Dr. Tony Leachon

Climate change advocacy: A must for every Filipino

April 13, 2024 Dr. Tony Leachon 108 views

CLIMATE change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. Such shifts can be natural, due to changes in the sun’s activity or large volcanic eruptions. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main drivers of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

Burning fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped around the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising temperatures.

The main greenhouse gases that are causing climate change include carbon dioxide and methane. These come from using gasoline for driving a car or coal for heating a building, for example. Clearing land and cutting down forests can also release carbon dioxide. Agriculture, oil and gas operations are major sources of methane emissions. Energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and land use are among the main sectors causing greenhouse gases.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report

But it is not just about temperature. Climate change is bringing multiple different changes in different regions – which will all increase with further warming. These include changes to wetness and dryness, to winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans. For example:

Climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.

Climate change is affecting rainfall patterns. In high latitudes, precipitation is likely to increase, while it is projected to decrease over large parts of the subtropics. Changes to monsoon precipitation are expected, which will vary by region.

Coastal areas will see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.

Further warming will amplify permafrost thawing, and the loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and loss of summer Arctic sea ice.

Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels have been clearly linked to human influence. These changes affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them, and they will continue throughout at least the rest of this century.

For cities, some aspects of climate change may be amplified, including heat (since urban areas are usually warmer than their surroundings), flooding from heavy precipitation events and sea level rise in coastal cities.

It’s summer once again and we are faced with challenges and risks of heatstrokes. Temperatures in Metro Manila and other parts of the Philippines are expected to go up even higher in the next few weeks. The Department of Health (DOH) has been warning the public against the dangers of heat stroke for many consecutive years now as summer approaches. Over the years, temperature in the Philippines has reached 36-42°C.

DOH advisory

What is heat stroke? It is a medical condition wherein the body temperature reaches very high levels (~40°C) due to constant heat exposure. It is usually in combination with dehydration. Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency. If untreated, it can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death. Most commonly, heatstroke often occurs as a progression from milder heat-related illnesses such as cramps, syncope and exhaustion.

People at Risk

Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it can also affect healthy young athletes and anyone who is exposed to prolonged heat. Special precautions should be made for infants and children up to age four and adults over age 65, because these age groups adjust to heat more slowly than other people. Patients with particular disease are also at higher risk to have heat strokes – those with hypertension, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, mental illness, alcoholism, and those with fever. Those taking particular medications are also at risk – diet pills, anti hypertensive medications, diuretics , methamphetamines and anti-depressants.

Children have a smaller body mass to surface area ratio than adults, making them more vulnerable to heat-related morbidity and mortality.

Children are more likely to become dehydrated than adults because they can lose more fluid quickly.

Preventive measures

What do we need to do to avoid heat stroke? Drink lots of water (versus iced tea, soda, coffee and alcoholic drinks), keep indoors, avoid long direct exposure to sunlight, and wear thin and loose and light-colored clothes. Anything that will help cool your body down is a good measure to prevent heat stroke.

What if there are signs of heat stroke already? Go the extra mile and apply ice packs to the patient’s armpits, groin and neck. These are the areas rich in blood vessels close to the skin.

And cooling them may reduce body temperature. Remember, always keep cool!

Anthony C. Leachon, M. D.

Independent Health Reform Advocate

Past President,
Philippine College of Physicians

Department of Internal Medicine
Manila Doctors Hospital