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Climate health highlighted at COP21- A Trinidadian’s Perspective

 

“Climate change, and all of its dire consequences for health, should be at centre-stage, right now, whenever talk turns to the future of human civilizations. After all, that’s what’s at stake.”Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization

Many Trinbagonians are proud to say that Trinidad and Tobago is one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Is this something to be pleased about?

The title is a reflection of our status as the main exporter of oil and gas in the Caribbean region and the main producer of liquefied natural gas in the Latin America and the Caribbean. We depend heavily on the extraction of hydrocarbons as the main source of income.  After all, Trinidad and Tobago is ranked second in the world for its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita, producing an estimated 53 million tonnes of CO2 annually, with 80 per cent coming from the petrochemical and power generation industry. The government needs to find more sources of renewable energy. We emit the most amount of toxic gases into the atmosphere in the Caribbean.

Climate change takes 400,000 lives per year and millions suffer from flooding, diseases, malnourishment, and respiratory problems due to climate change. This is both a threat and an opportunity as it can push countries toward renewable energy. For these reasons, COP21 has seen concern raised by medical professionals regarding the effect climate change has on health. Over 1,700 health organisations are supporting declarations calling on world leaders in Paris to take a serious approach to the escalating climate threats to human health.  The demonstration follows a major recent report in The Lancet that warned 50 years of global health improvements could be thrown into reverse by climate change.

From Europe to the Americas and across Asia-Pacific, over 8,200 hospitals and health centers are already walking the talk: divesting their fossil fuel assets, reducing their emissions, and calling for action on climate change. Trinidad and Tobago needs to step up its game. Stop allowing foreign oil and gas companies to infiltrate our economy and reap benefits while the environment suffers. Instead, we must affirm genuine commitment to renewable energy. It simply makes sense, renewable energy is clean energy.

The government’s aim of 10% renewable energy by 2021 is a start but much more needs to be done. We need healthier, more sustainable cities and the most effective way of quickening up the process is for governments at COP21 to make strong commitments on a deadline for a full phase out of fossil fuels, and agreeing to regularly review and increase national ambition to reach that goal.

In Trinidad and Tobago, emphasis needs to be placed on research and development into the feasibility of various sources of renewable energy and implementation needs to occur quickly. Sensitisation of the local citizens is key, as difficulty in transition also comes from the fact that as an oil and gas-producing country, energy costs in Trinidad and Tobago are extremely low. So it should not be surprising that solar, wind, and hydropower energy are catching on in other islands of the Caribbean where electricity is up to six times more expensive than in Trinidad and Tobago.

The world is shifting toward renewable energy, fossil fuels remain in the past. As we look toward development, Trinidad and Tobago should eventually follow the trend set by the rest of the region.

Written by – Dizzanne Billy

Dizzanne Billy, 24, operates in the role of President of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) in Trinidad and Tobago, where she works in the areas of education and public awareness with regard to environment and development issues. She is a climate tracker with Adopt-A-Negotiator and a young advocate for climate change action.

Put your money where your footprint is!

Caribbean Climate features an exclusive contribution by 24 year old Dizzanne Billy, who is an active executive member of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network in her homeland of Trinidad and Tobago, in which she reflects on the Caribbean's carbon footprint and the importance of employing various forms of renewable energy in an effort to combat the impacts of climate change.

“There’s a natural mystic blowing through the air.” – Bob Marley (Natural Mystic, 1977)

These words herald a sense of calm and peace which I am hesitant to refute, but there is a toxic amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air. I’m sorry Bob.

Studies conducted in Antarctica suggests that CO2 has become so concentrated that they are the highest recorded in the last 800,000 years, largely because of human activities. Based on ice core samples from the ice sheet in the Antarctic, where air from thousands of years ago is still preserved, experts have confirmed that CO2 levels did not exceed 280 parts per million (ppm) before the industrial revolution. According to data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has now reached 400ppm for the first time in recorded history, and the prime suspect is climate change. Who are we to doubt the ice?

Scientific evidence suggests that it really is getting hot in here. The level of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels is moving beyond the tipping point. In March 2015, global levels of CO2 passed 400ppm and, for the first time, the level of CO2 remained in excess of 400ppm for one month – the longest duration ever. This sort of information should be a wakeup call signalling that our actions in response to climate change need to be drastic and need to match reality. Instead, we are marching quickly towards much higher rates. This paints a menacing future for humanity unless the countries taking part in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this December make clearly defined climate goals and stick to them with the commitment of someone in love, in love with sustaining life.

