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Where’s the Caribbean component of “Turn Down the Heat”?

Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CBE

Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CBE

Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CBE, says “it would be informative and useful” if a Caribbean-centred study akin to the World Bank’s Turn Down the Heat: Climate extremes, regional impacts and the case for resilience, which focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and South Asia, is conducted.

Turn Down the Heat says it is now very likely that the increase in average global temperature could be as high as 4oC, 2.5 oC more than what the Centre has advocated as a critical threshold for the region since 2009— a position strongly supported by the latest science.

Whereas the World Bank Report dealt in depth with the impact of a 3oC to 4oC temperature rise on the risks of climate change to development in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and South Asia, such an in depth study is yet to be done for our region which is considered one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of Climate Change.

Such a study is particularly important for the region as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the Caribbean as one of the most vulnerable areas to Climate Change in its Fourth Assessment Review. It further recommended that average global temperature should not exceed 2oC if the region was to avoid significant climate and development impacts.

Dr. Leslie was speaking at the recently concluded (July 15-16) Caribbean Regional Workshop on Climate Change Finance and the Green Climate Fund in Barbados.

Review Dr. Leslie’s speech here. Learn more about Turn Down the Heat.

Turn Down the Heat! Climate Change Will Hit the Poor the Hardest

Turn Down the Heat, a new World Bank commissioned climate report released on June 19, looks at likely impacts of present day, 2°C, and 4°C warming across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia. It describes the risks to agriculture and livelihood security in Sub-Saharan Africa; the rise in sea-level, loss of coral reefs and devastation to coastal areas likely in South East Asia; and the fluctuating water resources in South Asia. 

Turn Down the Heat warns that poor communities will be the most vulnerable to climate change. The report explores the risks to lives and livelihoods in these three highly vulnerable regions. Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience (Read it in Issuu, Scribd, Open Knowledge Repository) takes the climate discussion to the next level, building on a 2012 World Bank report that concluded from a global perspective that without a clear mitigation strategy and effort, the world is headed for average temperatures 4 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times by the end of this century.

Heat in the Place – The Effect of Climate Change on Trinidad and Tobago

 Can you feel the heat?

 I don’t think anyone can rightly say that they haven’t been feeling the heat recently. In Trinidad and Tobago, we like to say, “The sun real hot today!” and lately, it seems to have an increasingly unbearable sting to it, making outdoors the preferred place NOT to be, between the hours of 11am and 3pm.

We live on a beautiful tropical island, a few degrees north of the Equator, but we are also a highly industrialized little paradise. Our “cash crop” is oil and gas, and our oil money has funded our nation for more than one and a half centuries. It is quite difficult for us to envision a life without fossil fuels.   We are the heat, having the second highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world, our nation is indeed producing a large amount of carbon, which directly increases temperatures worldwide. We bring the heat, with our internationally famous Carnival, a scorching multi-day festival, jumping up and down in the sun.

Reports show that if temperatures continue to rise to more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, by mid-century, many arid and tropical countries may be uninhabitable without permanent air-conditioning (Pearce 2016), making Carnival impossible, unless we encapsulate Port of Spain and our major towns, or perhaps our entire country, with a giant dome and air-condition it.

Climate Change is real, and its effects on tiny islands like Trinidad and Tobago can be phenomenal if we don’t take drastic steps now. Not only will Carnival become extinct, it’s quite possible that we can become extinct also, being completely submerged by the sea, save for the privleged, who can pack up and migrate to larger continents and greener pastures. Already, in Icacos, and other areas along our south western coast, homes and structures, such as the lighthouse, are meters underwater. This serene beach is littered with fallen coconut trees. What was once lush agricultural land, has now been transformed into a sandy beach, as the sea continues to reclaim the land in this area, and nothing is being done to stop this. The effects of seal level rise is not just an inconceivable theory for us, it is very real indeed. At the current rate of temperature rise, sea levels can rise more than 50cm by the end of the century. By 2300, with temperature increases of 1.5 degrees Celsius, sea levels can rise by 1.5 meters, with an increase of 2 degrees Celsius, sea levels can rise to 2.7 meters (Schaeffer 2016). With temperature rising even further, there will be exponential increases in sea level rise, causing Trinidad and Tobago to get smaller and smaller with every passing day.

This should be a cause of concern for the average citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. Not only will our personal comfort and health be affected as we are forced to live in soaring temperatures and smaller land spaces, our very income will be affected. With the present instability of the oil and gas industry, we are forced to diversify to maintain our economy.

