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Is the Caribbean a paradise for renewable energy?

The Caribbean nations have all the incentives and resources to convert to 100% renewable energy. But is it happening?

Beach in Barbados

With plentiful natural resources and expensive fossil fuels, Caribbean countries have a strong incentive to be at the forefront of renewable energy development. Photograph: David Noton Photography/Alamy

What motivated Derek to get into solar power? Was it a desire to be green or combat climate change? “Climate change? I don’t even know what that is,” he says. “I just didn’t want to depend on the power company.” Electricity is expensive in Barbados. Derek bought a solar kit including one panel for $100 (£64).

Derek is a mechanic by trade and is using his system to charge car batteries. He has found a way to integrate his solar system into his business. This is entrepreneurship in its truest sense. A viable business venture for Derek and a chance for wider environmental benefits for the country are the win-wins, but neither of these was the prime driver for Derek. He was essentially a tinkerer with an idea and wanted to try it out in the hope of paying less for power.

Derek's shop

Derek’s shop Photograph: David Ince

If Derek can make it to such a level of self-sufficiency starting from small beginnings, does this mean that individuals and businesses with greater means have gone even further? Well, more Dereks are gradually popping up throughout the Caribbean, but generally the answer is no.

The Caribbean appears to be the ideal location for renewable energy development. Petroleum resources are scarce and renewable resources such as solar, wind and geothermal are plentiful. Energy prices are high as there is no opportunity for economy of scale benefits that large land masses enjoy. Added to that, climate change impacts pose a major threat to the region’s small-island economies that are largely dependent on tourism and agriculture.

Despite this, most Caribbean nations still use imported diesel or oil to generate 90-100% of their energy. So what has been the barrier to using renewables? Many people have pointed to the cost factor. Small economies mean that in most cases countries have difficulty in financing renewable energy projects that require high upfront capital. Also, regulations have been slow in setting clear rules for grid interconnection. These factors have led some international investors and developers to be cautious about entering the Caribbean market.

We can learn from Derek’s example and build on local talent. Indigenous grassroots knowledge paired with the experience and access to capital of larger local and international companies would be a winning combination.

The advantage of building on local interest and indigenous talent can be seen in Jamaica. The late Raymond Wright was trained as a petroleum geologist and was head of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) in the 1970s. His interest in wind energy was piqued while searching for areas with suitable geological characteristics for petroleum development. It soon became evident that Jamaica had a significant wind resource. Over time Wright shifted the focus of his energy development to renewables and PCJ took on a leading role in the establishment of the Wigton Wind Farm, which now generates about 0.1 % of Jamaica’s energy.

Jamaica is keen to build on Wright’s legacy. Expansion of the wind farm is under way and Jamaica plans to increase renewable energy use further, with a goal to reach 20% by 2030, as part of its Vision 2030 policy. There are plans for 20 MW of PV solar to be installed to compliment the wind farm. In addition, Jamaica is offering benefits for any company or individual selling electricity to the grid from a renewable source.

Back in Derek’s home island of Barbados, there is a story of another pioneer, the late Professor Oliver Headley. An organic chemist by training, he became a leading international voice for solar energy development. He got into developing renewable energy in the 1960s after a PhD student colleague challenged him to put the sun that was beating down on them daily to productive use. His pioneering efforts helped propel Barbados to a leader in solar water heater use in the western hemisphere.

There are three solar water heater companies in Barbados and more than half of households have heaters installed, which can be written off against income tax. This policy has been in place since 1974. The story goes that the then prime minister installed a solar water heater on his house and was so impressed with the results that he put the economic incentives in place.

Barbados is keen to expand the success of solar water heaters to solar photovoltaic with the introduction of the “renewable energy rider”. This allows people installing solar photovoltaics to sell their power back to the grid at 1.6 times the usual charge. As a result of this incentive, there are now more than 300 house-top PV systems in the island, and that is expanding. There is every possibility now that we will see more Dereks by 2020 and beyond, Barbados has set itself an ambitious goal of 29% of energy to be produced from renewable sources by 2029.