We need to realise that the sole way to achieve safer levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is by boldly transitioning the global economy away from dependence on fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable agricultural and farming practices. This is the movement I support and this is the call for climate action that I make to the government of my country. Holding onto fossil fuels is altering the very essence and nature of our planet. It is time to act. The time for spectating is over.

Yes, it is important to recognise that fossil fuels are essentially what modern industrial society was built upon. All that organic material that took millions of years to form is what drives economies. However, we also need to realise that the environment is paying a high price for our unconstrained consumption of fossil fuels and human life is at risk. Oil spills, ecological damage, pollution and toxic air are just some of the negative impacts. Just speak with the citizens of Pakistan, the country which ranked number one in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2014 report on global air pollution. It is time for a revolution in the energy industry, time to reinvent the energy system that the present and future global society will be built upon.

The impacts of climate change spare no one and developing countries are experiencing the effects in ways that are even more unbearable when combined with the other economic, social, political and development issues that they are faced with. The lethal effects of climate change are being seen in the form of rising sea levels, increases in the frequency and strength of storms, wildfires and extreme weather of all kinds. For developing countries, it is like being hit by a quadruple whammy akin to when a baby holds on to the edge of a chair and slowly begins to stand, knees straightening with care, only to fall flat on the ground.

By all appearances, namely our persistent and overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels, we humans do not care much for our own health and safety. Fine, we may decide that it is acceptable to kill off humans in the name of the mighty dollar, but perhaps if we consider the animals we might be motivated to shift into reverse. We are completely destroying natural habitats and decreasing global biodiversity. Perhaps we should just blow up the whole world and be done with it all?

Where I come from, climate change is not exactly a topic which is discussed by the layman in spite of the fact that the layman stands a higher chance of feeling the impacts more severely. What people know and depend upon here is ‘black gold’. Fossil fuels reign supreme in these parts and this needs to change.

Trinidad and Tobago is a country whose dependence on oil and gas cannot be overestimated. The energy sector accounts for 45.3% of Gross Domestic Product (2011), delivers 57.5% of government income and is accountable for 83% of merchandise exports. This historic relationship with these naturally occurring resources means that the development of the country has thus far been closely aligned and intertwined with the extraction and use of oil and gas. The truth of the matter is that both businesses and citizens consume energy in Trinidad and Tobago as though there is a fountain that will never run dry.

News flash – A never-ending source of fossil fuel energy does not exist.

Fossil fuels are considered non-renewable resources because they take millions of years to develop and form. Worse yet, the known viable reserves are being extracted and depleted at a rate that far exceeds the speed at which new ones are being discovered, resulting in Trinidad and Tobago – a country of just over 1.3 million people – being recorded as the second highest emitter of GHGs per capita in the world. The world!

Contributing to this statistic is the fact that the economy itself is hinged on the export of oil and gas, meaning that when the price of oil and gas goes down, the economy’s buoyancy goes down with it. The country’s economy is currently dealing with the blow it was hit in January 2015 when global oil prices plummeted by almost 50%. Shouldn’t this alone encourage the government to invest in the diversification of the economy as well as the diversification of energy sources? Quite the contrary has happened. Trinidad and Tobago has received much attention after Shell’s US$70 billion acquisition of British Gas in April 2015. The Minister of Finance was even quoted as stating that this transaction will benefit the country.

It is high time that Caribbean countries understand the need to shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources. The sustainable development of a country is based heavily on the achievement of a development balance across multiple sectors. In order to achieve social and economic development without harm to current and future generations, it is vital that policy-makers consider the value that lies in the protection and conservation of natural resources. In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, fossil fuels accrue the highest monetary value for the economy. However, we need to remember that development is not worth anything if it is unsustainable and leaves citizens vulnerable.

As the second highest emitter of GHGs per capita in the world, Trinidad and Tobago needs to channel money into research and development focused on divestment away from fossil fuels. It needs to develop and commit to projects and actions in the field of renewable energy that is aligned with the resources that occur naturally in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. It is time for the countries of the world to put their money where their footprint is. The higher your carbon and other GHG emissions, the greater your responsibility should be in the global battle against climate change impacts and the greater your contributions should be.

