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World | National

WARNING | PH seeing highest sea level rise in the world - thrice the global average, in fact

Satellite picture by the Philippines' DOST-PAGASA weather bureau, of Yolanda's (Haiyan's) landfall at 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 8, 2013. Categorized a number 5, the tropical cyclone was described as the most powerful storm that hit any part of the world in 2013.
The online news portal of TV5

PARIS – The Philippines has seen three times the global average in sea level rise, exacerbating its vulnerability to natural disasters, climate experts said at a conference in Paris this week.

Michael Williams of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the Philippines posted the highest average increase in sea levels, at 60 cms, against the global average of 19 cms since the year 1901.

It is a "major force of nature" against which countries like the Philippines can do little, but, said Williams, "there's a lot to be done with disaster risk prevention, alert systems, and so forth. But you have to understand that there is that additional risk."

Williams elaborated: "The global average of sea level rise since the year 1900 or 1901 has been 19 cm for the last hundred and fifteen years. However that varies widely from region to region, because of wind, because of currents in the ocean, because of changes in the land which rises and falls. So it so happens that in the area of the Philippines, where the cyclone happened last year, probably because of the trade winds and the currents of the Pacific, you have a massive amount of water between the Philippines and where the winds are pushing the water. The sea level rise, according to several of the stations we have operational there, is much much more than the global average. It's more like 60cm, and it's the highest sea level rise in the world."

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stressed the need for the Philippines to take climate adaptation seriously in order to prepare itself well for what are expected to be continuing risks from climate change.

The two experts spoke at the 11th International Weather and Climate Forum ongoing in Paris.

At the conference, van Ypersele and his  IPCC colleagues reported on the  highlights of the 5th IPCC Report.

According to van Ypersele, the Philippines is greatly affected by rising sea levels around the world, and because of this, even stronger storms in the future could wreak even greater damage on the country. Notably, typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last Nov. 8 was declared earliler the strongest cyclone to hit any part of the globe for 2013, drawing a Category 5 ranking from meteorologists. Asked how the Philippines can brace for the worst, he said there’s  no other way than to drastically change the way structures are built in coastal areas.

"It's to build a more resilient society, a more resilient infrastructure, an infrastructure made of housing, of buildings that resist better in extreme events with very high winds, very strong rain events. That is what is called adaptation to climate change and increasing the resilience," van Ypersele said.

The other thing that can be done  is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he added, but quickly explained this was something “that cannot be done by the Philippines” because it is a small contributor  “in terms of emissions of greenhouse gases,” and therefore the reduction is “more something to be done on the international level.” That means, he added, having “the international community agreeing, mostly the large emitters, to decrease the emission of greenhouse gases.” That way, he added, the disturbance caused by human activity to the climate is “limited and managed in such a way that climate change doesn't become or transform the earth into an inhabitable planet.”

Van Ypersele clarified, though, that the 5th IPCC report “was finalized BEFORE Haiyan happened. It happened too late to be reflected in the report itself. But of course, we took in the IPCC report about tropical cyclones, about sea level rise, about the changes in weather patterns, in general, but the last tropical cyclones happened too late to be reflected in this IPCC report.”