Agriculture has been promoted as one of the industries we should diversify to, and I fully endorse this, as it ultimately increases the food security of our nation. However, I draw reference to my home garden, where my mint plants, peppers, and other crops, quickly dried up during our excruciating dry season earlier this year and last year, with temperatures reaching an all-time high. The only plants that withstood those temperatures were the hardy cassava, aloe vera and banana. Agriculture is feasible, but it will become increasingly difficult to maintain crops in increased temperatures, and a decreased water supply. Greater investment will be needed to maintain the agricultural sector with innovations that will ensure stable and increased crop productivity in the changing climate.

At last year’s International UN Climate Change Conference, an agreement was made to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, in comparison to pre-industrial levels, to ensure that we do not experience the full brunt of the effects of climate change. This means we need to fight with everything we have, to reduce our overall carbon emissions to zero. Our major carbon emissions come from the petrochemical industry and electricity/power generation (UTT 2010), however, other legitimate factors include the exhaust emitted from our vehicles, our daily consumption and waste management. All of these factors increase the concentration of carbon in the air, and this increase results in rising temperatures. The “sun feels hotter” because of YOU and ME!

Now, more than ever, we need to take conscious steps to decreasing our carbon emissions, and it starts with us.  We need to work together as individuals, as communities, as companies, as cities, and as a nation to curb the effects of climate change. From the simple, to elaborate strategies, we need them all. From turning off the light switch when leaving a room, to car-pooling with your colleagues, to developing kitchen gardens, to reforestation, to implementing sustainable and low-carbon energy and technology into our daily living, to carbon capture and storage, we need them all.  A passive, laissez-faire approach, will not do, we must all take up the mantle and fight for stability of our nation and the world.

Over the next few weeks, we will be doing a series on the effects of climate change on various sectors including business, health and the economy.

STAY TUNED!

Written by – Nolana E. Lynch

nolana-e-lynch

Nolana E. Lynch is an environmentalist, climate change scientist and philanthropist, Trinidad and Tobago.

“The urgency and seriousness of Climate Change calls for ambition in financing adaptation and mitigation”, says Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CBE

Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CBE

Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CBE

“The urgency and seriousness of Climate Change calls for ambition in financing adaptation and mitigation”, according to Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CBE. He adds that this urgency is longstanding as it was recognized over two decades ago at the Rio Convention.

Speaking at the recently concluded (July 15-16) Caribbean Regional Workshop on Climate Change Finance and the Green Climate Fund in Barbados, Dr. Leslie noted that at that watershed convention countries agreed that:

  • Developed countries would curb consumption and production patterns
  • Developing countries would maintain development goals but take on sustainable development approaches
  • Developed countries would support developing countries through finance, technology transfer and reforms to the global economic and financial structures

 Dr. Leslie notes that even with these longstanding commitments progress has been limited.

Despite continued intergovernmental processes, there has been little implementation of the agreements. At the time a pledge to commit 0.7% of national income to international aid was made. This pledge has only been met by five countries and where given, aid is unpredictable and poorly targeted and/or administered.

The two day regional workshop at which Dr. Leslie spoke primarily sought to review the various financial mechanisms, including the Green Climate Fund, available to developing countries— specifically Caribbean Community member countries.

Developed countries pledged to provide new and additional resources, including forestry and investments, approaching US$30 billion for the period 2010 – 2012 and with balanced allocation between mitigation and adaptation. This collective commitment made at the Conference of the Parties (COP15) in December 2009 in Copenhagen is known as ‘fast-start finance’.

 The Fast Start Funds:
  1.   New and additional resources
  2. US$30 billion annually through 2013
  3.  Increasing to 100 billion by 2020

Unfortunately neither of the first two commitments has been accomplished

 Following up on this pledge, the Conference of the Parties in Cancún, in December 2010, took note of this collective commitment by developed country Parties and reaffirmed that funding for adaptation will be prioritized for the most vulnerable developing countries, such as the least developed countries, small island developing States and Africa, said Dr. Leslie.

 What’s the Green Fund?

The Green Fund is the most recent of the Climate Change-related Funds now being developed for operational implementation in the near future. The Fund seeks to make a significant and ambitious contribution to the global efforts towards attaining the goals set by the international community to combat climate change.

It is the expectation that this fund, unlike the other funds, will be better administered with an improved governance structure and will contribute to the achievement of the ultimate objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In the context of sustainable development, it is the expectation that the Fund will promote the paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways by providing support to developing countries, such as Members of the Caribbean Community, to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, taking into account the needs of those developing countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The importance of this last statement is highlighted in the latest report (Turn Down the Heat) from the World Bank on Climate Change

Review Dr. Leslie’s speech here. Learn more about Turn Down the Heat.