In 2014, Trinidad and Tobago’s natural gas production fell when compared to the same 12- month period in 2013. This has resulted in lower production rates in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), ammonia, methanol, and other downstream products. Considering the fact that natural gas and its by-products contribute the most taxes to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and that Trinidad and Tobago has been the world’s largest exporter of ammonia and second largest exporter of methanol in 2013, this dip in production has been a cause for major concern. So what is being done about it? It seems as though climate change still remains on the back burner for policy-makers in Trinidad and Tobago, as it remains an issue used to gain political mileage without real action.

Divestment needs to be a priority for the present and the future. Fossil fuels are outdated and we do not want to be left behind. Renewable energy is not just the future, it is the now. Investing in renewable energy now can save the economy from stuttering to a complete halt in the long run.  We do not want to follow in the footsteps of the developed countries to the point where our environment becomes irreversibly toxic.

The Energy Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago has suggested the creation of a Caribbean Carbon Market to help Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean reduce carbon emissions and maximise profits from the reduction in carbon emissions under the United Nations proposed system of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The potential for a Caribbean Emissions Trading System (ETS) has also received significant international attention. However, it is debatable whether this strategy can produce the level of trade that is needed to make a real difference. ETSs have been launched in China, Korea and Kazakhstan and are to be released in Turkey and Ukraine. The Energy Chamber hopes that credits generated in Trinidad and Tobago through energy efficiency, conversion to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and industrial process improvement will earn income to be utilised for renewable energy projects in Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean islands. The effectiveness of these schemes is yet to be measured and determined. However, perhaps the only way to achieve safe levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is to shift to sources of renewable energy that do not contribute to carbon emissions.

Wind as a source of renewable energy is a step in the right direction for Trinidad and Tobago. It is very feasible in the Northern and Eastern coasts as winds are the strongest there. As part of the Caribbean and as part of the Lesser Antilles or Windward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, as do other Eastern Caribbean islands, has significant wind power potential. Countries such as Aruba and Guadeloupe have made strides in their green energy policies, with 20% and 30% respectively, of their country’s energy being produced by wind farms.

Let us not be left behind Trinidad and Tobago. As a highly industrialised country in the Caribbean and a contributor to global emissions of GHGs and climate change we need to accept our responsibility. Do you want clean and safe air? Do you want to be able to go to the beach and see nature for what it is – a natural mystic.

Then guess what; it is time to put your money where your footprint is.

Also peruse Climate Change: What about the SIDS? A Youth Perspective, another exclusive contribution to Caribbean Climate by Dizzanne Billy.

An Upworthy Island movement

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Agricultural blogger and writer, Keron Bascombe,  wrote an expose on climate change efforts in Trinidad and Tobago, its usefulness and where it fits among climate change efforts in the region. His area of research includes ICT in agriculture and other related topics on his blog Tech4Agri.

Read his article here.

Reflections on the UN Climate Talks (Guest Post)

Indi Mclymont-Lafayette (L), Journalist and the Regional Director of Panos Caribbean

Indi Mclymont-Lafayette (L), Journalist and the Regional Director of Panos Caribbean

COP 20 wrapped up in Lima, Peru last week and many attendees are reflecting on the negotiations. Today Caribbean Climate features a review by Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, a Journalist and the Regional Director of Panos Caribbean – a non-government organisation that focuses on development communication.

Soo… what has been achieved after two weeks of talks?

That was the question one of my friends whatsapped me – knowing that I was attending the 20th United Nations Climate Talks in Lima, Peru from December 1-12.

I hesitated before answering.

Truth to tell, if you followed the achievements highlighted by the United Nations – then a lot had been done. The achievements included:

  • Country pledges to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) pushing it past a US$10 billion start up target.
  • Germany pledging and giving 55 million Euros (roughly US$68 million) to the Adaptation Fund – ensuring that it had most of its US$80 million that it had budgeted for 2014.
  • The Lima Ministerial Declaration on Education and Awareness raising which calls governments to ensure that schools and learning institutions incorporate climate change awareness. It also recommends infusing climate change into national development plans.
  • Progress on raising climate adaptation to the same level as mitigation (the cutting and controlling of greenhouse gases).
  • Confirmation of the Executive Committee which oversees the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage for a two year period. This Committee has representation from developed and developing countries.
  • Governments made progress on coordinating the delivery of climate finance and the various climate funds while China in turn pledged 10 million dollars for South South Cooperation.
  • The Lima Work Programme on Gender focusing on gender balance and promoting gender sensitivity in developing and implementing climate policy.

