One of the most pressing environmental issues impacting the Philippines is climate change. As an island country located in the Southeast Asia Pacific region, the Philippines is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Some of these impacts include increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, sea level rise, extreme rainfall, resource shortages, and environmental degradation. All of these impacts together have greatly affected the Philippines' agriculture, water, infrastructure, human health, and coastal ecosystems and they are projected to continue having devastating damages to the economy and society of the Philippines.
Philippines share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is 0.31%. Nevertheless, the country is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. GHG emissions in the Philippines are rising. Over 40% of the country's GHG emissions come from the burning of coal and fuel oil for electricity generation, with many coal plants being technically unable to ramp down. The Philippines, a signatory of the Paris climate accord, aims to cut its emissions by 70% by 2030. In 2021 youth climate activists protested Standard Chartered's financing of coal companies. Legislation to create an emissions trading system is being considered.
Due to its geographical location, climate, and topography, the Philippines is ranked third on the World Risk Index for highest disaster risk and exposure to natural disasters. 16 of its provinces, including Manila, Benguet, and Batanes, are included in the top 50 most vulnerable places in Southeast Asia, with Manila being ranked 7th. Four cities in the Philippines, Manila, San Jose, Roxas, and Cotabato, are included in the top 10 cities most vulnerable to sea level rise in the East Asia and Pacific region. The country is consistently at risk from severe natural hazards including typhoons, floods, landslides, and drought. It is located within a region that experiences the highest rate of typhoons in the world, averaging 20 typhoons annually, with about 7–9 that actually make landfall. In 2009, the Philippines had the third highest number of casualties from natural disasters with the second most victims.
Climate change has had and will continue to have drastic effects on the climate of the Philippines. From 1951–2010, the Philippines saw its average temperature rise by 0.65°C, with fewer recorded cold nights and more hot days. Since the 1970s, the number of typhoons during the El Niño season has increased. The Philippines has not only seen 0.15 meters of sea level rise since 1940, but also seen 0.6 to 1°C increase in sea surface temperatures since 1910, and 0.09°C increase in ocean temperatures since 1950. During the time period from 1990 to 2006, the Philippines experienced a number of record-breaking weather events, including the strongest typhoon (wind speeds), the most destructive typhoons (damages), the deadliest storm (casualties), and the typhoon with the highest 24 hour rainfall on record.
Main article: Typhoon Haiyan
At 04:40 on November 8, 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan, also known locally as “Yolanda”, made landfall in the Philippines in the Guiuan municipality. The category 5 typhoon continued to travel west, making landfall in several municipalities, and ultimately devastated enormous stretches of the Philippines islands of Samar, Leyte, Cebu, and the Visaya archipelago. Tied for being the strongest landfalling tropical typhoon on record, Typhoon Haiyan had wind speeds of over 300 km/h (almost 190 mph) which triggered major storm surges that wreaked havoc on many places in the country. Leaving over 6,300 dead, 28,688 injured, and 1062 missing, Typhoon Haiyan is the deadliest typhoon on record in the Philippines. More than 16 million people were affected by the storm, suffering from the storm surge, flash floods, landslides, and extreme winds and rainfall that took lives, destroyed homes, and devastated many. Typhoon Haiyan crucially damaged over 1.1 million houses across the country and displaced over 4.1 million people. According to the NDRRMC, the storm cost the Philippines about 3.64 billion US dollars.
Future projections for the current trajectory of climate change predict that global warming is likely to exceed 3°C, potentially 4°C, by 2060. Specifically in the Philippines, average temperatures are “virtually certain” to see an increase of 1.8 to 2.2°C. This temperature increase will stratify the local climate and cause the wet and dry seasons to be wetter and drier, respectively. Most areas in the Philippines will see reduced rainfall from March to May, while Luzon and Visayas will see increased heavy rainfall. There will also be an increase in: the number of days that exceed 35°C; that have less than 2.5 mm of rainfall; and that have more than 300mm of rainfall. Additionally, climate change will continue to increase the intensity of typhoons and tropical storms. Sea levels around the Philippines are projected to rise 0.48 to 0.65 meters by 2100, which exceeds the global average for rates of sea level rise. Combined with sea level rise, this stratification into more extreme seasons and climates increases the frequency and severity of storm surge, floods, landslides, and droughts. These exacerbate risks to agriculture, energy, water, infrastructure, human health, and coastal ecosystems.
Agriculture is one of the Philippines’ largest sectors and will continue to be adversely impacted by the effects of climate change. The agriculture sector employs 35% of the working population and generated 13% of the country's GDP in 2009. The two most important crops, rice and corn, account for 67% of the land under cultivation and stand to see reduced yields from heat and water stress. Rice, wheat, and corn crops are expected to see a 10% decrease in yield for every 1°C increase over a 30°C average annual temperature.
Increases in extreme weather events will have devastating affects on agriculture. Typhoons (high winds) and heavy rainfall contribute to the destruction of crops, reduced soil fertility, altered agricultural productivity through severe flooding, increased runoff, and soil erosion. Droughts and reduced rainfall leads to increased pest infestations that damage crops as well as an increased need for irrigation. Rising sea levels increases salinity which leads to a loss of arable land and irrigation water.
All of these factors contribute to higher prices of food and an increased demand for imports, which hurts the general economy as well as individual livelihoods. From 2006 to 2013, the Philippines experienced a total of 75 disasters that cost the agricultural sector $3.8 billion in loss and damages. Typhoon Haiyan alone cost the Philippines' agricultural sector an estimated US$724 million after causing 1.1 million tonnes of crop loss and destroying 600,000 ha of farmland. The agricultural sector is expected to see an estimated annual GDP loss of 2.2% by 2100 due to climate impacts on agriculture.