Also read: Dr. Ulric Trotz says the Caribbean lags in climate finance

Climate Resilient Agriculture in Focus as Barbuda, Dominica Rebuild After Monster Hurricanes

HURRICANE MARIA CHOPPED THE TOPS OF TREES AND LEFT THEM BARE IN DOMINICA LAST MONTH. (PHOTO CREDIT: CARDI)

Executive Director of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) Barton Clarke is confident that the agriculture sectors that were destroyed with the passage of back to back Category 5 hurricanes will rebound with the collective effort at resilient rebuilding.

But more work needs to be done and a greater slice of resources must be pumped into the region’s agriculture sector to make it more resilient, he said.

Speaking on the eve of a Ministerial Agriculture Meeting at the Georgetown-based CARICOM Secretariat, Clarke was optimistic that with initial steps being taken to focus on the short-term, the two islands that were hardest hit, Barbuda and Dominica, will bounce back.

Barbuda

Barbuda had significantly advanced its peanut production and was recently getting CARDI support for the industry, but the hurricane impaired its seed supplies for the upcoming crop. CARDI will screen and store supplies at its seed storage facility in Antigua, Clarke said.

Antigua and Barbuda had presented its vision for agriculture at the COTED Meeting. Barbuda has adopted a ‘green island concept’ with alternative energy, particularly solar and wind; organic agriculture and compliance with food safety requirements as the main features. Protected agriculture and specially designed smart greenhouses are the pillars on which resilience, readiness and sustainability will be built.

The concept also utilizes appropriate innovations and production technologies such as rational mechanization, selected germplasm, efficient use of water resources and intensive systems for small ruminants. The concept will ensure that zoning and land use practices will not compromise the integrity of the environment.

Dominica

Replanting of short-term crops such as lettuce, Chinese cabbage and ochro, for example, has begun in Dominica. Root crops, which made up a sizeable part of Dominica’s sector, can rebound “relatively quickly” as opposed to tree crops, he said and there could be a fast turnaround in the poultry sector, for example.

“…Once you can access the baby chicks, in six months’ time you have eggs…Tree crops you would have to get the trees in the ground and they will take a few years before they begin bearing. But In two years’ time we will be back to being a major supplier of food to the Caribbean,” Clarke said.

The CARDI head pointed to the necessity for climate-resilient agriculture in the Community. Antigua and Barbuda has already incorporated some of those elements – such as protected agriculture – in its green island concept.

According to Clarke, CARDI is looking at protected structures for crop production and getting the best types for the Caribbean.

He pointed, as an example, to livestock production systems where animals were now housed in pens rather than “running around”. The pens, he said, were modified so that they can withstand the increases in temperature. He said CARDI is considering the work done in countries such as Israel, the Dominican Republic and Barbados where animals are fed in protected housing which limits their exposure to the temperatures and increases their productivity.

“You see where they have introduced wind tunnel technology for poultry where we have poultry operating in essentially air conditioned environments where the temperature is regulated,” he explained.

He added that the systems have been extended into the crop arena as well. He pointed out that there was solar cooling technology to bring down the heat in the protected structures. CARDI is also collaborating with the University of the West Indies to look at cooling the structures.

“Then we have to look at drug and heat-tolerant varieties of plants; we’ve done some work on pigeon peas, corn, sweet potato, dasheen. A lot more of that work needs to be done; a lot more of resources need to be invested,” he said.

Credit: Caribbean 360

The World Bank Group Boosts Global Climate Ambition

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Since the Paris Agreement was adopted at COP21 in December 2015, the world has seen increased ambition on climate change. Almost every country in the world has now set national climate targets, and the Agreement has gone into force much earlier than expected. However, global climate action is still not happening at the scale or speed needed to meet the Paris goal of keeping global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius.
  • The World Bank Group has been moving quickly over the past year to build on the momentum and lay the groundwork for greater ambition, helping countries reduce emissions and increase resilience to climate shocks through action in high-impact areas, such as clean energy, climate-smart agriculture, disaster preparedness, and natural resource management
  • As COP22 starts in Morocco, the Bank Group is aligning its efforts around key focus areas, committing billions to help countries meet their climate goals while leading on critical global issues such as green financing and carbon pricing

It started with the bang of a gavel. Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in December 2015, the world has seen a year of unparalleled ambition on climate change.

Almost every country on Earth – 190 in all – have now set national climate targets as part of the Paris process.  Over the course of 2016, there have been important steps forward on aviation, on short-lived climate pollutants, and on putting a price on carbon pollution. Renewable energy surpassed coal to become the largest source of installed power capacity in the world. To date, 100 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement, bringing it into force on November 4 – much faster than anyone would have expected when it was adopted.

