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Belize Fights to Save a Crucial Barrier Reef

The humble CREWS buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. Credit: Aaron Humes/IPS

The humble CREWS buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. Credit: Aaron Humes/IPS

Home to the second longest barrier reef in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, which provides jobs in fishing, tourism and other industries which feed the lifeblood of the economy, Belize has long been acutely aware of the need to protect its marine resources from both human and natural activities.

However, there has been a recent decline in the production and export of marine products including conch, lobster, and fish, even as tourism figures continue to increase.

“What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers.” — Dr. Kenrick Leslie

The decline is not helped by overfishing and the harvest of immature conch and lobster outside of the standard fishing season. But the primary reason for less conch and lobster in Belize’s waters, according to local experts, is excess ocean acidity which is making it difficult for popular crustacean species such as conch and lobster, which depend on their hard, spiny shells to survive, to grow and mature.

According to the executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), Dr. Kenrick Leslie, acidification is as important and as detrimental to the sustainability of the Barrier Reef and the ocean generally as warming of the atmosphere and other factors generally associated with climate change.

Carbon dioxide which is emitted in the atmosphere from greenhouse gases is absorbed into the ocean as carbonic acid, which interacts with the calcium present in the shells of conch and lobster to form calcium carbonate, dissolving those shells and reducing their numbers. Belize also faces continuous difficulties with coral bleaching, which has attacked several key sections of the reef in recent years.

Dr. Leslie told IPS that activities on Belize’s terrestrial land mass are also contributing to the problems under Belize’s waters. “What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers,” he noted.

To fight these new problems, there is need for more research and accurate, up to the minute data.

Last month, the European Union (EU), as part of its Global Climate Change Alliance Caribbean Support Project handed over to the government of Belize and specifically the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development for its continued usage a Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) buoy based at South Water Caye off the Stann Creek District in southern Belize.

Developed by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it has been adopted by the CCCCC as a centrepiece of the effort to obtain reliable data as a basis for strategies for fighting climate change.

Dr. Leslie says the CREWS system represents a leap forward in research technology on climate change. The humble buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. The data collected on atmospheric and oceanic conditions such as oceanic turbidity, levels of carbon dioxide and other harmful elements and others are monitored from the Centre’s office in Belmopan and the data sent along to international scientists who can more concretely analyse it.

The South Water Caye CREWS station is one of two in Belize; the other is located at the University of Belize’s Environmental Research Institute (ERI) on Calabash Caye in the Turneffe Atoll range. Other stations are located in Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic, with more planned in other key areas.

According to the CEO of the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI), Vincent Gillet, this is an example of the kind of work that needs to be done to keep the coastal zone healthy and safeguard resources for Belize’s future generations.

A report released at the start of Coastal Awareness Week in Belize City urges greater awareness of the effects of climate change and the participation of the local managers of the coastal zone in a policy to combat those effects. Several recommendations were made, including empowering the Authority with more legislative heft, revising the land distribution policy and bringing more people into the discussion.

The report was the work of over 30 local and international scientists who contributed to and prepared it.

In receiving the CREWS equipment, the Ministry’s CEO, Dr. Adele Catzim-Sanchez, sought to remind that the problem of climate change is real and unless it is addressed, Belizeans may be contributing to their own demise.

The European Union’s Ambassador to Belize, Paola Amadei, reported that the Union may soon be able to offer even more help with the planned negotiations in Paris, France, in 2015 for a global initiative on climate change, with emphasis on smaller states. Belize already benefits from separate but concurrent projects, the latter of which aims to give Belize a sustainable development plan and specific strategy to address climate change.

In addition, Dr. Leslie is pushing for even more monitoring equipment, including current metres to study the effect of terrestrial activity such as mining and construction material gathering as well as deforestation on the sea, where the residue of such activities inevitably ends up.

