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Venice – losing battle against climate change?

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Venice, Italy’s famous lagoon city, home to 50,000 residents and visited by 36 million people from around the world every year, was inundated by one and a half meters (five feet) of sea water last week.

It was the worst week for high tides in Venice since 1872. Its famous square, St. Mark’s, was closed as city officials declared a state of emergency.

Rains lashed the rest of Italy and to the south, the swollen Arno river threatened the cities of Florence and Pisa.

But it was in Venice where the damage was greatest, as the high tide damaged over 50 churches, including the historic St. Mark’s Basilica, along with the tourist city’s thousands of shops and homes.

Tuesday’s high waters submerged about 80 percent of the city, officials said.

Climate scientists said Venice is a harbinger of the problems facing all coastal cities as rising temperatures melt polar ice sheets, causing ocean levels to rise.

An Inter-government Panel on Climate Change said that because of rising seas, the extreme flooding that used to hit Venice once every hundred years is expected to recur every six years by 2050, and then every five months by 2100.

Earlier this month, Climate Central, a science organization based in New Jersey, United States, published a study which showed that 150 million people today live on land that will be below the high-tide line by 2050, 30 years from now.

The greatest threat appears to be in Asia, particularly China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand, where many cities are on land threatened by rising seas.

Said to be facing the greatest danger in these countries are the cities of Ho Chih Minh – the former Saigon – in Vietnam, Shanghai in China, and Mumbai in India.

The report did not include any Philippine city, but we have many communities in our thousands of islands which could be erased by rising seas.

At the United Nations climate conference in Paris 2015, the world’s countries, including the Philippines, submitted national action plans in which they vowed to cut down on carbon emissions, such as those of coal-fired electric power plants and thousands of cars and planes.

Some scientists say we may be losing the race to cut down on carbon emissions, as shown by the extreme high tide and flood that hit Venice last week.

But the world’s nations must not relax their efforts. In an issue with so much at stake, we must – despite the great uncertainty – keep up all possible efforts to hold back climate change with our own national program of action which we submitted in Paris in 2015.

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