Dr. Kazan Benigno S. Baluyot, MD, FPCP, FPCC

Chair, Central Visayas Climate Change Movers 
Philippine College of Physicians

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Good afternoon! In behalf of the PCP Board of Regents and the PCP Climate Team, I bring warm green greetings to this three-day seminar. I would like to start a climate talk with a picture of the Earth to provide an important reference. 

This is the last picture taken on the last Apollo mission, from the Apollo 17 on December 7, 1972 mission to the moon. They got this incredible picture that was one of a kind. It’s the only one during the Apollo missions where the Sun, moon, and Earth were all lined up and the full disk of the Earth was illuminated. This is known as the Blue Marble. It is the most published photograph in all of history.

And this picture was taken from the space station. This illustrates a very important scientific point about the climate crisis. This is the blue horizon illustrating the expanse of the sky in reference to space. When we look up, we naturally feel like the sky is a vast and limitless expanse, but actually, if you drive a car straight up, you’d get to the top of the breathable atmosphere in about five to ten minutes. We are using this space as the open garbage pit for our industrial civilization’s gaseous waste. Because this atmosphere is so small, we are radically changing the composition by releasing greenhouse gases.

As we all know, solar radiation in the form of light waves passes through the atmosphere. Some energy is radiated back into the space by the Earth in the form of infrared waves and some of these are trapped which keeps our environment warm. And because of that, the Earth’s average temperature is 13°C. Unfortunately, we are dumping 110 million tons of man-made global warming pollution into the atmosphere every 24 hours; consisting of carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, andnitrous oxide. As a result, more heat is trapped instead of more heat going out, creating a greater greenhouse effect that causes the temperature to rise. 

While there are other sources of greenhouse gases, the main source of the problem is the burning of our nonrenewable sources, the fossil fuel which includes coal, natural gas, and petroleum. There is still a ray of hope. 

As discussed earlier, we are warmer by 1.0°C from pre-industrial times. Seventeen of the 18 hottest years measured in this period have occurred since the year 2001, and 2016 as being the hottest year ever measured. The pattern is really painfully clear now. In fact, just a few weeks ago, the heat index in Calapan was marked 46.8°C. 

Climate change, as we know, is the change of climate with reference to temperature and precipitation in a long period of time, as stated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Warmer air can hold a lot more water vapor. With each additional 1°C of temperature, the atmosphere’s capacity to hold water vapor increases by 7% and with that, there is already 5% more water vapor over the oceans than there was only 30 years ago. So, the downpours get bigger and the ending is this, the calamities—Super typhoon Haiyan in 2013, Typhoon Pablo in 2012, Tropical Storm Ondoy in 2009, a lot of casualties in Southern Leyte in 2006, Tropical Storm Sendong in 2011, and Typhoon Pepeng in 2009. 

In fact, in the inauguration speech given by Pres. Duterte on December 9, 2016 stated that, “We cannot deny that we need to argue for the cause of preventing climate change. The reason really for the so many destructions facing Mindanao is there is really a climate change. We are a few more degrees higher than the last century. The world is used to a certain temperature so this will really ruin – including mankind.”

Now, 93% of the extra heat trapped by man-made global warming pollution goes into the ocean. So, what happens? A few years ago, Super Typhoon Haiyan crossed areas of the Pacific that were up to 9°F warmer than normal. The ocean waters at depths in the eastern Pacific are the hottest deep ocean water on the planet. 

The same extra heat that evaporates more water from the ocean, causing bigger downpours and floods, pulls moisture even more quickly from the soil, causing longer and deeper droughts, like what happened in Bohol in April 2016, where over 300 million worth of crops were destroyed by El Niño. There was no rain for four months—11,000 hectares of rice farms and more than 90 hectares of corn fields, 309 hectares of high-value crops, and 52 hectares of land devoted to aquatic farming were damaged. Also, in General Santos City in the summer of 2016, around 2,400 hectares of cultivated land were destroyed. Crops included corn, banana, coconut, rice, and palm oil. 