Credit: IPS News Agency

Grenadian Youngsters Raise Awareness About Climate Change (Video)

  How to raise awareness about the effects of climate change, particularly amongst the youth? Grenada might have found the answer! On Wednesday, 15th October, the Grenada Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, in conjunction with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) unveiled a recently produced music video which will champion … Continue reading

5 Things to Know About Climate Change in the Caribbean!

Natural events and human activities contribute to an increase in average temperatures around the world. Increases in greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the main cause. Our planet and our region are warming. This leads to a change in climate.

  1. The Caribbean is a minute contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, but will be among the most severely impacted.
  2. We are already experiencing its impacts. More frequent extreme weather events, such as the 2013 rain event in the Eastern Caribbean; the extreme droughts being experienced across the region, with severe consequences in places like Jamaica; the 2005 flooding in Guyana and Belize in 2010. And further Climate Change is inevitable in the coming decades.
  3. Inaction is VERY costly! An economic analysis focused on just three areas - increased hurricane damages, loss of tourism revenue and infrastructure damages - could cost the region US$10.7 billion by 2025. That is more than the combined GDP of OECS Member States.
  4. These risks can be managed by taking 'no regrets' actions - development actions we must take in any event. So we must build our infrastructure to withstand more intense weather events, select crops that can withstand extreme conditions and climate-influenced opportunistic pests, and transform our planning frameworks to improve our resilience.
  5. Climate Change is a fossil-energy related problem. Fossil fuel consumption is a major driver of Climate Change. It also costs the Region US$37 Billion of its foreign exchange earnings and further reduces the potential for economic growth. Employing renewable forms of energy will allow us to tackle two big problems: climate change and economic competitiveness.

Download the 5 Things to Know About Climate Change in the Caribbean brochure.

Live Updates:- Caribbean Launch: IPCC AR5 Report Overview. What does it mean for the Caribbean?

Bookmark this page for live updates during the event. The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) will host the Caribbean Launch of The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  this evening at 6pm (-4 GMT). The public education event, which will be held at the Frank Collymore Hall, … Continue reading

Caribbean Launches the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change


Caribbean Launches the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change.What does it mean for the Caribbean?

By Dr Kenrick Leslie, CBE


The Caribbean’s response to Climate Change is grounded in a firm regional commitment, policy and strategy. Our three foundation documents – The Liliendaal Declaration (July 2009), The Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change (July 2009) and its Implementation Plan (March 2012) – are the basis for climate action in the region.

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscores the importance, scientific rigour and utility of these landmark documents. The IPCC’s latest assessment confirms the Caribbean Community’s long-standing call to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C as outlined in the Liliendaal Declaration. At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) Meeting in 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Caribbean Community indicated to the world community that a global temperature rise above 1.5°C would seriously affect the survival of the region.

In 2010 at the UNFCCC COP Meeting in Cancun, governments agreed that emissions ought to be kept at a level that would ensure global temperature increases can be limited to below 2°C. At that time, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which includes the Caribbean, re-iterated that any rise in temperature above 1.5°C would seriously affect their survival and compromise their development agenda. The United Nations Human Development Report (2008) and the State of the World Report (2009) of The Worldwatch Institute supports this position and have identified 2°C as the threshold above which irreversible and dangerous Climate Change will become unavoidable.

Accordingly, the Caribbean welcomes the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report prepared by over 2, 000 eminent scientists. It verifies observations in the Caribbean that temperatures are rising, extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, sea levels are rising, and there are more incidences of coral bleaching. These climatic changes will further exacerbate the limited availability of fresh water, agricultural productivity, result in more erosion and inundation, and increase the migration of fish from the Caribbean to cooler waters and more hospitable habitats. The cumulative effect is reduced food security, malnutrition, and productivity, thus increasing the challenges to achieving poverty reduction and socio-economic development.

