The Ifugao Rice Terraces have long been a source of national pride and identity for every Filipino. For over two thousand years it has withstood both the effects of time and weather. But recent decades have brought urbanization closer to once isolated areas where the terraces are located. Paired with this, initially subtle changes in climate have started to take its toll. As climate change and the effects of it increase in the region, the threat to the existence of the Rice Terraces started to be questioned. Although for the better part of the last century, the Terraces have been under the protection of various levels of authority, from local to national legislature, as well as protection from the international community, have the dangers affecting the terraces remain in check?
This study funded by UNESCO has determined that the Rice Terraces stand to be most affected by climate change as it is already in a very delicate state owing also to residents opting out of a traditional way of life. Younger generations have started to live in the cities, to improve their quality of life and gain education. Climate change is manifested by increasingly erratic temperature and weather patterns that affect the finely calibrated rice planting schedule as well as the physical well being of the rice plant itself. Days are observed to be increasingly warm, and nights are seen to be warmer as well. Rainfall patterns have also seen to deviate from the norm, with extreme events occurring increasingly more frequently. These extreme rainfall events are observed not only to happen during tropical cyclone passages but also local weather events enhanced by large-scale systems. All these would increase the danger to the integrity of the terraces themselves as these are delicate and easily eroded by these factors. Paired with this, the geologically active region of the northern Philippines will definitely play a role in its integrity and climate change will definitely magnify its effects.
The total quality of life for the people living in the region depends on the integrity of the Rice Terraces. Aside from agricultural activities, it has morphed into a tourism mecca, drawing thousands of both domestic and international visitors. This too has its disadvantages, especially of irresponsible tourism which would most definitely aggravate climate change effects. The study has concluded that more concrete steps on all levels of society must be carried out to safeguard this national treasure from the combined effects of climate change, urbanization and societal differences for future generations.