My focus for today is the discussion on global systems vulnerable to disruption and instability because of climate change. Disruption may lead to political or societal instability such as food supply, water, and global health. 

Let’s look at health. The climate crisis is a health issue. In fact, The Lancet, one of the two leading medical journals in the world, and The New England Journal of Medicine, declared two years ago that climate change is a medical emergency.

How does climate change aff ect health? Vector-borne diseases, heat stress, air pollution, and waterborne diseases, food, allergens, and mental health are all infl uenced by a changing climate—and not in our favor. Extreme heat events cause more deaths annually in the United States than all other extreme weather events combined. The poor, the elderly, infants and children, those with preexisting medical conditions, especially cardiac and respiratory conditions, as well as the mentally ill, are the most vulnerable to extreme heat.

In the year 2000, there were over 8,455 grains of pollen per cubic meter. However, by the year 2040, it is predicted to increase to 21,000. Allergies will be much worse, trigging asthma and other problems. Worldwide, air pollution kills 6.5 million people every year. Why? Because it is responsible for hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits all over the world, topping the list are bronchial asthma, COPD, and cancer. 

Even infectious diseases are also aff ected by the climate change. The relationship between humanity and the microbial world has always been mediated by the climate. When we have natural ecosystems disrupted—higher temperatures, more humidity, and more chaos—they shift the balance toward the infectious diseases. 

“Climate change is disrupting natural ecosystems in a way that is making life better for infectious diseases,” a quote about climate change and infectious diseases from Andrew Dobson, Professor at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University. 

A lot of tropical diseases have been moving to higher latitudes, and, of course, air transpiration is a major factor in this. But the climate crisis is changing the conditions on where these diseases can take root and become endemic. We see this happening now as several diseases have spread to new areas in recent years.

So, if you look here, that’s how the West Nile Virus spread out from the west area to North America, South America, Central Asia, Europe, and Australia. How about for Rift Valley Fever? It also spread out in the same area migrating to other areas. For Chikungunya, it transferred to Europe, other parts of Africa, and here in Asia including the Philippines. Chagas disease originated from South America but because of climate change, it started to spread in North America and parts of Central America, which happened few years back. Cryptococcus gattii, a fungal infection, started in Australia and spread out in North America, South America, and parts of Asia. And for dengue, which was at central Asia, it spread throughout the world. The Zika virus spread out from South Africa to South America and some parts in Asia. 

So, what happened here? Before, mosquito season grew from 81 days between 1980 and 1989 to 111 days between 2006 and 2015. Additionally, warmer temperatures can increase the number of days that are conducive for many vectors to reproduce, while in some cases allowing them to reproduce faster. This is because some vectors, like mosquitoes, mature faster in warmer temperatures. Compounding the problem,some viruses incubate faster inside mosquitoes and other vectors when temperatures are hotter, again expanding the amount of time a vector is dangerous to human health. 

Climate change also increases the risk of many waterborne infectious diseases such as leptospirosis and kidney failure, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, E. coli, cryptosporidium, and campylobacter. Remember during Typhoon Ondoy, there were a lot of recorded incidents of leptospirosis. 

Also, mental problems are connected to disasters as there are people who are very susceptible to anxiety when they encounter all of these. Disasters caused by climate change may negatively affect mental health. Extreme weather events can cause stress that may result in decline of mental health, and prolonged heat or cold events may cause chronic stress that exacerbates health issues. Reactions to traumatic events can range from insomnia to PTSD and depression.

But let’s talk about hope. Despite all these, do not despair. There is hope. With Global Climate Movement, we are starting to see light in the dark tunnel. There is an unprecedented awakening all over the world. We, at the Philippine College of Physicians, as part of our mission of being responsive to the changing environment, founded our climate change committee. The PCP mission and vision are directed to provide avenues for excellent Internal Medicine practice but also act to be responsive to the needs of the environment. It is headed by our chairman, Dr. Jay Jadloc, who stated that, “Doctors need to be involved in issues affecting health; and that includes environmental issues,” and “Doctors above all, have an important role in changing society – because first, they are listened to; and second, they are relied on by the public.” 