Despite these positive steps, global action on climate change is still far from the level needed to achieve the Paris goal of keeping the rise in global temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Over the past year, the World Bank Group has moved quickly to build on the momentum and set the stage for a new level of ambition, committing billions to help countries meet their climate goals, delivering assistance across sectors, and pushing forward on global issues to reflect the growing international consensus that climate change must be tackled rapidly, systematically, and at scale.

The urgency is driven by the clear threat climate change poses to the achievement of the Bank Group’s overarching goals: ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity.  One year ago, the Bank Group warned that without rapid action, climate change could push more than 100 million additional people into poverty by 2030.


” Everything we do is informed by the circumstances already faced by millions of people in developing countries: higher temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events, threats to water and food security, and increased vulnerability in coastal areas and river deltas. This is why we are committed to pushing the global climate agenda forward while supporting countries doing the hard work on the ground. “
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Laura Tuck

Vice President, Sustainable Development


In April, the Bank Group adopted a Climate Change Action Plan, based on growing demand for support from client countries.  Under the Action Plan, the Bank Group is integrating climate change into all of its work, and expanding commitments in high-impact areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, disaster preparedness, and urban resilience.

“The Climate Action Plan is the World Bank Group’s own Paris commitment,” said John Roome, Senior Director for Climate Change at the World Bank.  “It allows us to pool our resources from across different sectors and target them for the highest impact, providing countries systematic solutions that reduce emissions and increase climate resilience.”

Over the course of 2016, the Bank Group has stepped up its engagements on climate change and delivered support to countries across a wide spectrum of action, ranging from new financing for solar and wind power to increasing the resilience of urban dwellers, farmers and fishing communities; from helping countries manage their forest resources to facilitating billions of dollars in sustainable investments by the private sector; and from reducing vulnerability in small island states to pushing forward global action on carbon pricing.  A list of selected examples of this action is below.

As attention turns to COP22, being held in Marrakech, Morocco on November 7-18, the Bank Group is aligning its efforts around a few focus areas as recently laid out by President Jim Yong Kim. These include facilitating the transition to renewable and low-carbon forms of energy, greening the finance sector, and ramping up global action on energy efficiency.

At the center of these efforts is a push to help countries integrate climate change into their national planning and budgeting and deliver on their Paris climate pledges – the Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs.

At COP22, the Bank Group will be announcing progress on the Africa Climate Business Plan, which was launched in Paris. The Business Plan aims to raise $19 billion by 2020 for investments that will strengthen the resilience of the continent’s environment and people, and improve energy access via renewable energy.  Much of the funding for the Business Plan will come through IDA, the Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

A new Climate Action Plan for the Middle East and North Africa region will be launched at COP22. This will focus on fostering water and food security in one of the world’s most vulnerable regions, as well as supporting sustainable, resilient and connected cities; encouraging the energy transition; and protecting the most vulnerable communities from climate-related shocks.

“The NDCs are the building blocks of the Paris Agreement, but we know that the current NDCs won’t get us to the ultimate goal of keeping the rise in global temperatures to below 2 degrees,” said Laura Tuck. “That is why it is so important that we help countries to meet their targets quickly, and then to increase their ambitions in the years to come.”

Selected examples of World Bank Group action on climate change since COP21 in Paris:

Clean Energy

  • In Zambia in May, an auction under the Scaling Solar program saw a winning bid of 6 cents a kilowatt hour – the lowest prices for solar power to date in Africa, and among the lowest recorded anywhere in the world.

Energy Efficiency and HFCs

On October 15, parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, potent greenhouse gases used predominantly in air conditioning and refrigeration. The Bank Group supports this by helping countries phase down HFCs and improve energy efficiency in air conditioning and refrigeration.

Climate-Smart Agriculture

Forests

  • In April 2016, the Bank Group adopted a new Forest Action Plan, which spells out stepped up ambitions on forests. The Plan will promote investments in the forest sector that generate economic opportunities in rural areas, through sustainable forest management as well as responsible forest restoration.

Green Growth

In June, the World Bank approved $90 million in Development Policy Financing in Vietnam to support a range of green growth and climate change related policy reforms. This was complemented by the Mekong Delta Integrated Climate Resilience and Sustainable Livelihoods investment program, a $310 million operation that will help farmers and fishers by strengthening flood management, providing solutions for soil salinity and protecting coastal areas.

Transport

  • In Bangladesh, the Regional Waterway Transport Project is improving the navigability of 900 km of inland waterways and connecting routes. The project incorporates climate resilience into river port infrastructure and promotes the use of inland water transport, which emits less greenhouse gases than road transport.

