Mid-day on November 2, 2010, Fairfield welcomed Dr. Tony La Viña, Dean of the School of Government in the Ateneo de Manila who spoke about climate change and what students, as young Americans, can do about it. La Viña was glad to be back in southern Connecticut; he attended Yale University in New Haven where he received his masters and doctorate degrees in law. It was his first time at Fairfield University, and he was excited at the prospect of speaking to intelligent young Americans about the importance of global climate change.
La Viña began his presentation with slides of the major flooding that occurred in 2009 in Manila, Philippines due to Hurricane Ketsana. The flooding caused by this storm had previously been known as a 100-year flood, but due to climate change scientists predict this type of flooding every 5-10 years. Another example he gave was of El Nino in his hometown of Mindanao, where the drought was so severe that it impacted the hydroelectric energy sources. He continued by explaining that the Philippines was the number one victim of climate change in 2009 and will be one of the first geographic areas of the world to lose its diverse species as the climate warms.
After speaking about his home country, La Viña pointed out that climate change is a global problem, meaning that the things which affect it and are affected by it include the entire world. The poorest countries contribute the least to this problem, yet seem to suffer the most because of it. In order to attempt to ‘fix’ this large issue, many UN meetings have been held over the years, resulting in helpful contingency plans such as the:
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
- Kyoto Protocol
- Bali Action Plan
- Copenhagen Accord
Even though these programs have been established, La Viña stresses that domestic change needs to happen before international change can even be considered. When asked if he thought we should be scared, he answered, “only if we are not doing anything,” and went on to explain the things that we can do, including:
- Completing international negotiations
- Prioritizing adaptation
- Strengthening the capacity of local governments
- Applying good governing principles
Along with these four main ideas, we should concentrate mostly on keeping a small carbon footprint and making climate change a personal ambition. La Viña concluded by saying only that we “are in the calm before the storm, and we need to do something about [climate change] now.”
When climate change became a household name for me a few years ago, I made a personal commitment to do my part in the global effort to prevent disasters that can happen due to our changing climate. We as humans need to learn how to take better care of and protect the planet we live on because we only have one. If everyone does their small part, perhaps we can turn the world – and its doomed trajectory – around.
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