In August 2016, the PCP assigned Climate Change Prime Movers in different regions in the Philippines. Our priority programs are knowledge and capacity development, and biodiversity conservation. For knowledge and capacity development, we do climate change lectures and climate change curriculum for medical and tertiary education. From the voluminous data available, the challenge was to come up with a sensible, factual, relevant, and simple story that spans all age brackets. With the slides and the transcript printed, this is an arsenal to educate anybody from grade elementary to post-graduate professionals. This contains the history and science of global warming, effects and elements of climate change, mitigation and adaptation strategies, categories, approaches, and final challenge in a lecture format. 

We also give talks to different schools and we conducted a Climate Change Education outreach to 700+ students and teachers of Capiz National High School, Roxas City on August 13, 2016 (PCP Capiz-Aklan Chapter), and then another in Laguna Polytechnic University. 

We also did our first annual Convergence of Best Practices in Climate Change Management on October 7, 2016 in Palo, Leyte. 

We also give talks to some religious events such as the one we had for the Christian and Missionary Alliance, 24th Men’s National Convention, which was done in Bohol in 2016. 

In November 2016, one of our officers, Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go, was invited to the ANC forum. He discussed the health effects of climate change. 

On December 2, 2016, Tanauan National High School made a bold statement against climate change by gathering 2,331 students and parents to listen to the PCP and Climate Reality Project’s “Climate Change Crisis.” 

In November 2017, we had a climate change forum at PCP SOCCSKSARGEN Chapter. 

The Eastern Visayas Chapter conducted a Climate Reality Project Philippines where they had practical discussion on plastic and waste pollution–solution, clean energy as sustainable backbone, eco brick workshop, and solar lamp assembly. They were also featured in an exhibit at the National Celebration of Connectedness for Regional Councils and Partners of Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) 2017. The FPE funded the local conservation efforts in Mt. Nacolod including the reproduction of 500 copies of PCP’s Climate Change Black Book to be distributed in schools as learning materials. 

Our president, Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go, also organized an international forum about disaster risk and crisis management entitled “Managing Disaster in the Age of Climate Change and Big Data.” 

In December 2017, the PCP was invited to give a full-length talk on climate change curriculum integration in medical education, along with other sectors that can develop skills and insights essential for clinical practice and a public health role in a climate changing world. 

In 2018, the Philippine College of Physicians - Climate Reality, “Climate Crisis” template was presented at the Plenary 1 of Alliance Women Philippines (AWP) National Convention, General Santos City. 

In the PCP Annual Convention 2018, we expounded on oceans warming, the emergence of Zika Virus, and cross-cutting solutions for the climate crisis as a College and as Physicians. Through various chapters, 17,000 trees were planted and over 30,000 audiences attended the lecture on PCP – Climate Reality’s template. 

For our 24th Midyear Convention 2018, we actually focused on the environment and PCP was meant to be “Physicians Caring for the Environment.” A lot of topics were specifically about environment. Bringing the issue of climate change and environmental issues in a three-day packed event is necessary to awaken and ignite passion among doctors to heal the planet. The backdrop used was made of abaca sackcloth instead of using tarpaulins. We tried putting away things that could pollute our environment further. 

We also give health and wellness forums for senior citizens and PWDs. These are vulnerable groups during and after calamities and should demand attention for adaptation reforms to reduce risk. 

Earlier this year, the Philippine College of Physicians Committee on Climate Change was invited as guest lecturer in the Science, Technology, and Society seminar project of Cebu Doctors’ University to discuss the “The impact of Climate Crisis on Global Systems.” PCP’s efforts in knowledge Development and Biodiversity Conservation were bannered as well. Teaching our future health professionals at the very foundation can ignite their passion to become responsible health care providers equipped with knowledge and skills necessary to confront this pressing issue.

According to Greenpeace, the Philippines is the third worst plastic polluter of oceans. And because of this, some of the chapters came up with campaigns to refuse plastic straws, of which we hope people would be more aware. The Philippine College of Physicians consistently ditched plastic name badges on its annual national convention. 