‘I feel good about the direction of climate financing,’ former lead negotiator for Jamaica, Clifford Mahlung said in a conversation two days before the Conference ended. This, he said, was primarily because there was an agreement that funds going into the GCF would be split 50/50 between climate adaptation and mitigation.

This on the surface sounds good for Small Island Developing States like the Caribbean. It would mean there would be more money to prepare the islands for the longer droughts, stronger hurricanes, unpredictable weather events, sea level rise and other climate impacts that the islands are experiencing.

But… there is always a BUT.

These are pledges…. How many countries will follow through on their commitments?

How many are going to put their money where their mouths are?

Similarly for the overall agreement many things are proposed on paper but what will happen when it comes time for follow through?

If the two weeks talk are anything to go by – there was a lot of quibbling when it came time for countries to put on paper their continued climate financing commitment. Who would commit to something sustainable – many more backed off than committed. So leaving Lima I am still looking for more action and less talk.

 

 

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.

References:
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

5Cs explores partnership with universities

CCCCC partnership with Universities

CCCCC Deputy Director and Science Advisor Dr Ulric Troz with the USF delegation

Christy Prouty, a Ph.D. student in Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida, reflects on her recent visit to Belize and the 5Cs offices in Belmopan, Belize. Her area of research includes systems dynamics modeling which is used to understand the behavior of complex systems over time.  She also enjoys internationally-focused research in water and sanitation.

Climate change, sea level rise, community perceptions, drinking water, sanitation, coastal erosion, water quality monitoring, coral reef degradation, nutrient management, STEM education, and community capacity building— these were some of the topics discussed last month (June 6, 2014) during a meeting between the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (5Cs) and a team of researchers affiliated with the University of South Florida’s Partnership for International Research and Education (USF PIRE) grant. During the introductions, the 5Cs shared insights about their field data and the ways it informed climate change models for predicting impacts across Central America and the Caribbean; the USF group gave an overview of the themes, interdisciplinary nature, existing international partners, and plans for future collaborations within the PIRE grant.

Dr Maya Trotz and Dr Rebecca Zarger of USF articulately described the PIRE themes in Belize as they discussed the integrated anthropology and engineering research that is underway throughout the Placencia Peninsula. One activity, in particular, was highlighted because it demonstrated a way for a University of Belize (UB) student to work alongside USF’s team in the field. The UB student studies sustainable tourism whereas the USF students are working in local schools to build capacity around issues of water and sanitation.  Synergies exist as each group seeks to connect with local partners on issues concerning sustainability. In addition, the 5Cs and USF researchers discussed the Monkey River area, a decade-long field site for the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill’s CERMES program. The 5Cs’ own Mr. Earl Green, project officer, and Dr. Ulric Trotz, science advisor and deputy director, actually took some of the USF team there the next day to explore connections with the Placencia research site. Angel Navidad, the 2013 Sagicor Visionaries Challenge winner and his teacher Mrs. Shakira Gonsalez also joined the meeting.

The group brainstormed ideas about potential ways to collaborate (5Cs, USF, and UB) for future proposals so as to leverage the skills of each institution, foster knowledge sharing among partners, and build a holistic/well-rounded research team.  Between the 5Cs’ expertise (an understanding of climate change impacts and modeling), USF’s best attributes (interdisciplinary work between engineering and anthropology), and the skills unique to the UB students and faculty (in-depth expertise of resources management/local contexts and access to research data), a cohesive partnership seems to be on the horizon. Should this combined research happen, all of the university students would benefit from the opportunity to work alongside their peers from different backgrounds, cultural identities, and academic fields, thus building their global and professional competencies. The 2014 Sagicor Visionaries Challenge also provides an opportunity for all of these institutions to connect with secondary school students in Belize as mentors for their innovative projects.

Global Warming Heating Up in the Caribbean?