Cities and Buildings

  • IFC’s investment portfolio for green buildings has now surpassed two billion dollars, including own account investments and mobilized financing. As part of this, the EDGE Green Building Market Transformation Program supports green building codes and standards, finances the construction of green homes, hospitals, and schools, and helps banks increase their green lending.

Reducing Vulnerability and Boosting Climate Resilience

  • The Pacific Resilience Program—a series of projects to strengthen Pacific Island countries’ resilience to natural disasters and climate change—was launched in 2016.

Greening the Finance Sector

  • The World Bank and IFC are among the world’s largest issuers of green bonds – accounting for more than $2 billion in FY2016.

Putting a Price on Carbon Pollution

  • The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC) – an initiative bringing together over 20 countries and 100 companies to accelerate support for putting a price on carbon, issued an official work plan, announced high level co-chairs, and welcomed new members in 2016. In a communiqué issued in April, it called for global targets for carbon pricing.
  • Through the Partnership for Market Readiness (PMR), the World Bank is working with a number of countries to introduce carbon pricing and other instruments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In Vietnam, the PMR is helping the government collect data on carbon emissions and build a reporting and verification system.  In Morocco, the PMR is helping the government assess needs for policy reform needed to realize their NDC goals using market-based instruments. In China, the PMR is working to provide technical assistance for the design of the national Emissions Trading System.
Credit: The World Bank

Small Islands Drive Huge Ambition as Deal Reportedly Close at Paris Climate Talks

1.5 to stay alive

1.5 to stay alive

LE BOURGET, France — The Paris climate-change conference was supposed to be about the needs of big countries and what they are willing to do to slow the warming of Earth’s atmosphere. But in the end, the two weeks of sometimes round-the-clock negotiations have focused at least as much on some of the smallest, most defenseless nations whose very existence could hinge on the outcome of the talks.

The result could be a tougher set of policy goals than anyone originally thought could emerge from the conference. While the ultimate agreement is expected to embrace a goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius, it also is likely to recognize a far more challenging and aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

That tougher language might not be legally binding for countries such as the United States, but the fact that it is in the running is testament to the tireless work of delegations from remote countries facing an urgent threat from the rising seas of a warmer Earth.

The growing momentum behind 1.5 degrees is a story of fast-breaking science, savvy politics and a change in tone in the climate debate — one that, pushed by Pope Francis, has focused increasing attention on the needs of the most vulnerable countries. (The Vatican on Thursday came out in favor of the 1.5-degree target.)

“The small guys have managed to push the big guys, and that is a big story,” Monica Araya, founder and executive director of the Costa Rican nongovernmental organization Nivela and special adviser to the Climate Vulnerable Forum, said at the conference Friday.

Early Saturday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced that a proposed draft of the new climate agreement was ready for debate and possible approval by delegates of the 196 countries attending the talks. Fabius described the proposed agreement as “historic,” “ambitious and balanced,” providing a pathway that would allow countries to sharply reduce greenhouse-gas pollution and avoid a dangerous warming of the planet.

“Today we are close to the final outcome,” Fabius told the assembled delegates at a conference center in Paris’ northern outskirts. He called on diplomats to approve the  compromise reached by negotiators overnight, one that he said “affirms our objective … to have a temperature [increase] well below 2 degrees [Celsius] and to endeavor to limit that increase to  1.5 degrees, which should make it possible to reduce the risks and impacts linked to climate change.” As he spoke the words, the conference hall erupted in applause. “The world is holding its breath,” Fabius said.

Diplomats labored nonstop for the last 48 hours of the conference to resolve differences over a handful of thorny issues, including financial aid to developing countries hit hard by climate change, as well as rules and procedures for judging whether countries are honoring their commitments to cut pollution.Secretary of State John F. Kerry, in Paris to help push for a deal, said Friday there had been “a lot of progress” but also a few snags during late-night bargaining.

“I’m hopeful,” he told reporters. “I think there is a way to go forward, that there’s a reasonableness.”

For many years, small island nations such as the Maldives — joined more recently by a broader group of climate-vulnerable countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America — have pushed to make the world recognize tougher climate goals. It has been a long-shot fight because of the massive effort required to meet even the less stringent goal of restricting warming to less than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, and also because of their relative lack of political and economic power.

“Maldives itself has over 3,000 years of history,” said Ahmed Sareer, the Maldives’ permanent representative to the United Nations and its ambassador to the United States. “The location, the culture, the language, the traditions, the history, all this would be wiped off” if sea levels are allowed to rise high enough.

Nonetheless, holding warming to 1.5 degrees hardly seemed realistic. With the world already at about one degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels and current national emissions pledges well off target even for two degrees, how would 1.5 ever happen?

