JAMAICA’S Professor Michael Taylor has made the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team, tasked to deliver what is a vital report for the Caribbean and other small island developing states (SIDS), in the fight against global climate change.
Taylor was invited to serve as one of three coordinating lead authors for the third chapter of a special report on 1.5 degrees Celsius as a global greenhouse gas emissions target.
The IPCC was mandated to produce that report, largely through lobby efforts led over years by SIDS, in the race to curtail emissions that fuel the changing climate that could devastate them.
“Chapter three merges what happens with the physical impacts of climate change, like changes in temperature, rainfall, and so on, with the impacts on ecosystems, natural systems and on human beings,” Taylor, a celebrated local physicist and head of the Climate Studies Group Mona, told The Gleaner on Tuesday.
“It is actually the first time they are merging those two things in one chapter. Normally, it would be Working Group I (WGI) looking at the physical side and WGII on the physical impact. Chapter three now will look at both the scientific basis for 1.5 and what are the impacts on managed systems as well as human beings,” he added.
Taylor is joined by two other coordinating lead authors and a team of 20 lead authors to deliver that chapter.
“We will also coop contributing authors with special expertise as needed to lead the authorship of that chapter,” noted the head of the Physics Department at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
Taylor’s research interests include understanding and quantifying the Caribbean region’s vulnerability to climate change.
Quizzed as to his feeling on being asked to serve, the scientist said: “It is a real honour; I appreciate the honour.
“It is not just an honour for me personally, but also for Caribbean science that it is being recognised in such a way. But it is an overwhelming task that is being asked so I also feel extremely overwhelmed but extremely grateful for the recognition,” he added.
The historic Paris Agreement, which charts the course for the global response to climate change, looks to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.
The inclusion of 1.5 was hard-fought-for by Caribbean and other SIDS aided by the regional campaign dubbed “1.5 To Stay Alive”.
The campaign run primarily in the lead-up to and during the 2015 climate talks in Paris where the agreement was adopted involved regional players such as the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, communication NGO Panos Caribbean, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Saint Lucia Ministry of Sustainable Development, the Regional Council of Martinique, and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
Among other things, it saw the establishment of a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account to promote Caribbean negotiating positions and to expose the region’s climate challenges all the while calling for the holding of temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
A theme song the collaborative effort of Caribbean artistes, including Panos’ Voices for Climate Change Education’s singer Aaron Silk was also released.
“The 1.5 is a kind of threshold of viability for small islands going into the future. So this report, I think, the small islands have a special interest in because it will be the report that evaluates whether the case they are making is a good case,” Taylor said of the review work to be done in the coming months.
“And the case they are making is not just for them, but a global case. This is the report that is kind of the backbone of the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement,” he added.
Nobel laureate Professor Anthony Chen, who was recognised for his own contributions to climate research through the IPCC, had high praise for Taylor.
“Professor Taylor is an excellent person to lead the project and I have every confidence in him,” said Chen, a mentor to the professor, whom he taught at university and who succeeded him as head of the Climate Studies Group Mona.
“I was very glad for him. He had asked me what I thought and I told him, ‘go for it’. It puts the Caribbean on the map that they should be for the 1.5 project. This is sort of a late registration of that fact,” he added.
HEAD OF the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Hoesung Lee has urged attention and focus on the science and not politics in decision-making about climate change.
“One common question (at the Marrakech climate talks held recently in Morocco) was whether political developments in some countries could hinder the global community in providing a science-based response to climate change. My view, the scientists’ view, is that values and political beliefs may vary, but science is the common ground where these conflicting views can find a common understanding,” he said.
Lee was speaking in Jamaica recently where the IPCC the international body that assesses the science related to climate change held its most recent outreach event for the region and which formed a part of Climate Change Awareness Week celebrations on the island.
His comments come even as the world waits to see what the new United States (US) President and climate sceptic, Donald Trump, will do.
The US, up to now, has been one of the more significant contributors to the work of the IPCC, for example, and has done much to bolster global adaptation and mitigation efforts.
According to Lee, the science has so far revealed the need for urgent action on climate change.
“Responding to climate change is not an either/or choice for a country, it’s part of its development strategy. You all know that,” he said, while referencing the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).
The synthesis report of the AR5 points, among other things, to ongoing and exacerbated warming of the planet due to human actions.
“Emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributed about 78 per cent of the total GHG emissions increase from 1970 to 2010, with a similar percentage contribution for the increase during the period 2000 to 2010,” reads a section of the report.
“Globally, economic and population growth continued to be the most important drivers of increases in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion,” it added.
“The contribution of population growth between 2000 and 2010 remained roughly identical to the previous three decades while the contribution of economic growth has risen sharply,” the document said further.
In the wake of those findings, the IPCC and its team of scientists from across the globe, is to contribute more to the existing body of knowledge on the subject.
Among other things, they are to prepare a special report on the impacts of warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius and related emissions pathways.
“Earlier this year, we brought experts together to scope out that report, and we signed off the outline the table of contents and structure in October. We are now recruiting authors to write the report, which will be delivered in 2018,” Lee said.
All this, while seeking to make their work more accessible.
“We are looking at how to work with our new authors to encourage them to produce their summaries for policymakers in clear, accessible language for non-specialists, and with academies to help them develop educational materials based on our reports,” Lee said to an audience of not only NGOs and policymakers, but also students.
THE average Jamaican, while being aware of worsening beach erosion, hotter temperatures and an increased mosquito population, does not necessarily know that excessive amounts of green-house gases belched into the air by industrial processes is at the root of the problem. Neither does he know how to address it.
For that reason, the Government has declared November 28 – December 3 Climate Change Awareness Week and plans to engage policymakers, business leaders, academia, the media, young people and the wider public through a series of events.
“Climate Change Awareness Week is designed to build awareness about climate change and its impacts,” chief technical director in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Lt Col Oral Khan told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.
“The climate is changing already and will continue to change and if we’re not prepared the effects will be disastrous for us,” he added.
The slate of activities for the week includes a journalism training workshop, a two-day workshop for the scientific coomunity at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters, a meeting with members of the Youth Environmental Advocacy Programme (YEAP) and high school students from across the country, a session with permanent secretaries, and a two-day Climate Smart Expo at Emancipation Park on December 2-3.
The week coincides with a regional outreach visit to Jamaica by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) intended to:
1. Raise awareness in the region about the IPCC, its role, activities and workplan for the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6);
2. Present the outcome of the Fifth Assessment Report AR5 and demonstrate how climate change is affecting the region;
3. Enlist the participation of the local science and research community in climate research and encourage regional participation in AR6; and
4. Foster a better understanding among the news media about climate science, solutions to climate change and the IPCC process.
Khan, as well as project administrator and senior climate negotiator in the Climate Change Division Clifford Mahlung — who was part of Jamaica’s delegation to COP22 in Marrakech over the last two weeks; founder of the Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies, Mona, nobel laureate and professor emeritus Anthony Chen; physicist Dr Tannecia Stephenson; and managing director of Environmental Solutions Limited Eleanor Jones were guests of the newspaper at its weekly Monday Exchange