The Pinoy Carbon Footprint

Purple S. Romero, Newsbreak

Posted at Oct 03 2008 10:33 AM | Updated as of Sep 06 2009 02:08 AM

Compared to citizens of the developed world, Filipinos have smaller carbon footprint.

This is not to say Filipinos are more environmentally conscious. It just happens that, compared to people of other countries, our lifestyle is generally less energy dependent, according to Antonio La Viña, former undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 

A simple tick-off of the common electrical appliances owned by Filipinos would show minimal outlets of energy.

The most common appliances in the Filipino household, according to the 2008 “Philippines in Figures” published by the National Statistics Office, is the radio and the television set. As of 2000, over 11 million Filipino families owned a radio, while eight million had a television set.

Other common household appliances are refrigerators (present in about five million Filipino households), washing machines and video cassette recorders (each of which is present in about three million homes).

La Viña said that the two most common appliances in Filipino households do not emit significant amounts of carbon emission.

Power Ratings

“TV does not give off much carbon. Filipinos could still enjoy their favorite soap operas without the guilt. The appliances that emit more carbon are those which have bigger power ratings such as the flat irons, microwave ovens and air conditioners,” he shared.

Power ratings, measured in watts, show the running capacity of appliances. In a study done recently by U.S-based media company CNET, a television’s power rating is listed as ranging generally from 100-350 watts. Radio has a 5-watt power rating, while stereo has 10-30 watts, as recorded by altEuniversity, an online energy hub.

Refrigerators, however, are heavy energy eaters. The U.S. Environment Protection Agency cited the refrigerator as the most energy-exhaustive item in a household, as it has to be plugged in 24/7.

Likewise, air-conditioners, which have power ratings ranging from 400 to a whopping 3,500 watts, also suck up tremendous amounts of energy, according to Bert Orencia, Senior Science Research Specialist of the Energy Research & Testing Laboratory Services of the Department of Energy. Luckily, this household amenity is not yet as common in Pinoy homes as transistor radios.

But Dr. Victor Cruz, dean of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Philippines, Los Baños also raised the Filipinos’ use of cellular phones as a greenhouse gas contributor.

According to NSO data, the number of Filipinos who own cellular phones or a telephone jumped from around 400,000 in 1990 to 2 million in 2000. This figure has more than doubled in the last eight years.

Atty. Angela Ibay, program manager of the LowCO2 campaign of the Manila Observatory said that energy wastage in cellular phones actually happen when people charge their phone batteries.

Like other appliances, battery chargers which remain plugged in still consume 25 percent of energy.  The solution then is to simply unplug appliances and other electrical items when not in use. (See:  Change your lifestyle—and mitigate global warming”)
Household Fuel

But that does not mean Filipinos are off the hook when it comes to responsibility over the global warming phenomenon. Aside from the use of diesel and gasoline for transportation, Filipinos also use fossil fuels right in their own homes. La Viña said that to offset greenhouse gas emissions, we still urgently need to curb the use of fossil fuels.

NSO data indicate that as of 2005, around four million Filipino families still rely on kerosene for lighting. This makes it second only to electricity which is used in some 10 million homes. 

For over-all household fuel use, the share of kerosene has been going down, registering a decrease of 23.6 percentage points from 79.9 percent in 1995 to 56.3 percent in 2004.

For the same period, the number of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) household users doubled in number from 4.2 million households to 8.6 million households.

This should be seen as good news for the environment.

Kerosene, which emits soot while burning, is more polluting compared to LPG, Zenaida Monsada, director of the Oil Industry Management Bureau of the Department of Energy told Newsbreak. She expressed concern on observing that some street vendors are reverting back to kerosene following fuel price increases.

Back to the basics?

Even if they consume less electricity at home, fishermen are also big users of fuel as they use it to run their boats. On the other hand, farmers have to rely on fuel in operating their tractors.  These all add to their respective carbon footprints.

Last August, Senate president Manuel Villar urged the executive department to allot a P1.4 million gas subsidy to fishermen, as gas and oil take up 31-80 percent of total fishing expenses.

Ramon Sales, convenor of the Philippine Network on Climate Change and Assistant Director of the Conrado Benitez Institute for Sustainability said that fishermen should cut back on their usage of fuel. He agreed, however, with the observation of experts that a drastic decrease in fuel usage or a switch to a renewable source of energy would be economically inimical to fishermen.

Meanwhile, Dr. Yay Paulhi, a consultant of the World Agroforestry Center, said that for farmers, the next best option is to return to the use of carabaos. 

A change in practices in both sectors, however, has costs. Sales and Paulhi said that this is where the importance of adaptation rises, as fishermen and farmers should be aided with the right technology, information and financial assistance to be able to “green their ways” without having to go hungry.

Sales pointed out that this is the side of the climate change battle where personal initiatives may not be enough. This is when, he stressed, that “the government should lead.”  

Man’s Role

For a significant number of Filipinos, the mention of climate change, still evokes images of an angry God spewing fire-and-brimstone at mankind for its sins.

This much is evident from a recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia which revealed that 23 percent of Filipinos believe that climate change, or the alteration in global temperatures and precipitation over time, is an apocalyptic event, a form of “punishment” for “nations turning to evil ways.”

However, a larger majority (54 percent) of the survey respondents agreed that the climate catastrophe was brought by man upon himself.

Hopefully, this reflects a growing recognition among Filipinos that this is one problem that man can also solve by minding his ways. – with a report by Gemma Bagayaua, Newsbreak