Sky’s the limit (literally) — The Climate Change Boundary

Some local communities contend with both oppressive heat and devastating storms.
Sky’s the limit (literally) — The Climate Change Boundary

“Sky’s the limit.” Nothing is impossible. As we discuss more about the state of the environment, a sobering twist to that saying comes to mind. The sky is, in fact, our limit because there is nowhere beyond it for humanity to live and thrive if we allow the Earth to waste away today.

We previously discussed the concept of the nine Planetary Boundaries (PB), the model proposed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre for measuring the planet’s health and the effect we humans have had on it. We mentioned that each of these boundaries is worth an in-depth conversation and today we’ll tackle what is arguably the most widely recognized and tangibly felt boundary by most people: climate change.

What was then called global warming (though, admittedly, we still say it thanks to these record-high temperatures), climate change generally refers to the changes in climate that can affect the habitability of the Earth. However, it’s important to understand that it’s no longer just about temperature. Whether it’s warming or cooling, these changes are happening in our lifetime and we need to recognize the effects of climate on all of us.

Climate change is measured by monitoring the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere. According to the 2023 PB model, the CO2 concentration level has reached 417 ppm, exceeding the safe zone limit of 350 ppm. Two critical facts are evident here: first, we’re already off target in limiting the global temperature increase to just 1.5 degrees Celsius this century; and second, missing this target could result in more severe consequences of climate change, such as increased frequency of floods, more intense storms, prolonged droughts, and hotter heat waves.

The climate change and biosphere integrity boundaries, considered “core boundaries,” are closely related as they have a marked effect on the habitability of the planet if nothing is done about the situation. We will discuss biosphere integrity another time but it is worth noting that the hot temperatures we are experiencing now very much affect all life — from our family and friends (our fur friends included) to insects and plants that produce the oxygen we breathe.

As the most well-known boundary, numerous efforts are already underway to mitigate the consequences of climate change and, hopefully, reverse its worsening trend. The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty signed by 196 nations and parties (including the Philippines) that sets country responsibilities to combat climate change. But what can we do on a personal level? The United Nations has shared some common proven facts about the state of our climate, and acknowledging these will help us form the necessary attitudes, habits, and informed decisions needed to do our part.

Climate change is undeniably happening. This needs repeating especially since, in the year of our Lord 2024, there are still groups that deny it. Observable signs of this phenomenon include rising sea levels, melting glaciers, warmer oceans, and increasingly frequent extreme weather events like super typhoons and El Niño. It’s important to recognize that certain communities bear a disproportionate burden of these consequences, a reality well understood by Filipinos who contend with both oppressive heat and devastating storms.

Climate change is affected by human activity. Scientists have indisputably proven that human actions have greatly contributed to climate change, especially as civilization has developed and progressed at a rapid pace. Human activity has produced vast quantities of CO2 in the atmosphere, trapping more greenhouse gases and contributing to the gradual increase in temperatures. This isn’t to say that human progress is inherently bad. However, progress without responsibility and mindfulness is harmful, and we now have the science to understand this and act on it.

The climate is changing faster than humans, plants and animals can adapt. We see this fact in everyday life. As a tropical country, the hot dry season is deeply embedded in our culture and way of life, yet in just a few years, each year has recorded the hottest temperatures ever in the Philippines. Just read the daily headlines: “Dangerous heat levels expected over many areas.” If the current trend is not abated, even the strictest climate resiliency initiatives around the world will find it harder and harder to reverse the impact.

Climate action is needed now. There is still hope to change course, especially when we remember that we now have the science, technology, research, and information necessary to help resolve the climate problem. Large and sustained reductions in the release of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses are our best way to mitigate its exacerbating consequences.

The Philippines is already doing its part in a measured way that ensures it meets its climate goals while safeguarding the growth and welfare of its citizens. In 2021, the country submitted its first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) document as part of its commitment to the Paris Agreement. Our NDC serves as a promise and a guideline for how the country will contribute to decarbonization, with measures including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75 percent, with 2.71 percent of that unconditional, from 2020 to 2030. In working towards this, we need to remember that our initiatives for climate action should be aligned with the situation and needs of our people.

Truly, the best solution is one where we can effectively combine the concepts of development and environmental stewardship. The UN projects that a global shift towards net-zero emissions and renewable energy will result in the creation of 42 million jobs by 2050. This is the kind of progress we should strive for as a society—a path forward that benefits both people and our planet, without imposing further costs on our environment.

The problem of climate change is not alien to us. We know how to address it and we have the tools to do so. The only thing expected of us is the collective will to understand it better and commit to living more sustainably for ourselves, our families, and for the rest of humanity.

Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar is the Chief Reputation and Sustainability Officer of the Aboitiz Group and president of Aboitiz Foundation. With over three decades of senior management experience, she has led projects focusing on stakeholder engagement and sustainability, reshaping the Group’s agenda. A passionate artist and avid traveler, Ginggay finds inspiration in drawing, painting and exploring diverse cultures, and balances her dynamic career with personal joy and companionship. For any feedback and recommendations, please reach out directly to Ginggay at

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