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.


Urgent Action

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.


Population Growth

“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

Jamaica Observer


Jamaica is choosing, at least for now, not to worry over whether climate finance flows from the United States (US) will dry up under the presidency of Donald Trump.

This is despite news that the president-elect – a climate-change sceptic – may be looking to opt out of the historic Paris Agreement.

The US ratified the agreement on September 3 under President Barack Obama, who, after submitting the documents to the United Nations, is reported to have said: “Some day we may see this as the moment when we decided to save our planet.”

Fast-forward just two months and the victory of the Republican Trump over the Democrats’ Hillary Clinton to succeed Obama has triggered anxiety among participants here at the international climate talks.

Holness Not Worried

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who was in Marrakech last week, does not share in the worry.

“I think the public should be aware that the US is a party to this agreement; it is an international agreement. So, too, are other major powers in the world, including China and India, and that is significant,” he noted.

“The signing of the Paris Agreement is a significant movement in the world – towards making some definitive attempts to address the issue of climate change. I believe it is still early days yet for us to cast any conclusions. I am still confident and very optimistic that the movement which has started will not be turned back,” Holness added.

At the same time, the PM hinted at the intention to do whatever possible to ensure the success of the agreement.

“There is always room for negotiations, for change, for improvement, and for Jamaica, it is in our interest to ensure that this movement continues because we are susceptible [to climate threats]. We are seeing the effects of increased tropical storms, of sea-level rise, of droughts, unpredictable weather events, which are impacting on our infrastructure – damage to our roads, our gullies, our drains,” said the PM, who was attending the COP for the first time.

“[There is also] the emergence in recent times of various health threats which are transmitted because of changes in the weather which allow the breeding of various vectors, particularly mosquitoes. So we have a vested interest in ensuring there is a global movement that will protect our environment,” Holness added.

Jamaica is not alone in choosing not to worry over the future of US climate financing.

“We work with the US government and the US institutions, US researchers, and we look forward to continuing the work with the new administration,” Jonathan Lyn, head of communications and media relations at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told The Gleaner.

The IPCC is the international body for assessing climate science. Set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme, it provides policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

Wait And See

“There is a new administration. We are waiting to see what the policies will be. The US has been a very active participant in the IPCC, and not just in terms of financial contributions but contributing experts,” said Lyn, who will be in Jamaica later this month for an IPCC-led regional workshop.

“We have seen how the world is using our scientific findings to work together on tackling climate change, and there has been real momentum on that in the last few months. We expect that global effort to continue and we expect to continue to contribute to that with good, robust science,” he added.

The US has contributed some US$2 million annually to the work of the IPCC over the last five years. Since the international climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009, it has “ramped up its climate finance for developing countries fourfold”, according to the Overview of the Global Climate Change Initiative: US Climate Finance 2010-2015report available on the State Department’s website.

“Between 2010 and 2015, the United States allocated $15.6 billion in climate finance across adaptation, clean energy, and sustainable landscapes activities. Additionally, in 2014 the United States pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, the largest pledge by any country,” it added.