Climate change is taking a heavy toll on the lives and sources of income of people in the Philippines, with the poorest communities most affected. In 2022, the World Risk Index classified the Philippines as the country with the highest disaster risk in the world.
The underlying connection between Arctic warming and the Philippines’ climate vulnerabilities sheds light on the broader and interconnected challenges the nation faces in its journey toward sustainable growth and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2023 Sustainable Development Report indicates that the Philippines has substantial progress to make in its pursuit of SDG goals, rating it with a score of 67.1% and rank of 98 out of 166 countries assessed in the SDG Index.
Without intervention, climate change could result in substantial economic and human costs, reducing the country’s GDP by as much as 13.6% by 2040.
Although geographically distant from the Arctic, the ripple effects of its warming are keenly felt across the Philippine archipelago. The impacts of Arctic warming pose a growing threat to the Philippines’ economic aspirations and sustainable development goals.
The Arctic and the Philippines: An Unexpected Connection
As the Arctic warms, it influences global weather patterns and sea levels, two factors that directly affect an island nation like the Philippines. Accelerated melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet is the leading cause of rising sea levels, which, coupled with extreme weather events such as cyclones, floods, and droughts, poses severe threats to coastal communities throughout the Philippines.
Annual temperature and rainfall variations in the Philippines are significantly influenced by El Niño and La Niña events. The Arctic sea ice melting is expected to play a role in the increased occurrence and intensity of El Niño events. These events are linked to rising temperatures and associated impacts such as water scarcity and drought.
Temperatures in the Philippines are projected to increase by 1.8°C-2.2°C by 2050. This rise could result in heat stress for crops and adverse health impacts for the population. Research conducted in the Philippines suggests that for every 1°C increase above the 30°C threshold, critical crops are likely to see a 10% decline, potentially leading to food security concerns. Moreover, heat stress can have economic ramifications by reducing human productivity. Elevated temperatures also elevate the risk of vector- and waterborne diseases, which have accounted for over 65,000 fatalities between 2010 and 2019.
The nation, already susceptible to natural disasters, finds its vulnerability exacerbated by Arctic climate change. Whether it’s super typhoons like Haiyan or prolonged dry spells, the Arctic’s distant changes play a role in shaping the Philippines’ climatic and socioeconomic realities.
Implications for SDGs: The Challenges Multiply
While the Philippines remains steadfast in its commitment to the SDGs, the additional challenges posed by Arctic-induced climate change adds complexity to its journey:
Infrastructure: Coastal infrastructure is crucial for the Philippine economy. Sea level in the Philippines is rising at a rate three times faster than the global average. This rise in sea levels, coupled with intensified storm surges indirectly influenced by Arctic changes, poses a significant threat to the country’s infrastructure, impacting commerce, transportation, and the vital connectivity of local communities.
More tropical cyclones enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility than anywhere else in the world, with an average of 20 cyclones in the area per year, and about eight or nine of them crossing the Philippines.
Prolonged and frequent rainfall, strong winds, and extreme temperature variations, among other factors, can lead to accelerated structural fatigue and materials failure, as well as greater demands on flood control and drainage, construction, and operation and maintenance needs.
Standard of Living: Nearly 10 million Filipinos work in the agriculture sector, which provides food for a population of more than 109 million Filipinos. However, the impact of climate change on agriculture is devastating. Studies have shown that the Philippines suffered more than USD $811 million in losses due to extreme weather events over the past decade – 62.7% of which were damages caused to the agriculture sector.
Fisheries and agriculture, the livelihoods for millions, are at risk, impacting food security and overall well-being. The domino effect of these changes can hinder progress toward SDGs related to poverty, hunger, and economic growth.
Coastal communities dependent on fisheries and aquaculture – like those in the Visayas and Mindanao – are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, storm surges, and saltwater intrusions, that can lead to the destruction of aquatic resources on which communities’ livelihoods depend.
Human Capital: Frequent and more intense natural disasters can lead to displacement, affecting access to education and healthcare. Typhoon Haiyan, which left a death toll of 6,000 and displaced more than four million people throughout the Philippines, damaged more than 2,500 schools in the country.
In the Philippines, SDGs related to health, quality education, and community well-being come under stress on account of more frequent and intense climate disasters.
The Philippines’ unique challenges, shaped by the intertwining of local vulnerabilities and global shifts including Arctic warming, emphasize the interdependent nature of our world. Recognizing these interconnections, this nation must craft forward-looking, comprehensive strategies. By addressing these multifaceted challenges head-on, the Philippines can aspire to a harmonized vision of economic growth, sustainable development, and resilience in an increasingly unpredictable climate landscape.
For more information about how the Arctic affects Asia please click HERE.
The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.