Still, small island nations brought their case to Paris. Their message was epitomized by a poster at the Wider Caribbean Pavilion at the vast Le Bourget conference center. The poster shows a young girl up to her neck in ocean water. Behind her, the now-submerged beach she’s standing on sports a drowned sign: “1.5 to stay alive,” it reads.

The talks in Paris were barely getting underway last week when representatives from Antigua and Barbuda made a series of impassioned pleas to the nations gathered to negotiate a climate treaty. In speeches and in a written appeal, officials from the islands warned that their homeland was literally in danger of being swept away by rising sea levels.

Even if all countries honored their current promises to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, global temperatures would rise by 2.7 degrees Celsius — and “that would be too much,” the delegation said, summarizing its view on its official Twitter account.

“The ministers came to the [talks] so that we might escape a world of plus-3 degrees, and for refusing to sign the death warrant of certain countries,” the message read. “It seems that this promise is forgotten.”

Antiguan officials delivered similar messages in closed meetings, warning that other island nations faced “an existential threat” unless the negotiators increased their ambition and sought even stricter emission controls to keep the temperature rise from exceeding 1.5 degrees, according to a diplomat present during the session. For these countries, the risks include not just the loss of land but the death of vital fisheries as more coral reefs die because of higher temperatures and increased acidity.

Similar appeals have been made for years, but in Paris the islanders acquired new allies: African nations, Europeans, even some Americans expressed sympathy, the diplomat said.

Eiffel Tower lit up for COP21 [Pic: arc2020.eu]

Eiffel Tower lit up for COP21 [Pic: arc2020.eu]

As the Paris meeting unfolded, the 1.5 target received more and more acknowledgment from major economies such as France, Canada and the United States. Then, a near-final draft agreement released Thursday enshrined it as the aspirational climate goal of the entire world. Countries, the draft said, will take steps to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”

The language was retained in a draft that was scheduled for debate and final approval on Saturday. Officials cautioned that changes could still be made in the talk’s final hours. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Fabius said earlier in the week.

Still, observers say that the moral appeal of small-islanders has merged with a growing body of troubling science suggesting that their temperature target turns out to be a meaningful one.

It was not until 2008, at the Poznan climate meetings in Poland, that the coalition of small island nations called the Alliance of Small Island States formally stood up for the position of a 1.5-degree temperature target, said Bill Hare, a physicist and a founder of Climate Analytics. The group has conducted considerable research on the 1.5-degree target to help small island nations and developing countries.

But there was not much science at the time to differentiate 1.5 degrees from two degrees. Climate Analytics science director Michiel Schaeffer and scientific consultant Joeri Rogelj note that many climate studies have tended to compare impacts at two degrees with impacts at much higher temperature increases, rather than to suss out the differences between 1.5 and two, which turn out to be fairly substantial.

“There’s a significant difference between one and a half degrees and two degrees if you look at survival of coral reefs, and shifts in heat and precipitation extremes,” Schaeffer said, “and for example, a doubling of risk for food security at two degrees compared with one and a half degrees.”

And then, most of all, there is sea-level rise. Recent research suggests not only that every one degree of temperature increase (Celsius) will lead to about 2.3 meters of long-term sea-level rise (over seven feet), but that the long-term stability threshold of the Greenland ice sheet may also lie at around 1.5 degrees, or just above it. (The stability threshold of the West Antarctic ice sheet may already have been reached).

So even as small island states pushed more and more for 1.5 degrees — and as their coalition grew to include more developing countries — scientific research on ice-sheet vulnerability and sea-level rise started to paint a two-degree warmer world as quite a scary one.

“That combination of science and morality I think brought it here in a way that was just undeniable,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate-change program at the World Resources Institute. “That’s how I think it got as far as it’s gotten.”

But the talk of 1.5 degrees brings with it deeply sobering implications that, until now, many in the climate debate largely managed to avoid or ignore.  Increasing talk about this target also opens up, more than ever, a troubling discussion about “negative emissions” technologies that do not exist on any mass scale at present but theoretically would be able to pull carbon dioxide out of the air. Perhaps the most popular of them is bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS, which would involve burning plants for power and then storing the carbon released in the ground.

These technologies will be needed, scientists say, for 1.5 to be possible. It may be that the only way to land the planet at 1.5 degrees is to temporarily overshoot that target and then cool things back down again through massive carbon removal from the air, according to scientists.

Criticisms of “negative emissions” technologies are mounting. Recently, a large group of scientists said it would be “extremely risky” to rely on such technologies rather than simply cutting carbon emissions sharply, because they all have major trade-offs (BECCS, for instance, would require a huge amount of land). But nonetheless, they’ve become a part of the debate out of necessity.

