Tag: hurricane

This 2016 photo shows erosion along the beach in Annotto Bay, St Mary, due to high waves.

A warning has been issued to governments across the Caribbean, including Jamaica, to do more to make countries resilient to climate change as there is a price to pay if nothing is done.

According to a report commissioned by the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme, the Caribbean is “in the front line” and at greater risk from more severe impacts than many other parts of the world because of its geographic location as most regional states are smaller islands where people live close to and depend on the sea.

The Caribbean Marine Climate Change Report Card 2017, which was conducted by scientists and researchers, said more intense storms, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, higher temperatures, and ocean acidification are major threats to all regional economies and pose a danger to lives as well, both directly and indirectly.

“As the seas, reefs and coasts on which all Caribbean people depend are under threat, much more needs to be done to protect these resources, and the authors recommend building more resilient environments to prepare for, and protect against, climate change,” the report noted.

It has recommended developing a regional network of marine protected areas designed to future-proof marine biodiversity against climate change and stabilise shorelines to preserve natural barriers such as mangroves, salt marshes, and coral reefs.

STRONG HURRICANES TO INCREASE

The scientists warn that while the overall frequency of Atlantic storms may decrease, the strongest hurricanes are likely to increase. Global average sea level is projected to rise by a further 10-32 inches over the coming century a devastating amount for a country as low-lying as Cayman, where it could be even worse.

“In the northern Caribbean, sea-level rise could be 25 per cent higher than the global average due to other physical factors affecting land elevation,” the report states. “This projected rise in sea level and severe storms is likely to increase the risk of storm-surge events for Caribbean states, which will further exacerbate risks to biodiversity, settlements and infrastructure.”

The report also zeroed in on some countries in the region including Jamaica, Belize, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana and St Lucia.

Where fishing is concerned, the researchers noted that if there is no action – permanent fishing camps on low lying offshore cays may be completely submerged by future sea level rise, and these are particularly vulnerable during extreme-weather events.

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To take better strategic advantage of climate finance opportunities while continuing the courtship of local business interests, Jamaica is looking to have private sector representation on its team to Marrakesh in November.

“In this COP (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), we would want even one private sector representative – and probably, more specifically, from the financial sector – accompanying the delegation,” said head of the Climate Change Division.

“I am going to shamelessly and aggressively pursue that to see if it will happen,” she added.

According to Gordon, who recently assumed leadership of the division, it is critical to have the private sector fully sold on and involved in Jamaica’s climate change response efforts.

“When we have a weather event, then people suffer, but the private sector’s bottom line is [also] impacted severely. So we want the private sector to have a higher profile in this round,” Gordon noted.

Among the climate change impacts facing Jamaica and other small-island developing states of the Caribbean are extreme weather events, including hurricanes and droughts.

Both types of events have seriously affected the performance of the Jamaican economy in the past.

BILLIONS LOST

For example, data compiled by the Planning Institute of Jamaica on nine hurricanes impacting the island between 2001 and 2010 put the estimated cost at more than $111 billion.

The infrastructure sector is said to have accounted for $51.7 billion of that sum, while the transport sector, including roads and bridges, accounted for $44.4 billion.

Climate threats to Jamaica extend beyond extreme weather events to rising sea levels and the associated negative impact on coastal livelihoods. They also include warmer global temperatures and the negative health implications that flow from that, including an increase in diseases such as dengue.

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WITH ONLY two days to go before the official end to the climate talks here, Caribbean negotiators are working feverishly to safeguard the region’s interest in the final outcome document.

That document – referred to as ‘the text’ throughout the negotiating process – is widely expected to inform the global response to climate change.

“All of the Caribbean issues are still alive, which is a good thing … . We haven’t lost anything in the text,” said head of the CARICOM Task Force on Climate Change Dr James Fletcher.

But, he cautioned: “We haven’t sealed the deal on too many things. What has happened is that the COP [Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] president (Laurent¬†Fabius) has put out the latest version of the text.”

“It is a shortened version … but we are still not anywhere near a final text because there are so many options still on the table,” explained Fletcher, who is also St Lucia’s minister of sustainable development, energy, science, and technology.

He was speaking to The Gleaner following the 3 p.m. release of the latest text yesterday, which reflects the current state of play of the negotiations on issues such as adaptation, loss and damage, finance, technology, and mitigation.

The options the minister referred to are the so-called ‘bracketed text’, on which no consensus has been reached among countries. Until they are agreed, the brackets cannot be removed and there can be no final document.