Dr. Jason Polk (centre), along with fellow WKU faculty members Dr. Xingang Fan (left) and Dr. Josh Durkee (right) following a meeting at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belmopan, Belize.

Dr. Jason PolkAssociate Director of Science at Western Kentucky University’s the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute says, the increased spotlight placed on the Caribbean by recent high profile climate change reports should help leaders and citizens alike to warm up to the fact that climate change is not only coming, but may be here sooner than anticipated. Read his exclusive contribution to Caribbean Climate.

The topic of climate change is ever-present in the media in recent times, and continues to be a strong conversation piece throughout the world, particularly in the Caribbean region. The newest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (Working Group I contribution to AR5) points toward unprecedented and continued climate change, with clear evidence of human influences on changes in temperature from carbon emissions. Changes in sea level induced by melting ice sheets, induced by increasing temperatures from global warming, threaten popular coastlines. The ability of tourist destinations like Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, among others, to provide not only for their residents, but for the many thousands of visitors demanding water, energy, and other natural resources, is in jeopardy. As severe storms, drought, hurricanes, and other climate challenges rise to the forefront of issues being addressed by CARICOM countries, emerging data sheds new light on the future challenges in store for the islands and coastal nations throughout the region.

Some of the hottest average annual surface air temperatures in recorded history will be reached by 2047  if no action is taken.

In October 2013, a report released in the leading scientific publication Nature by Mora et al. from the University of Hawaii presents evidence of departures from historical temperatures that will occur around the world from a detailed analysis of almost 40 different climate models and measured ecosystem responses from historical data analysis. The novel aspect of this study is that it provides a time-frame and location for these temperature changes predicted to occur, and indicates that by 2047 some of the hottest average annual surface air temperatures in recorded history will be reached if no action is taken. The geographical focal point of these major and rapid temperature increases is the tropics, which is particularly troublesome for many developing countries in the Caribbean that directly fall within the danger zone, including those with sensitive ecosystems that cannot tolerate even small changes in climate if they occur at such a rapid pace.

  • The Caribbean is at high risk
  • Kingston, Jamaica to be among the first places on Earth (2023) to see a significant increase in temperature from the historical average
  • Haiti (2025), Dominican Republic (2026), Bahamas (2029), Guyana (2029), and Belize (2034) will follow

Based on the data presented in the report, the Caribbean tropics is at high risk, with Kingston, Jamaica to be one of the first places on Earth to see a significant increase in temperature from the historical average, which could occur as early as 2023. This means that every year after 2023 will produce higher average temperatures than any previous year on record in the past 150 years. This marks a real and serious threat to human society and ecosystems alike, and the news is similar for other Caribbean countries whose worse case temperature scenarios could also be reached within a few decades, including Haiti (2025), Dominican Republic (2026), Bahamas (2029), Guyana (2029), and Belize (2034).

The report cites greenhouse gas emissions as the primary driver of these increasing temperatures, and calls for immediate reduction of continued emissions for there to be a chance of possibly preventing negative consequences to human and ecological welfares. In addition to stresses these temperature increases will cause to agricultural, water, and energy resources, the report acknowledges the possibility of additional threats in the form of water-borne disease, food supply shortages, geopolitical conflicts, and heat-related illnesses.

Also read: “The latest IPCC Assessment Report should serve as a further wakeup call to our region,” ~5Cs

This new report echoes the recent IPCC AR5 preliminary assessment of the need to reduce human-induced greenhouse gas emissions immediately in order to mitigate continued global warming. Caribbean nations have just cause to be concerned with these new data, and to start taking action now in working to develop plans for mitigating possible temperature increases. In addition, leaders in the region will need to persist in calling for global support to help in addressing these issues and finding adaptation solutions for both the current impacts from climate change and preventative measures for future scenarios. The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) actively promotes the call for keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5°C to prevent detrimental effects to the livelihood of Caribbean countries. In developing new tools, such as the Caribbean Community Online Risk and Adaptation Tool (CCORAL), they are making positive steps toward providing information and region-wide tools to address urgent and necessary adaptation and mitigation challenges.