The report notes that greenhouse gas emissions, the cause of Climate Change, continues to rise at an ever increasing rate. Unless this trend is arrested and rectified by 2050, global temperatures could rise by at least 4°C by 2100. This would be catastrophic for the Caribbean. However, the report is not all gloom and doom. More than half of the new energy plants for electricity are from renewable resources, a trend that must accelerate substantially if the goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C by 2100 is to remain feasible.

The IPCC AR5 Report should therefore serve as a further wakeup call to our region that we cannot continue on a business as usual trajectory. It is an imperative that Climate Change be integrated in every aspect of the region’s development agenda, as well as its short, medium and long-term planning. The region must also continue to aggressively engage its partners at the bilateral and multilateral levels to reduce their emissions. The best form of adaptation is reducing emissions.

Inaction is simply too costly! The IPCC will adopt the Synthesis Report of the AR5 in Copenhagen, Denmark in late October 2014. Caribbean negotiators are already preparing to ensure that the most important information from the report is captured in the Synthesis Report.

Dr Kenrick Leslie is the Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, the regional focal point for Climate Change.

Peruse CDKN’s IPCC AR5: What’s in it for SIDS report?

Learn more about the implications of the IPCC AR5 Report by watching the live stream of the Caribbean Launch on today at 6pm (-4GMT) via caribbeanclimate.bz and track live tweets via #CaribbeanClimate.

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This is a Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) supported event.

Watch the Live Stream – IPCC AR5 Report Caribbean Launch. What does it mean for the Caribbean?

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The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) is pleased to announce that there will be a live stream of the Caribbean Launch of The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on October 13, 2014 at 6pm. The stream will be available via the Centre's website www.caribbeanclimate.bz and its YouTube Channel. 
The event, which will beheld at the Frank Collymore Hall, Central Bank of Barbados, is intended to raise the profile of Climate Change as a key development challenge in the Region, and the high degree of scientific certainty surrounding the predictions about our changing and variable climate. The report offers some specific messages about the impacts of climate change on small island states - and some of its general findings on climate change adaptation and mitigation are of particular relevance to Small Island Developing States such as those in the Caribbean. The 90 minute public education launch event, which will be live streamed and tweeted via the hashtag #CaribbeanClimate, will bring together a range of international and regional perspectives on the relevance of the findings for the region.
The event is open to the public and there is still time to RSVP. To confirm, please email Mr Tyrone Hall, communication specialist, CCCCC via thall@caribbeanclimate.bz by October 7, 2014.

The event is being held with support from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN).

Caribbean Launch of the IPCC AR5 Report:- What’s in it for the Caribbean (SIDS)?

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) invites you to the Caribbean Launch of The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on October 13, 2014 at the Frank Collymore Hall, Central Bank of Barbados, Spry Street, Bridgetown, Barbados. The event is intended to raise the profile of Climate … Continue reading

CDEMA Unveils New Online CDM Monitoring and Evaluation Tool

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) continues to strengthen its Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) systems for disaster risk reduction projects and programmes in the region. Recognizing the important role of technology in supporting robust M&E systems, the agency has developed a computerized information tool for capturing and analyzing performance data of the regional Comprehensive … Continue reading

Live Update: UN Climate Change Summit

The Secretary General of the United Nations convened a Climate Change Summit now underway in New York today. Approximately 120 Heads of State and Government are expected to attend. The purpose of the summit is to support the global effort to combat climate change. In particular, the leaders have been asked to announce their national … Continue reading

The Role of Education in Climate Change Risk Management

We need a “multi-faceted approach for educating the children and adults vulnerable to climate change [...] to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change,” according to Dr. Leslie A. North, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Geology at the Western Kentucky University , and Mr. Kianoosh Ebrahimi, Center for Water Resource Studies, Western Kentucky University in an  exclusive guest post to Caribbean Climate.