Areas Of Interest

Among the Caribbean’s particular areas of interest are loss and damage; 1.5 degrees Celsius as the target for a cap on greenhouse gas emission increases; and additional, predictable, and adequate financing.

“What has been happening since that draft text was distributed is that the various groups have been meeting to review the text to identify where there are possible areas of compromise, where there are significant red lines [points of no return] and issues that they cannot live with,” he said.

Once those groups – including the Alliance of Small Island States of which CARICOM countries form a part – come back, the process will move forward with a meeting of all countries, as they attempt to reach consensus on a final document.

A Mountain To Climb

In commenting on the work it would take to get there, one of Jamaica’s senior negotiators, Jeffrey Spooner, said: “It is not a hill but a mountain that we have to climb.

“And we all have to climb it, in the interest of the planet for the next generation,” he added.

Meanwhile, Spooner said there was no question of the Caribbean pressing home what it needs in order to ensure its survival in the face of climate impacts, including sea-level rise, coastal erosion, droughts, stronger hurricanes, among other things.

“By tomorrow [today], we will know exactly where we stand and, of course, we will still press for our concerns. ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’ and loss and damage – these are two important items for us,” he said.

Fletcher agreed.

“By and large, all of our issues are on the table, and that is a good thing. What has to happen now is that we have to fight to ensure that not only do they remain on the table, but that they are reflected in the final text … “.

The Gleaner

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With the emergence of what he calls ‘a new climate regime’, physicist Dr Michael Taylor has painted a picture of a Jamaica and Caribbean region that supports the case for an ambitious deal at the international climate talks set for Paris in December.

“The number of warm days everywhere in the Caribbean is increasing. Over the last 50 years, we have been steadily having more warm days. And we are having more warm nights. This is the kind of new regime we are entering into,” he told a workshop on the Third National Communication and Biennial Update Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge last Tuesday.

Taylor noted that what was also indicative of the new regime and would become entrenched is rainfall variability and a drying trend resulting in a reduction of seven to eight per cent in the length of the rainy season and an increase of six to eight per cent in the length of the dry season.

“When we look at the future climate for Jamaica, temperatures keep going up and, from the best case scenario to the worst case scenario, the present research suggests it’s between one and 3.6 degrees Celsius by end of century. Thirty to 98 per cent of days annually will be considered ‘hot’ by the 2090s and only two per cent ‘cool’ by the 2080s,” revealed Taylor, the head of the Climate Studies Group Mona.

At the same time, he said there would be even higher sea levels, alluding to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report (2007), which projects an increase of up to 59 centimetres by 2100.

Key Things To Know

The situation, the physicist said, is one where there are three key things to know – the first is that “our sensitivity is being exposed”.

At the same time, Taylor added, “our vulnerability is being expanded” with the “vulnerability of sectors and areas of Caribbean life, which were veiled because of their secondary linkages also emerging and at a faster pace. New vulnerable groupings are also emerging as a result of an expanded exposure to the climate threat”.

Those vulnerable groupings include flora and fauna, outdoor workers, asthma sufferers, the elderly and the young, as well as those physically challenged, in addition to cultural assets and small-business owners.

“And that will continue,” he predicted.

Ultimately, Taylor said, “our viability is being endangered” and one needs look no further than the impact of the hurricane events of the last decade”.

In 2004, for example, Hurricane Ivan cost some eight per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) while Hurricane Dean cost the island some 3.5 per cent of GDP in 2007.

“You can’t have an impact of eight per cent in GDP and a recurring impact on your economy, and your capacity to continue developing as a nation not be impacted,” Taylor cautioned.

The situation is one, he said, that warrants “urgent, decisive, inclusive and considerate” action at the national level.

The island’s climate negotiators to the United Nations are intent on such action at the international level, as efforts to eke out a favourable deal in Paris get into high gear.

Among other things, Jamaica has joined the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in calling for a limit on global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and not the two degrees currently on the table.

Steep Emission Cuts

This negotiating position is one that would require steep greenhouse gas-emission cuts from developed as well as fast-developing countries. But Jamaica and AOSIS negotiators say this is critical for the “survival of small island states”, according to a document circulated by the Climate Change Division (CCD), at a recent journalist workshop hosted by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Jamaica also wants universal participation in the climate deal, “along with robust means of ensuring transparency of action and support”.

It wants, too, to ensure that a framework exists to deal with loss and damage.

“There are limits to the impacts that we can adapt to, so loss and damage must be included as a central element of the 2015 agreement – one that is distinct and separate from climate change as it represents irreversible and permanent damage”, the document noted.

 

The Gleaner