Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Philippines agriculture faces special challenges in a changing climate

Manila Times Internet Edition: The Philippines’ agriculture industry will find it harder to cope with climate change because of the country’s size and unique geographical features, an environmental scientist said. Reiner Wassman, senior climate scientist at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna, said the size and geography of the archipelago defies a uniform response strategy, because it is highly possible that the patterns of climate change will vary along the climatic zones.

Global warming has been blamed for the below-average rainfall that is drying up dams and parched ricefields in Luzon. Authorities had warned that unless the rains fall soon, the government could declare a drought in Luzon. Last week, unscheduled blackouts hit Metro Manila and outlying provinces after power plants that rely on water to drive their turbines were forced to shut down.

“Regions of the Philippines differ in terms of land-use practices and landscape characteristics, so they will be affected to varying degrees by climate change,” Wassman said in an e-mail sent to The Manila Times. He advised the government that the most effective way of responding to climate change is to aim at region-specific response plans that could initially be developed through selected pilot studies.

“This strategy allows a more detailed inventory of the biophysical and socioeconomic settings and using—downscaling techniques—more reliable climate-change scenarios for the target regions,” he said. “We feel that this goal of adaptation [i.e. adjusting rice to a changing climate] should be linked to mitigation [i.e. the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions],” Wassman said. Agriculture accounts for 33 percent of greenhouse emissions.

…He earlier warned that rising sea levels triggered by climate change pose an “ominous” threat to some of the world’s most productive rice-growing areas, including the Philippines. “On a national scale, however, it seems unlikely that sea level rise will become a major constraint for rice production in the Philippines,” Wassman said. The bulk of the rice is produced in regions like Central Luzon, which will not be affected by any sea level rise in the foreseeable future, he said.

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