Credit: The 5Cs

Credit: The 5Cs

Communities of scientists acknowledge that global climate change is happening, and is predominantly the result of human activities (IPCC, 2014). Yet, despite the wealth of information about the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change, there are many persons still skeptical about the importance of understanding and responding to climate change risk. There are equally as many people simply unaware of how to minimize the impacts of climate change (Alejandro et al., 2012). Generally speaking, as climate change is typically perceived as remote and distant both in terms of time and location, members of the general public often avoid understanding climate change or concerning themselves with how their behavior influences this phenomenon. Existing knowledge, former experiences and perceptions about climate change also often result in hesitation in adopting behavioral change towards mitigating climate change risks. To combat these influences on a persons’ understanding of climate change science or willingness to take action to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change, a multi-faceted approach for educating the children and adults vulnerable to climate change is needed.

            Since climate change involves vast spans of time and space, it is a very complex concept to both teach and understand. Moreover, time is of the essence when it comes to responding to climate change challenges, which makes efficiently and effectively educating about the phenomenon of paramount importance. To educate about climate change in a timely manner and spur attitude and behavior changes about any subject, educators should build upon a persons’ pre-existing knowledge base and relate concepts being taught to personal, tangible experiences a learner is able to see directly in his or her environment. For instance, in the Caribbean region, an educator may teach about climate change by focusing on sea-level rise risk. Sea-level rise threatens many things including the tourism industry of the Caribbean region. According to Painter (2009) “…a one-meter rise would flood an area in coastal Guyana where 70% of the population and 40% of agricultural land is located. That would imply a major reorganization of the country’s economy.” Since nearly 50% of the population of the Caribbean lives within 2km (1.2 miles) of the coast, relating the importance of understanding climate change science and reducing climate change impacts through the visible and tangible concept of sea-level rise is evident. Many residents of the region can easily relate to the tourism industry and/or have already noted changes in sea-level rise, possibly without even knowing why the change in sea-level and shoreline occurred. Thus, the sea-level rise topic allows a learner to have a personal connection with the concept being taught and an educator can pull upon existing experiences with the sea-level to teach about broader issues such as climate change science and risk management.

            Although, teaching about climate change is a big challenge for many teachers, Caribbean grade-school teachers and community members must continue to work together to find exciting and interactive ways for students to learn about the science and solutions of climate change in the region. Informal learning institutions (i.e., zoos and aquariums, workshops, communication through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.), along with formal education systems must work together to engage audiences, share new information in non-threatening ways, and promote behavior change to better manage climate change risk. Training projects should be integrated along with a broader national projects to increase education and understanding of climate change based on priorities reflected in a strategic plan of the nations. In addition to formal education, climate change literacy among media professionals and journalists can also contribute towards developing and disseminating interdisciplinary knowledge for the general audiences with regard to climate change risk adaptation.

            Transforming an individual (particularly for an adult) who may have denied climate change in the past into advocating the issue’s significance and change his/her behavior can be challenging, yet techniques which we can make use of are available for effectively educating adult populations and influencing positive behavior change. Through effective outreach and teacher engagement, we can start making our elementary or even pre-school aged population sensible to questions of why is climate important? How are people affecting climate? And how will changes in climate affect our lives? Education may hold the key to instilling long-lasting, effective action towards climate change risk mitigation. We must start with the youth, but not forget about the important roles adults currently play in influences climate change and mitigated its risks. Climate change impacts can target all men, women, and children. To respond to the risks posed by this phenomenon we must, thus, ensure we are forming a united, educated front of all these people groups through effective formal and informal education pursuits.

Alejnadro, G, Goldman, S., Tracy, M. 2012. Climate Change Education: A Primer for Zoos and Aquariums (First Edition, Revised). The Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network (CliZEN). Chicago Zoological Society. Brookfield, Illinois. USA. Available at: http://www.clizen.org/files/ClimateChangeEducationEbookFirstEditionRevised.pdf
Painter, J. 2009. Americas on alert for sea level rise. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7977263.stm
UNESCO. 2014. UNESCO 2013 available on: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002271/227146e.pdf

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