The Philippine College of Physicians is launching a drive to discourage single?use plastic containers. Delegates are urged to bring personal reusable aluminum bottles during the convention. The next PCP annual convention is expected to be a truly green convention.

In the Philippines, the movement is also gaining widespread support. House Bill No. 8692 or the “Ban on Single-use Plastic Products” was filed at the House of Representatives in January this year (2019). It calls for a total ban on single-use plastics, as well as a phase-out plan for plastics already in use. The bill still has to go through the approval process by Congress, but it has already gained traction.

For the climate change curriculum for Medical and Tertiary Education, Secretary Manny de Guzman of the Climate Change Commission approved and supported the proposal of PCP to lead the development of climate change curriculum for medical education. This project is in partnership with Climate Reality Project Philippines, the Commission on Higher Education, the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges, and the Climate Change Commission of the Office of the President. The curriculum when made with the panel of experts will be cascaded to the 54 medical schools, which also includes the tertiary college health and sciences courses, to be taught to aspiring young doctors and health students and prepare them to lead in a pressing climate changing world with profound impacts on health. February 7, 2019, is actually the signing of the memorandum of understanding to incorporate climate change curriculum. The Heart of the Climate Curriculum in Medical and Tertiary Education is shown here. 

We also have our biodiversity conservation programs like “Day of Rising”—tree planting and PCP 10-for-10 conservation project. In 2016, we formalized our “Day of Rising” and a lot of PCP chapters were involved. The PCP midyear convention in 2016 planted mangroves at Esplanade, Iloilo. A mangrove plantation reduces the impact of tsunamis and forceful floods, and each tree absorbs approximately one ton of carbon in its lifetime. So, that’s a big help. Central Luzon and Quezon City also had tree-planting activity. The PAMUNLAS Chapter planted 50 Banaba seedlings. The PCP Southern Luzon Chapter was also involved in the tree-planting activities as well as the Western Visayas Panay Chapter along with other non?government groups, members of different institutions and hospitals, residents, interns, nurses, students, and friends in the pharmaceutical companies. PCP Central and Eastern Visayas Chapter, Bohol Chapter, and Southern Mindanao Chapter had their tree-planting ceremony. In November 2017, other chapters such as Ilocos-Abra also had their tree-planting experience at the Water District Reserve in Ilocos Norte. The Western Visayas Panay Chapter had their second day of Rising Tree-Growing Advocacy. The PCP SOCCSKSARGEN chapter again planted in different areas. The PCP Northern and Southern Mindanao Chapter also had their tree-planting ceremony. In 2018, theBicol Chapter and Capiz?Aklan Chapter also had their tree planting activity. 

The Philippine College of Physicians’ Environmental Programs and Initiatives November 8. Day of Rising and Adopt a Nature Reserve Project, were presented in a rare occasion with Secretary Roy Cimatu of DENR at Camp Capinpin, Tanay Rizal, in time with the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division’s 42nd Anniversary. The PCP introduced to the DENR the “10 for 10 Conservation Project,” a 10-year commitmentand partnership with the local chapters to implement conservation programs in 10 nature reserve sites nationwide. In November 2018, the project waslaunched at Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park in Burauen, Leyte where 250 lawaan and narra trees were planted. 

PCP Western Visayas Panay Chapter also launched its 10 sites for 10 years Conservation Project in Katunggan Eco Park in Leganes, Iloilo. A total of 500 mangroves were planted. PCP would take part in the improvement of this park over the next 10 years. The once?abandoned, unproductive, and under-utilized fishpond is now flourishing with young mangrove plants with the concerted efforts of the LGU, DENR, and other NGOs. We are all inhabitants of this planet. We are the stewards of God’s creation.

Mangroves that were planted in the PCP Midyear Convention 2016

Mangroves planted at the Katunggan Eco Park after three years

PCP with the Advocacy Committee on Climate Change has set two priority programs for the Climate Crisis: our strength is on Education and Biodiversity protection. 

I would like to end with this popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” This is why I think now is the time to incorporate climate change into our education. Thank you very much.