that number perished in the Ormoc Tragedy, which also occurred in the month of November, in 1991. These numbers and other

"devastation" statistics, such as damage to property and infrastructure will increase as the frequency and strength of typhoons increase.

While the government has cited extreme rainfall as the cause of floods, it has yet to acknowledge that the denudation of forest lands have also had a hand in the calamities.

"Government officials always use the extreme precipitation argument to wash their hands off any responsibility for the disastrous floods," Hernandez said. "Given the increasing prospects of extreme precipitation in the future, the government should carry out stronger measures to protect remaining forests and stop destructive logging, as well as

institute policies to reduce the country's dependence on climate change-causing fossil fuel energy systems and create a massive shift towards renewable energy."

"While we cannot entirely blame human folly for some of these catastrophes, nature has brutally highlighted our collective failure to listen and learn from its bitter lessons. Simply put, what we inflict upon nature, we inflict upon ourselves. Indeed our experiences with earlier disasters should have prepared us to anticipate and take

preemptive action against future environmental hazards," said Hernandez.

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organization that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

For further information:

Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaign Director, +63 917 526 3050

Lea Guerrero, Media Officer, +63 916 374 4969, +63 2 434 7034

(1) Crisis or Opportunity: Climate Change Impacts and the Philippines, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, November 2005.