In the Philippines, there is a correlation between rainfall and civil conflict, and manifests through agricultural production. The increased rainfall during the wet season in the Philippines is proven to be harmful to agriculture as it leads to flooding and/or water logging. This above average rainfall is associated with “more conflict related incidents and casualties”. The rainfall has a negative effect on rice which is an important crop that a majority of the country depends on as both a food sources and employment. A poor rice crop can lead to large impacts on the wellbeing of poor Filipino and cause widespread contempt for the government and more support for insurgent groups. Climate change is expected to amplify the seasonal variation of rainfall in the Philippines and exacerbate ongoing civil conflict in the country.
Smallholder farmers in the Philippines are expected to be among the most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change in the region. However, there are differences in how men and women experience these impacts and often lead to differences in farming patterns and coping strategies. Some of the problems caused by extreme climate events in agrarian areas that are prone to civil conflict that disproportionately affect women include loss of customary rights to land, forced migration, increased discrimination, resource poverty and food insecurity.
The effect that the combination of severe climate events and civil conflict has on Filipino women is further exacerbated by discriminatory policies, belief and practices, and restricted access to resources. For example, climate change is linked to increase civil conflict in the Mindanao region which increases the number of casualties and deaths of young men in the area. This effectively widows women married to those men and leaves them on their own to take care of them and their children, even when the society and government makes it difficult for single mothers to succeed. Women are often relegated to be the caretakers of children which increases the burden and stress placed on them as well as inhibiting them from escaping from conflict ridden areas
Climate change could simultaneously reduce the Philippines’ supply of energy and increase its demand for energy. The increased chance of extreme weather events would reduce hydropower production, which accounts for 20% of the country's energy supply, as well as cause widespread damage to energy infrastructure and services. There will be more power outages on average in addition to an increased demand for power, specifically cooling.
Several factors of climate change are impacting the availability of water in the Philippines. The increasing number of intense droughts are reducing water levels and river flows and thus creating a shortage in water. The floods and landslides caused by extreme rainfall degrade watershed health and water quality by increasing runoff and erosion that increases sedimentation in reservoirs. Many freshwater coastal aquifers have seen saltwater intrusion which reduces the amount of freshwater available for use. About 25% of coastal municipalities in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are affected by this and the issue is expected to get worse with sea level rise.
Rising sea levels, heavy rainfall and flooding, and strong typhoons pose an enormous risk to the Philippines’ infrastructure. 45% of Philippines’ urban population lives in informal settlements with already weak infrastructure and are extremely vulnerable to flooding and typhoons. A giant storm would wreak havoc on these informal settlements and cause the deaths and displacement of millions of people who inhabit 25 different coastline cities. These natural disasters will also cause millions of dollars in damages to urban infrastructure like bridges and roads. In 2009, Tropical Storm Ketsana cost the Philippines $33 million to repair damaged roads and bridges.
Large cities in the Philippines such as Manila, Quezon City, Cebu, and Davao City see an increased risk from both climate change and globalization. Double exposure, infrastructure planning, and urban climate resilience in coastal megacities. For example, in addition to being one of the world's most vulnerable cities to climate change due to geographical location, Manila has also been shaped by globalization and abides by many tenets of neoliberal urbanism, including "a strong focus on private sector led development, attracting global capital, market oriented policies and decentralization". These cities experience challenges to their own climate resilience due to this double exposure to climate change and globalization, where many cities are most at risk to climate events in addition to having a large percentage of the population live in informal settlements with weak infrastructure. Four million people, or about a third of Manila's population, live in informal settlements that put them at higher risk and danger from tropical storms and flooding, and they often have fewer resources available to recover from damage caused by environmental hazards.
Climate change, heavy rains, and increased temperatures are linked with the increased transmission of vector and waterborne diseases, such as malaria, dengue, and diarrhea (WHO). The heavy rains and increased temperatures lead to increased humidity which increases the chance of mosquito breeding and survival. Increased natural disasters not only directly contribute to the loss of human life, but also indirectly through food insecurity and the destruction of health services.
Climate change and global warming and the rising amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere have contributed to ocean warming and ocean acidification. The ocean has acted as a carbon sink for earth for millennia and is currently slowing the rate of global warming through the sequestration of carbon. This comes at a cost however as the oceans are becoming more and more acidic as they sequester more carbon dioxide. Ocean acidification has dire consequences as it causes coral bleaching and ultimately leads to the collapse of coral reefs (usaid). Rising sea levels cause increased salinity that can have damaging impacts on the country's extensive system of mangroves. Both coral reefs and mangroves help reduce coastal erosion and support water quality. Erosion from the loss of coral reefs and mangroves increase the chance of coastal flooding and loss of land. Coral reefs and mangroves also act as important feeding and spawning areas for many fish species that many fisherfolk depend on for survival. Over 60% of the coastal population depends on marine resources such as coral reefs or mangroves for their contributions to fisheries, tourism, and storm protection.
Renewable energy in the Philippines is being expanded including with offshore wind power. The government is making an adaptation plan.
Mangrove forests has proved to be an efficient and environmentally-friendly solution to mitigate the effects of coastal hazards. Extensive mangrove rehabilitation projects has been undertaken in the Philippines.
Activist groups associated with the climate movement have called for government action and have organized activities to raise public awareness on climate and related environmental, sociopolitical, and economic issues. Philippine activists have, for example, taken part in the global climate strike, joining demands for political leaders to urgently address the climate emergency.
Below are some protest actions and social movements associated with climate change in the Philippines.