“1.5 is a matter of necessity,” said University of the West Indies’ Professor Michael Taylor, speaking at an event convened by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) as part of the Conference on Climate Change, COP23, taking place in Germany until the end of this week.
Prof. Taylor was at the time delivering the main results of a study funded by the CDB, a study that has brought together 45 Caribbean scientists from 11 regional institutions to examine and compare the implications of climate change for the region.
The facts speak for themselves. On average, the temperature on this planet has already increased by 1 degree Celsius over what it was before the world began to industrialise, and the impacts of that increase are there for all to see.
In the Caribbean, global warming has already resulted in more intense hurricanes with stronger winds and much more rain, but it is also responsible: for increases in both air and ocean temperature; for more very hot days and nights; for longer and more frequent periods of drought; for an increase in very heavy rainfall events; and for sea-level rise and coastal erosion.
Climate change is real, and things can only get worse, but the question is: how much worse? This is the question that was at the centre of the climate change negotiations in Paris two years ago, and this is why the Caribbean considered it a success that the Paris Agreement made a commitment to an increase of “not more than 2 degrees”, trying to achieve the target of 1.5 degrees.
“This 1.5 Caribbean project,” said Prof. Taylor, “is the region doing its own science, putting Caribbean science in the literature of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”
And the messages from that research are clear. With ‘business as usual’, temperatures will increase by at least 2.5 degrees by the end of the century, reaching 1.5 degrees in the late 2020s, and 2 degrees in the 2050s.
“At 2 degrees, we would have a significantly harsher climate. We would be moving into the realm of the unprecedented. It’s a matter of compromise,” said Prof. Taylor, “even a 1.5 degree temperature increase will be very problematic.”
The message that the Caribbean is giving at the UN Conference is therefore one of urgency, a message that was echoed by Saint Lucian Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, who spoke at the session and who is attending the Conference in his capacity as CARICOM Lead on Sustainable Development and Climate Change.
“The Caribbean and other small island developing states (SIDS) have been patiently waiting for the world to get its act together,” said PM Chastanet, “but we now need action; we don’t have the ability to wait any longer, we need investment to build our resilience. Financing is a major constraint, and we now need a dedicated source of funds to support resilience building, specifically for the SIDS”.
The need for accessible and appropriate financing was also stressed by Dr. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada and current Chairman of CARICOM, who declared that “we need funding for adaptation but, with the projected impact of a 1.5 increase, adaptation is not enough, thus our call for a more comprehensive regime on Loss and Damage.”
“Since the Climate Change Conference of 2009 in Copenhagen, when the message of 1 point 5 to stay alive was first sent out, the Caribbean has been advocating that a target of 1.5 degrees is both necessary and feasible,” said Dr Kenrick Leslie, the Executive Director of the CCCCC.
At the Bonn Conference this year, thanks to the work of Prof. Taylor and other Caribbean scientists, and to the tireless work of Caribbean delegates in these critical negotiations, this message is coming across even louder and stronger, backed by the highly credible scientific work of the region’s scientific community.