Also Read: CCORAL Is Here! Endorsed by the IPCC Chair

As new data and reports such as the Mora et al. article continue to emerge, everyone in the Caribbean should be aware of the sharper focus on countries within the region. If the predicted temperature increases do not heat things up enough, the increased spotlight on cities like Kingston should help leaders and citizens alike to warm up to the fact that climate change is not only coming, but may be here sooner than anticipated. Action is needed now, and fortunately groups like the CCCCC have already begun to implement adaptation protocols and encourage conversations on the topic, but only time will tell just how “hot” this topic will become as temperatures continue to increase.

 Mora, C., A. G. Frazier, R. J. Longman, R. S. Dacks, M. M. Walton, E. J. Tong, J. J. Sanchez, L. R. Kaiser, Y. O. Stender, J. M. Anderson, C. M. Ambrosino I. Fernandez-Silva, L. M. Giuseffi, and T. W. Giambelluca. 2013. The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability. Nature 502: 183-188.

Climate Change and the Caribbean – What Do We Need To Know?

Management Consultant Karin Wilson Edmonds tackles seven areas of concern about climate change for us here in the Caribbean in her latest guest post via Caribbean Climate. Learn more about Karin’s work via YardEdge, where this guest post is also featured.

HouseontheEdge

YardEdge

How does climate change affect us here in the Caribbean? 

Caribbean countries and economies are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Jamaica, for example, is one of the world’s top 40 climate “hot spots”. This means that Jamaica is one of the countries in the world that has been, and will be, worst affected by climate change. 25% of Jamaica’s population lives in a coastal area, and 90% of the country’s total income is produced within these areas. Many other Caribbean countries are also at significant risk due to their geography, location and dependence on agriculture and tourism.

There are several areas of concern about climate change for us here in the Caribbean:

1. More frequent and more severe hurricanes and tropical storms. Most scientists think that the increase in the number and strength of hurricanes and storms that we have been experiencing in the Caribbean is because of global warming. Jamaica, for example, is affected by a tropical storm or hurricane every 3.8 years; previously Jamaica was directly hit once ever 9.4 years.

2. An increase in the length of the dry season and a decrease in the length of the rainy season affects agriculture and the food supply. A shorter rainy season and a longer dry season will reduce the supply of water, including drinking water, to homes, communities and businesses.

3. A rise in sea levels and coastal flooding, and the increased likelihood of storm surges have implications for communities and built up areas along the coast, and for the tourism industry. Rising sea levels can also pollute underground water resources.

4. Intense rains and flash floods, which do not compensate for shorter rainy seasons. Intense rains are very damaging as they wash away top soil, and increase the amount of sediment that gets into the domestic water supply.

5. An increase in temperatures. Times will get hotter and hotter and our physical comfort will be affected. Warmer seas are damaging to our coral reefs, and to our supply of fish. Mosquito-borne diseases are also more likely to spread as warmer temperatures encourage mosquito breeding and thriving. (Diseases that mosquitoes carry, like dengue fever, are sometimes called “vector-borne” diseases.)

6. Environmental degradation. The natural environment provides important services such as flood control, storm surge protection, groundwater replenishment, and limits the impacts of sea level rise and droughts. The destruction of our wetlands, forests and coral reefs reduces the environment’s ability to protect itself and us.

7. Degradation of our natural beauty and the extinction of our native animals. We have birds, butterflies and other species in the Caribbean that are not found anywhere else in the world. Climate change and shifts in weather threaten our natural environment, our animals, and our beautiful surroundings.

But we can take steps to be more climate change resilient.

Build Better Jamaica (BBJ) aims to develop design concepts to make our buildings in the Caribbean more climate change resilient.

BBJ’s main objective is to assess climate-change related risks and help increase resilience in the building stock of Jamaica and the Caribbean.

Their specific objectives are:

1. to develop new design and construction concepts using energy, water and resource-efficient material;

2. to improve the assessment of climate change related risks as it relates to infrastructure; and,

3. to increase awareness, knowledge and dissemination of information about climate resilient construction concepts.

The project is being funded by the IDB and implemented by the Institute of Sustainable Development, UWI, Mona.

Check out their facebook page for more information on BuildBetterJamaica and follow them on twitter at BuildBetterJA.

Karin piece was first published at YardEdge.

The ‘WHAT?’ ‘WHY?’ and ‘HOW?’ of Climate Change Resilient Building

Build Better Jamaica’s Somer Spencer tackles climate change related risks and the need to develop strategies and policies to enable building resilience in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean in an exclusive guest post at Caribbean Climate, the region’s premier climate change focused blog.