Wind farm in Curacao

Wind farm in Curacao Photograph: David Ince

A few other Caribbean countries have seen success with renewable energy. The Dutch Caribbean has led the way in terms of wind energy, with Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba all having significant generation capacity. The political connection to the Netherlands has helped with technical expertise and there has been economic support from the Dutch government. Jamaica has been able to build on the know-how of Dutch Caribbean countries in their own wind development.

Nevis, St Lucia and Dominica have all sought to develop geothermal energy projects, which is another source of renewable energy that has potential in the Caribbean. The Organisation of American States and the World Bank have provided capacity and financing support.

It is encouraging to see developments such as these. The groundwork has been laid through efforts of pioneers such as Wright and Headley and there are more grassroots leaders like Derek emerging.

But the efforts of individual champions cannot be successful without policies, legislation and economic incentives, which governments are slowly but surely putting in place. Having these policies on the books without recognising and supporting local businesses or providing an environment through which champions can come to the fore is likely to impede the progress of this spectacularly beautiful but vulnerable region in developing a flourishing green economy.

Some names have been changed.

Join the conversation with the hashtag#EnergyAccess.

Credit: The Guardian

Piloting the integration of Climate Change Adaptation and Coastal Zone Management in Southwest Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago is highly vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change; particularly rising temperature, decreased precipitation and sea level rise (SLR). It is anticipated that these changes will have adverse effects on the physical environment and economy. There is therefore a need to reduce the risks associated with the expected impacts of climate change on the country by mainstreaming climate change adaptation into development planning. In December 2012, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago signed a technical cooperation (TC) with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) to undertake a pilot study on integrating climate change adaptation (CCA) into coastal zone management (CZM) in SW Tobago.

The Institute of Marine Affairs is the executing agency. Activities under this project began in April 2013 and are expected to be completed in June 2015. The objective of this TC is to develop an ICZM program that incorporates CCA and disaster risk management using an ecosystem based approach. The lessons learnt from this TC will directly inform the development of the broader national ICZM Policy Strategies and Action Plan. The TC will also lay the foundation for future investments in a coastal risk assessment and management program in Trinidad and Tobago.

l-r: Dr. Amoy Lum Kong; Mr. Hayden Spencer, Assistant Secretary, THA; Mr. Garth Ottley Member of the Board of Governors of IMA at the launch.

l-r: Dr. Amoy Lum Kong; Mr. Hayden Spencer, Assistant Secretary, THA; Mr. Garth Ottley Member of the Board of Governors of IMA at the launch.

Activities completed to date under this TC included the following:

  • Gap analysis – review of the legislative, policy and institutional information an capacity arrangements related to CZM and climate change in Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Vulnerability and Risk Assessment – the development of climate-related hazard vulnerability and risk assessments of the coastal zone area of Southwest Tobago based on climate variability (existing climatic events) and climate change scenarios.
  • Coastal ecosystem-based climate change adaptation response plan – the design and implementation of an adaptation response plan for coastal ecosystems in Southwest Tobago which included the deployment of an coral reef early warning system (CREWS) on Buccoo Reef and enhancement of a long-term water quality monitoring program.
  • General guidelines for incorporating an ecosystem based approach to adaptation into a national ICZM Policy – produce guidelines that incorporate CCA into an ICZM Policy, including identification of best management practices for adapting coastal economic activities to risk.
GAP Analysis -The Legislative, Policy and Institutional Arrangement for CCA and ICZM

While Trinidad and Tobago has a National Climate Change Policy (NCCP), it does not specifically address ICZM and CCA on the coast, though it does note the effects of rising sea level and temperature. Research has shown that there is a lack of specific policies to treat with CZM and CCA although various policies address ICZM in a piecemeal and fragmented manner. Moreover, the policies are dated and those that exist are not implemented. In addition, it is important to recognise that ICZM and CC adaptation cannot be dealt with without reference to other policies. In situations where a policy names several organisations with responsibility to implement, the absence of specific provisions on ICZM and CC adaptation can translate into non-action. There is little in existing policies that indicate how the policies are to be used as part of an ICZM plan or for CCA as it relates to the coast. Development plans suffer from a similar lack of specificity as it relates to ICZM and CCA.

