The Philippines Ranked Third In the World Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

Devastated countryside in Samar after Typhoon Haiyan (2015)

Excerpts from this blog entry came from the “HSBC Fragile Planet: Scoring Planet Risks Around the World” Report (April 2018).

All countries are being impacted by climate change but some are facing much more acute challenges than others. The “HSBC Fragile Planet: Scoring Planet Risks Around the World” Report cited the Philippines as the third highest ranking country vulnerable to climate change. India, followed by Pakistan ranked as the top two most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world. Countries from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa are also in this group. The report looked into which countries are most vulnerable to climate change – in terms of both the physical impacts and the associated energy transition risks – and which are better placed to respond to these pressures. It seems that the Philippines is not completely ready (Philstar Global, March 2018).

Climate change manifests through rising temperatures, can alter hydrological (water) cycles and exacerbates extreme weather events. In turn this means higher risks to energy, food and water systems, populations and the global economy. Over 2030 to 2050, the World Health Organisation (WHO) expects 250,000 additional deaths per year due to climate change.

Climate Change is Real

On the day that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we only have 12 years left to prevent climate catastrophe, an American climate economist cited heavily in the IPCC’s report has been named one of the two winners of this year’s Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Sciences (World Economic Forum, October 2018).

Many critics agree that climate change is happening and will affect cities and countries around the world including the Philippines. It is located in the western Pacific Ocean, surrounded by naturally warm waters that will likely get even warmer as average sea-surface temperatures continue to rise.

To some extent, this is a normal pattern: the ocean surface warms as it absorbs sunlight. The ocean then releases some of its heat into the atmosphere, creating wind and rain clouds. However, as the ocean’s surface temperature increases over time from the effects of climate change, more and more heat is released into the atmosphere. This additional heat in the ocean and air can lead to stronger and more frequent storms – which is exactly what we’ve seen in the Philippines over the last decade.


The Philippines also lacks natural barriers; as a collection of over 7,000 islands there is almost nothing standing between them and the sea. In addition to their coral reefs, one of the best buffers against typhoons are the Philippine mangrove ecosystems. These mangroves help mitigate the impact of storm surge and stabilize soil but have disappeared by almost half since 1918 due to deforestation (an issue for another day).  Since 2010, the Bayanihan Foundation has been planting over 30,000 mangrove seedlings in Liloan, Cebu to combat deforestation and climate change.

(standing second from right): James Castillo, foundation board member, leads youth participants in planting mangrove trees in Cebu, Philippines

(standing second from right): James Castillo, foundation board member, leads youth participants in planting mangrove trees in Cebu, Philippines

Other natural factors, like regional wind patterns or currents, can also increase the risk of tropical storms. Geography again plays a role here, as these factors affect different areas of the country differently, due to their unique circumstances. The graphic below from a report by the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources shows how the various regions in the Philippines can face a range of climate threats, based on where they sit on the map.

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Developmental factors have made it difficult for the Philippines to prepare and respond to disasters. Evacuation plans, early warning systems, and shelters are critical to dealing with extreme weather events. Warning and relocating thousands or millions of citizens when a storm is approaching would be a massive hurdle for any country – and in the case of a developing nation like the Philippines with nearly 100 million citizens spread out across thousands of islands, the hurdle becomes bigger still.Then there’s what these storms mean for the Philippines’ economy. According to a 2013 statement from government officials, a destructive typhoon season costs the nation two percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). It costs another two percent to rebuild the infrastructure lost, putting the Philippines at least four percent in the hole each year from tropical storms. And when you’re a nation aspiring to grow and create better lives for your citizens, this regular hit to the economy is the last thing you can afford.

James Castillo (standing center) leads youth in a film making workshop

James Castillo (standing center) leads youth in a film making workshop

This is not an easy problem to fix, but we need to try. The first step is educating citizens both in the Philippines and around the world about what the nation is facing, and about the practical clean-energy solutions available that can begin to address the harmful effects of climate change in the Philippines and beyond.

Since 2010, Bayanihan Foundation led by board member James Castillo has been conducting youth leadership and education workshops on environmental sustainability and climate change. In the Philippines, where half the mangrove forests have been lost to development, biologists are replanting the trees to recreate nature’s protective coastal shield against deadly typhoons. The gnarled tangle of mangrove roots slows the movement of tidal waters, reducing the impact of storm surges and waves (National Geographic Magazine, October 2018).

Mangroves alive and well in Liloan, Cebu protecting fish and wildlife (September 2018)

The Bayanihan Foundation took small but important steps to plant over 30,000 mangroves in Liloan, Cebu that are doing its part in fighting climate change. Support the Bayanihan Foundation and its efforts to combat climate change on the ground by donating to the foundation and clicking this LINK.

About daleasis

President of the Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide
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