Thus, the powerful moral case made by small island nations and other climate-vulnerable countries now runs head on into the extraordinarily complex math of the global carbon budget, with a little science fiction thrown in to boot.  But even if humans cannot manage to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, there could be a benefit to the effort.

“Having aimed for 1.5 in the first place,” Rogelj said, “if we are not lucky, if some technologies don’t turn out, then maybe we will be safe enough to stay below two degrees.”

Credit: Washington Post

History will condemn climate change denialists

'The future involves the rendering of large parts of the earth uninhabitable'. Photograph: Sigit Pamungkas/Reuters

‘The future involves the rendering of large parts of the earth uninhabitable’. Photograph: Sigit Pamungkas/Reuters

The argument for radical action on climate change– which Australia will soon at least temporarily reject with the shameful decision to repeal the carbon tax – is embarrassingly simple.

For the past 200 years, western culture has granted science pre-eminent cultural authority. A quarter century ago, a consensus formed among contemporary scientists specialising in the study of the climate. The consensus comprised one principal idea: the primary source of energy on which industrial civilisation relied – the burning of fossil fuels – was dangerously increasing the temperature of the earth.

Thousands upon thousands of scientific studies have been conducted estimating the impact of this warming. Hundreds of outstanding books have been published making the conclusions of the scientists available to the general public. To anyone willing to listen, these scientists have explained that unless human beings derive their energy from sources other than fossil fuels, the future that we face over the next decades and centuries involves the rendering of large parts of the earth uninhabitable to humans and other species – through the melting of the ice caps and glaciers and thus steadily rising sea levels, the acidification of the oceans, the destruction of forests and coral reefs, and the increase in the prevalence and intensity of famines, insect-borne diseases, droughts, bush fires, floods, hurricanes and heat-waves.

Climate scientists also explained that radical action on climate change could not be delayed. The carbon dioxide being emitted by human activity would remain in the atmosphere for a century or longer. The damage our generation was inflicting on the earth and its inhabitants was irreversible and therefore terminal. In human history, the scientists warned, there had been so far been no catastrophe even remotely as serious or as grave as the one we were about to face if we failed to take timely action against impending climate change.

So far, the warnings issued by the climate scientists have gone largely unheeded. In 1997 the international community that gathered at Kyotoproduced a desperately inadequate agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In every year following Kyoto, emissions steadily rose. The international community re-assembled at Copenhagen in 2009. Virtually nothing of significance was agreed. Emissions continued to rise. The modest reductions that have been achieved in recent years among the advanced industrial economies – either through market mechanisms, or the economic downturn following the global financial crisis, or the temporary movement in the US from coal to natural gas – have been more than cancelled out by very rapid increases in emissions produced in the emerging economies like China and India now seeking their own place in the industrial sun.

Climate change protesters in Adelaide. Photograph: AAP/Alan Porritt

Climate change protesters in Adelaide. Photograph: AAP/Alan Porritt

As global emissions increased, something surpassingly strange occurred in the realm of politics in the US – something without parallel in the history of the post-Enlightenment west since the Darwinian controversy. The emergence of a broad-based movement of thought challenging the sovereignty of science in one specialised field.

Anti-science climate change denialism began with money cynically and strategically supplied by the massive American fossil fuel corporations. From there it spread to the powerful US network of neo-liberal “think-tanks” whose purpose was to produce the ideas helping to make the world safe for the wealthiest members of the society – the so-called 1%. And from the think-tanks climate change denialism steadily spread downwards to American society more generally, thanks to rabid right wing media like Fox News, until it was powerful enough to capture, almost in its entirety, one of America’s traditional political parties, the republicans.

As a consequence of the spread of climate change denialism, tens of millions of American citizens now base their opinions on the kind of pseudo-knowledge manufactured by the climate change denialist blogs and disseminated daily by the right-wing media. They have come to treat the questions of whether the earth is warming, and if so why, as political matters concerning which those without any genuine scientific understanding or training are as qualified to form an opinion as professors who have devoted their lives to one of the disciplines of climate science.

Climate change denialism soon spread beyond the US, especially to the countries of the English-speaking world. As Australia is a country extremely sensitive to the cultural winds blowing in from the US, reliant on the export and consumption of coal, and where the denialist Murdoch newspapers exercise enormous unhealthy influence, it is hardly surprising that over the past decade climate change denialism quickly sunk deep roots here.