There are some 20 pieces of legislation that can potentially address ICZM. The multiplicity of laws and policies impacting on coastal areas gives rise to as much as twenty nine (29) institutions having a defined legal and/or policy role. This creates problems such as overlapping jurisdiction, the independence syndrome, and a lack of proper co-ordination of the work of enforcement and management agencies. Key problems confronting State entities with responsibility for aspects of coastal zone management are the lack of sufficient resources, the most important being financial resources and the presence of little or no public awareness of the importance of coastal areas to the society. Public education programs are limited and sporadic and have generally failed to transform attitudes towards sustainably using coastal areas in Trinidad and Tobago. These problems have led to unsustainable utilization of our coastal resources.

The legal and institutional structure for ICZM must be customised:

  • to meet the needs of T&T;
  • to the nature of its coastal areas,
  • to the institutional and governmental arrangements; and
  • to the country’s traditions, cultures and economic conditions of Trinidad and Tobago.

There are accepted principles and characteristics associated with the ICZM concept that focuses on three operational objectives:

  • Strengthening sectoral management, for example, through training, legislation, and staffing
  • Preserving and protecting the productivity and biological diversity of coastal ecosystems, mainly through prevention of habitat destruction, pollution, and overexploitation
  • Promoting rational development and sustainable utilization of coastal resources.
Vulnerability and Risk Assessment

Southwest Tobago is home to an estimated 70% of the population of Tobago. The area houses the majority of development associated with housing, hotels and resorts. The coastal area includes Buccoo Reef and other fringing coral reef formations, which have been identified as invaluable to Tobago’s tourism industry. The viability of SW Tobago can be stated through social, financial and environmental considerations. All of these considerations are dependent on a healthy, productive coastal
environment. Adverse climate changes may thus threaten the sustainability of not only the SW region but all of Tobago.

Halcrow, a CH2M HILL Company, was contracted to undertake a study to develop a vulnerability and risk assessment for South West Tobago based on climate change scenarios. The assessment was used to formulate a Coastal Vulnerability Index (CVI) which will identify areas that are at risk to erosion and/or permanent or temporary coastal flooding. The results will be applied to better understand the risk of climate change to the region so that educated decisions can be applied at policy and planning levels.

Adam Hosking of Halcrow presenting on Vulnerability and Risk Assessment for Southwest Tobago based on climate change scenarios at IMA’s 14th Research Symposium.

Adam Hosking of Halcrow presenting on Vulnerability and Risk Assessment for Southwest Tobago based on climate change scenarios at IMA’s 14th Research Symposium.

In June 2014, Halcrow facilitated a training workshop with key stakeholders on the methodology being applied to the assessment. The preliminary result of the risk assessment and CVI was presented at the IMA 14th Research Symposium held at the Madgalena Hotel, Tobago in September 2015. This assessment is currently being finalised.

Installation of a Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) at Buccoo Reef

In an effort to monitor and build capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change, a CREWS buoy was deployed on Buccoo Reef, Tobago in November 2013. The customized CREWS buoy, referred to as Winky by fisherfolks and dive operators, is designed to measure, record and transmit key meteorological and water quality measurements. Meteorological sensors that measure air temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, rainfall, photosynthetically available radiation (PAR), ultraviolet radiation (UVR), and specialized oceanographic sensors and site specific sensors are also included.

Addison Titus, IMA Marine Technician (l), and Jon Fajans, secure the CREWS buoy

Addison Titus, IMA Marine Technician (l), and Jon Fajans, secure the CREWS buoy

The data collected is available to scientists and other stakeholders to predict possible threats to the reef environment from climate change impacts and from land-based sources of pollution. The data can be downloaded from the link featured below.
A tide gauge would be installed during the first quarter of 2015 to monitor sea level.

Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS)

Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS)

CREWS data – www.coral.noaa.gov/data/icon-network/crews-data-reports.html

Read more: ICZM Newsletter Issue 3 – January 2015

More Than Scientists – a new video campaign

more than scientists

A new project—More Than Scientists was launched March 15. It brings together climate scientists, advocacy organizations and the public in an innovative campaign that offers a unique glimpse into the real life stories, personal views and feelings of the experts on climate change.