‘“Never seen flooding like this” Storm particularly harsh on St. Elizabeth, Manchester’ 
~Jamaica Observer, Oct. 3, 2010
‘Hurricane Sandy moving across Jamaica with heavy rain, high winds’ 
~Caribbean 360, Oct. 24 2012
‘Flooding in St. Mary’ 
~The Gleaner, Nov. 10, 2012
Prepare for drought! ODPEM Warns Citizens to Get Ready For Dry Season’ 
~The Gleaner, Jan. 7, 2013
Cabinet approves $30m to Fight Drought – Robertson Says Allocation Insufficient for West St. Thomas’ 
~The Gleaner, Jan. 23, 2013

These are just a few headlines that have been in Jamaica’s media recently. Over the past years, the island of Jamaica has faced a hurricane, flooding and drought conditions. These are only a few of the climatic issues the island faces and with climate change, it is predicted to intensify. Climate Change is no longer something that is expected to happen, it is already here!

WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE RESILIENT BUILDING?

Before we can define a climate change resilient building, we need to define the term resilience. Resilience speaks to ‘the capacity for a system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function and structure’[1]. When applied to buildings, a climate change resilient building may be defined as a structure, whether permanent or temporary, that is enclosed with exterior walls and a roof constructed on a plot of land that has the capacity to absorb disturbances, in particular climate change related impacts, and still retain its basic function and structure. Climate Change Resilient Building encompasses the actual structure as well as the siting of the building and its materiality.

WHY DO WE NEED TO HAVE CLIMATE CHANGE RESILIENT BUILDINGS?

Caribbean Terrace in Jamaica is a perfect example (but not the only one) of why we need resilient buildings. On numerous occasions, this seaside community has been affected by storm surge, in some cases displacing its residents. During the reporting period 1980 to 2010, there were 29 natural disasters recorded that had affected approximately 1,895,317 persons and causing a death toll of 226. Yearly, that is approximately 61,139 persons are affected, with 7 persons dying from natural disasters alone.[2]

Building exteriors are similar to the human skin, in that it protects its occupants from climatic conditions. Without it, we are all vulnerable. With the predicted escalations in climate change related impacts, attention needs to be focused on increasing the resilience of our building stock to prevent loss of life and property.

HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THIS?

Codes. Building codes play an important role in raising the minimum standard of the building stock, by establishing the minimum requirements for: the siting /location of the building, the building envelope, the building material, systems and sustainable practices.

Sustainable practices. As Alex Wilson from Building Green puts it: ‘It turns out that many of the strategies needed to achieve resilience–such as really well-insulated homes that will keep their occupants safe if the power goes out or interruptions in heating fuel occur–are exactly the same strategies we have been promoting for years in the green building movement. The solutions are largely the same, but the motivation is one of life-safety, rather than simply doing the right thing. We need to practice green building, because it will keep us safe–a powerful motivation–and this may be the way to finally achieve widespread adoption of such measures.’ Sustainability needs to be forefront in everyone’s mind. It needs to become a way of building rather than an option.

Enforcement. All the ideas and strategies in the world will make little difference without governance and enforcement.

Consolidation of resources. Currently, there are many different organizations and resources available. Some are more accessible than others. Creating a collaborative single resource that is easily accessible will help minimize confusion, duplication and prevent the use of different resources for validation.

THE NEXT STEP

  • As a region, we need to have enforceable building codes …
  • As a region, we need think sustainably …
  • As a region, we need to recognize and improve the weaknesses in our system …
  • As a region, we need to work together…

‘Build Better Jamaica’ is a public awareness campaign for an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded project with the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies titled: Developing Design Concepts for Climate Change Resilient Buildings. This project analyses the climate change related risks and is charged with developing strategies and policies to increase resilience in the building stock in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. The results of the research are intended to aid in improving building practices and provide input for legislative reforms for Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

Somer Spencer R.A.(FL), LEED® AP BD+C, NCARB is part of the  team of consultants lead by  MODE Ltd, who are undertaking a review of Building Codes, as one of the focus areas of the Developing Design Concepts for Climate Change Resilient Buildings project.

[1] (Applegath 2012)
[2] (Jamaica – Disaster Statistics n.d.)

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