The impact was seen in late 2009 with the coup inside the Liberal party which replaced Malcolm Turnbull, a rational believer in climate science, by a complacent opportunist, Tony Abbott, who regarded and still regards climate science as “crap”. The anti-Turnbull coup represents the most critical moment in the recent history of Australia. Abbott was elected by the right-wing of his party for a single purpose: to destroy any meaningful action in Australia against the threat of climate change. When the carbon tax is repealed, the leaders of the coup and the fossil fuel interests they represent will receive from a dutiful prime minister their anticipated reward.

The right-wing denialists, now dominant within the Coalition, often call themselves conservatives. They are not. At the heart of true conservatism is the belief that each new generation forms the vital bridge between past and future, and is charged with the responsibility of passing the earth and its cultural treasures to their children and grandchildren in sound order. History will condemn the climate change denialists, here and elsewhere, for their contribution to the coming catastrophe that their cupidity, their arrogance, their myopia and their selfishness have bequeathed to the young and the generations still unborn.

Credit: The Guardian

CaribWatch launched to leverage technology and the Internet to save lives

CARIB WATCH

Credit: Hill 60 Bump

 

In concurrence with the start of the 2014 Hurricane Season on June 1st, Hill 60 Bump held the digital launch of its new smartphone application, CaribWatch today, June3, 2014. The launch started with a Twitter chat from 1pm – 2pm, hosted by @OnCaribWatch, based on the theme ‘Caribbean Crisis Communication: The Digital Evolution’ and will be followed by a Google Hangout at 6pm, hosted by +CaribWatch, with representatives of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the Salvation Army and the Caribbean Red Cross, to discuss how the application will impact future crisis communication efforts and the mobilisation of relief aid. You may participate in the live stream of the Google Hangout via  http://bit.ly/caribwatchhangout. The tweets are available for perusal via the hashtag #CaribWatch.

Why CaribWatch is Needed

The Caribbean, while famous for being a tropical paradise, is also statistically among the most vulnerable regions in the world to the effects of climate change and natural hazards. The region has experienced a number of crisis events from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti as well as social emergencies which require management. Traditionally, people turned to radio and television media for critical alerts, however as a 2013 study by the University of San Francisco found, social media is replacing emergency numbers as the go-to for updates and assistance.

  • January 12-14, 2010: 2.3 Million Tweets containing the words ‘Haiti’ and ‘Red Cross’ after a devastating earthquake stuck.
  • March 11, 2011: 4.5 million Facebook status updates about the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
  • October 2012: At peak, Instagram users uploaded Hurricane Sandy related images at a rate of 10 per second
  • July 9, 2013: A Hill 60 Bump Facebook post about Tropical Storm Chantal targeted at Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent reached almost 100,000 Caribbean viewers in just one day.

About CaribWatch

CaribWatch is a system for sharing emergency and disaster alerts in the Caribbean via a free smartphone application and the supporting use of social media.Its purpose is to enable people throughout the Caribbean & its Diaspora to help each other in times of crisis, by providing a hub for information and a focal point for relief efforts.

The App

The free CaribWatch smartphone application sends push alerts to mobile handsets with key emergency updates. It also runs a feed of 
current disaster related activities and allows for the easy sharing of content.

Social Media

CaribWatch has active accounts on a number of social media platforms including: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, YouTube and 
LinkedIn. The hashtag #CaribWatch is monitored across social media and shared as a curated feed of real time user generated content.

Key Data

CaribWatch provides through its app and supporting website, a variety of key crisis information in collaboration with the Caribbean 
Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). This varies from types of hazards and definitions of warning terms to preparedness tips and emergency contact information by country.

Support

CaribWatch collaborates with major disaster relief agencies mainly the Red Cross and the Salvation Army to assist with the mobilization of post event relief through volunteer action as well as facilitating direct donations.

One of the main reasons Heather Pinnock, Caribbean sustainability advocate and director of Hill 60 Bump Ltd, conceptualized this application was to address the scramble for information that occurs during and after a crisis event. “Social media platforms are great for getting breaking news and key emergency alerts” she stated, “in times of crisis, when everything happens so rapidly, a reliable source of both official and on the ground information is critical – that is where CaribWatch comes in.”

CaribWatch is the must-have resource for the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season which lasts from June 1st until November 30th. Download it for Android in the Google Play Store or for Apple devices in the iOS App Store. To pledge support for the application, register at bit.ly/caribwatch to share a social media status update on the day of the launch. Find more resources online at www.caribwatch.com or via your favorite social media. Remember to share your Caribbean emergency or disaster news, updates and photographs by using the #CaribWatch hashtag.

# # #
PRESS CONTACT
Dwabenhe Gordon
CaribWatch Project Manager
1876 792 3385
dgordon@caribwatch.com
Credit: Hill 60 Bump
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