From leading universities such as MIT, University of Washington and Harvard, climate experts share via video their hopes for the future and what they fear will happen if we don’t act now to reverse the impacts of climate change.

The more than 200 featured videos, created by dozens of climate scientists, are available as a resource to the climate community via their website and YouTube at www.morethanscientists.org.

In addition to sharing the resource, we want to invite climate scientists to participate in sharing their stories.

To learn more about making a video, contact:

Mary Kadzielski, Campaign Manager
More Than Scientists
e: mary@morethanscientists.org | p:  202.810.5462
w: www.morethanscientists.org
twitter: @MTScientists | facebook | g+

Gold Standard Sustainable Cities Framework

The Gold Standard Cities Programme is developing ground-breaking solutions that will unlock the finance needed by cities around the globe for low carbon development.

Urbanization and climate change will be defining issues of the 21st century. Half of the world’s population resides in cities and it is expected that by 2015, the world will have over 350 cities with more than one million inhabitants each.

Cities are already feeling the impacts of climate change and they will increasingly be susceptible to rising sea levels, inland flooding, frequent and stronger tropical cyclones, periods of increased heat and the spread of diseases. To mitigate climate change and to adapt to these impacts, it is estimated that by 2050 more than a trillion U.S. dollars in investment will be needed for cities but currently, less than 2% of climate finance is channeled into urban projects due to a lack of reliable monitoring, reporting and verification on project performance and outcomes. Further, the World Bank estimates that of the 500 largest cities in the developing world, only about 4 percent are credit worthy in international financial markets, making it next to impossible to access finance for low carbon development.

The Gold Standard Cities Programme is a ground-breaking results-based finance framework through which cities can develop, audit and verify urban programmes – in order to catalyse and scale up the currently missing investment.

Supported by WWF, initial work used suppressed demand methodologies to determine that slums in Delhi emit 6.1 million tons of CO2 annually which can be reduced to 2.8 million tons by the implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Establishing this baseline for slum areas was not only cutting edge research but a critical pre-requisite for climate finance to flow. Without a baseline it is impossible to verify emission reductions – the whole premise of results based climate finance. Until now, this has been a key barrier to funding urban low carbon and pro-poor development through climate finance.

The results-based finance framework, developed initially for Delhi, has been designed to be replicated in cities around the world, giving investors confidence that they have a global benchmark with which they can measure urban low carbon and sustainable development outcomes.

Major cities in China, the Middle East and Turkey are in the process of joining The Gold Standard Cities Programme.

For more information about The Gold Standard’s work with sustainable cities, please visit:

New funding structures to deliver clean energy and development in cities

Financing cities of the future: Tools to scale up clean urban development

The Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance – to stimulate investment into low carbon and climate resistance urban infrastructure

Credit: The Gold Standard

Climate Change: What about the SIDS? A Youth Perspective

Young people from across the Caribbean are increasingly raising their voices about climate change and its impacts (current and projected) on the region. In recognition of this, Caribbean Climate features an exclusive contribution by 23 year old Dizzanne Billy, who is an active executive member of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network-Trinidad and Tobago, in which she reflects on the role of SIDS in the global climate change discourse. Dizzanne’s reflection comes just as Small islands prepare to sign a historic treaty in Samoa

Credit: CCCCC

Credit: CCCCC

I dare you.

Conduct a simple ‘Google Images’ search on climate change and what do you see before you? Indeed, visions of melting polar ice caps and stranded polar bears are the predominant insignia for the issue of climate change. Undoubtedly, these matters are cause for great concern and my purpose is not to diminish their salience in any way. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has repeatedly highlighted the urgency of findings which reveal that a large portion of the West Antarctic has disappeared and they have stressed the irreversible nature of this occurrence. Nevertheless, it is pivotal that the communication of climate change exude relevance for its target audience. Images of the polar melt are likely to be met with blank stares and shrugs in the Caribbean, where the closest thing to an ice cap is party ice – huge bags of ice used to chill drinks at parties. Yes, climate change is an overwhelming concept to comprehend, and yes, the multiplicity of its very nature can prove itself complex. However, it is an issue that affects countries everywhere in the world regardless of location or level of industrial activity. However, what we must notice is that in order to effectively get the message out there and attract the most influential people to the cause, it must be communicated in a way that leads the seriousness of the issue straight to their front door.

