Here's What We Can Do At Once To Fight Climate Change

MANILA: The heat is on!

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has noted temperatures rising as the summer kicks in this March (Dona Z Pazzibugan, 23 March 2016, "Temps rising to danger level – Pagasa, newsinfo.inquirer.net)." The heat index, or the temperature actually felt by the (human) body, came close to extremely dangerous levels last Monday in Pangasinan," that is, at 48.4°C measured at its weather station in Dagupan City, Pagasa says. Last 18 March, the heat index in that same place was 46.5°, a rise of almost 2°. The danger is real.

Pagasa didn't say what we could do, so here are some pieces of advice from me, an agriculturist, a writer and an original thinker:

My 1st Advice:
We must stop giving too much importance to the carbon footprint of every individual and institution, every country and citizen of the world.

My 2nd Advice:
To do something positive to counteract climate change, we must stop mourning for forests that are gone!

My 3rd Advice:
We must stop the greenhouse gases contributed by riceland farmers, and the rising temperatures contributed by their almost bare ricelands.

The World's Carbon Footprint Madness

I read on Facebook the screaming headline at IFL Science: "Current Rate Of Increase In Atmospheric Carbon Is The Largest Since The Time Of The Dinosaurs" (Josh L Davis, 22 March 2016, iflscience.com). So what?! The carbon footprint is insane. Carbon dioxide is NOT the deadliest greenhouse gas (GHG). According to the US EPA, nitrous oxide contributes to global warming 300 times more than carbon dioxide; I wrote about this more than 3 months ago (see my essay, "Philippines, We Need A New Secretary For Climate Change Agriculture," 15 December 2015, Frank A Hilario, blogspot.com). If you don't believe the US EPA, go to hell, where there is no climate change!

My Heat Footprint Model

The heat footprint (my concept) contributes a thousand times more to climate change than the carbon footprint. Why? Let us take the case of ricelands in the Philippines.

There are 4 million hectares of ricelands in the Philippines, excluding those on the hillsides and mountainsides (Aurea Calica, 30 March 2008, "Govt urged: Allot more land for rice," Philippine Star, philstar.com). Now, I have already shown (in my essay mentioned above) that the rice farmers, because of their abuse of chemical nitrogen fertilizers, are guilty of contributing nitrous oxide, the deadliest GHG ever invented by man. Those 4 million hectares are guilty of climate change!

I took the image (above) somewhere in Santo Tomas in Pangasinan on 12 January 2015; our team leader Butchoy Espino of UP Los Baños is teaching the farmer, who is nearer the camera, how to measure the PH of the soil using a PH meter. We are in an extension consultancy with farmers under the Department of Agrarian Reform. Let me now tell you why I'm showing it.

Under the Department of Agriculture or under the Department of Agrarian Reform, our rice farmers are guilty of contributing to global warming in another significant manner: Look at the image again, and note that the newly planted riceland is 97% bare; that's the Filipino practice of planting rice on naked, puddled, wet soil. Even if they irrigate that soil, it's still mostly devoid of vegetation; it still emits heat reflected by the irrigation water (or soil when there is no water). It's a heat source, not a heat sink.

Surely, the rice farmers are the biggest climate changers anywhere and everywhere in the world. They are twice guilty of contributing to climate change. Once, when they over-apply nitrogenous fertilizers, which results in the formation of nitrous oxide, and you know what that is. Twice, when they plant rice and culture it until the crop yields its bounty, the soil and/or the irrigation emits heat into the atmosphere. In the Philippines, that's 4 million nitrous oxide- and heat-emitting hectares of riceland.

The Forests

Is reforestation the answer to climate change? Yes, but only if you believe the world's bullshit that it is the excessive carbon footprint that is the primary cause of climate change. Forests are carbon sinks.

Russell McLendon has written an essay of 1,500 words listing "21 reasons why forests are important" (20 March 2014, Mother Nature Network, mnn.com). Some of those reasons he gives: Forests help us breathe (all plants give off oxygen). They keep Earth cool. They fight flooding. They refill aquifers. They clean up dirty air. They give us medicine. They create majesty. "Forests contribute to wealth generation and job creation."

Yesterday, Monday, was International Day of Forests, hence the hosanna from the World Bank (see "Why Forests are Key to Climate, Water, Health, and Livelihoods," 18 March 2016, World Bank, worldbank.org). The World Bank says, "1.3 billion people – one-fifth of the global population – depend on forests for employment, forest products, and contributions to livelihoods and incomes." And "Forested watersheds and wetlands supply 75 percent of the world’s accessible fresh water for domestic, agricultural, industrial and ecological needs and act as natural filters for our air."

Oh, of course. I believe all that and more about the forests. But did you know that in the Philippines, about 16 million hectares are classified as forestlands? (Undated, "Forest Resources," Department of Environment and Natural Resources, denr.gov.ph). Today, according to the DENR, there are 7 million hectares of forestland left. That's a shame. But even assuming that all those 16 million hectares are deforested, at least they contain vegetation, a minimum of grasses. They are not bare. They are still heat receivers, not heat givers. Except of course those hillside farms (slash-and-burn plots) that practice clean culture, which robs the soil of vegetative cover.

Exactly like our ricelands, all 4 million hectares of them. Like those hillside farms, they are all major contributors to the heat of the universe around us; they do not give comfort to us – they give off heat to the air around us.

What We Can Do Right Now

So, what can we do? What we can do we have to do immediately, right now, pronto, at once:

Let the national government, down to the local government units, dictate to the farmers to practice any or all of these:

multiple cropping
intercropping
cover cropping, and
green manuring.

No need to teach the DA technicians – they should know all the whats and wherefores of those. Each of these cropping systems covers the soil with vegetation, dead or alive, so that the soil is not left bare to the mercy of the sun. Demand that the farmers stop applying chemical fertilizers and begin applying organic fertilizers, which they can produce themselves, like vermicompost. Thus, the farmers will earn much more and their ricelands will emit much less climate change nitrous oxide and heat.

Until we do all those, we remain victims of climate change culprits – those friendly-looking rice farmers!

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