Due to climate change, the world has witnessed longer and colder winters in some parts, drought-like conditions in others, concentrated rainfall during what would normally be a dry season, and persistent episodes of dry environments during what would usually be a wet/rainy season. These conditions have set the stage for a plethora of what can aptly be described as climatic madness  in some countries, specifically, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), a term which encompasses those coastal countries that are grouped based on certain characteristics that they share. These include issues in achieving sustainable development, vulnerability to external shocks and natural disasters, and a highly embedded reliance on imports and degradation of their natural resources, which contributes to the delicacy of their environment.

 The severity of the climate change situation for SIDS can be likened to dumping a large bowl of salt in their wounds as these nations are already playing the ‘catch-up’ game in the race toward development.  For instance, water scarcity in Samoa is greatly a result of climate change as water catchments continue to dry up due to increasing temperatures and weather patterns that are progressively unstable. There is a growing belief that in semi-arid countries like Samoa, climate change and meteorological uncertainty has led to increased temperatures, less precipitation, reduced stream flows, increased evaporation from reservoirs, and major depletion of water supplies. Being an island where all watersheds are shared by villages, water governance is crucial but implementation is difficult due to lack of institutional capacity. These are generally the woes of Pacific SIDS and can be mirrored in SIDS of the Caribbean, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and the South China Sea.

A crucial consideration is the nexus between climate change and food security. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in May 2014, issued a major report which emphasised the causes, effects, and resolutions of climate change, and its influence on food security was isolated as a topic for special concern. Essentially, the accessibility to food, steadiness of food supply, and sanitation of food all fall prey to the afflictions of climate change. To add insult to injury, SIDS are particularly vulnerable to climate change due to their stature and geographic characteristics. Sea-level rise can engulf coastal areas, where for instance in Trinidad and Tobago, most farmers choose to do their cultivation.

Will the day ever come when the climate change issues of SIDS are taken seriously on the international stage? Does the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities not apply to environmental issues faced by countries of this world? Indeed, developed countries continue to turn to industrialisation as the preferred measure of development, murder forests, and emit toxic chemicals and gases wantonly, but at what cost? Can a process which so drastically diminishes the quality of human life be called development at all?

 That being said, I am aware that developing countries have a role to play in dealing with the environmental issues that plague us, but we need to have a platform for our issues to be raised and an audience that is serious about addressing them. That can begin with a simple Google Images search that returns results which reflect the universal impact of climate change. Climate change is, to a certain extent, considered a very real global threat. This global threat requires global action and no action is truly global without the inclusion of SIDS at every level of the discourse.

Climate Policy Goes Hand-in-Hand with Water Policy

Guyana beverage manufacturer Banks DIH Limited treats all waste water, making it safe for disposal into the environment. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Guyana beverage manufacturer Banks DIH Limited treats all waste water, making it safe for disposal into the environment. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Concerned that climate change could lead to an intensification of the global hydrological cycle, Caribbean stakeholders are working to ensure it is included in the region’s plans for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

The basis of IWRM is that the many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent. High irrigation demands and polluted drainage flows from agriculture mean less freshwater for drinking or industrial use.

Contaminated municipal and industrial wastewater pollutes rivers and threatens ecosystems. If water has to be left in a river to protect fisheries and ecosystems, less can be diverted to grow crops.

Meanwhile, around the world, variability in climate conditions, coupled with new socioeconomic and environmental developments, have already started having major impacts.

The Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GWP-C), which recently brought international and regional stakeholders together for a conference in Trinidad, is aimed at better understanding the climate system and the hydrological cycle and how they are changing; boosting awareness of the impacts of climate change on society, as well as the risk and uncertainty in the context of water and climate change and especially variability; and examining adaptation options in relation to water and climate change.

“Basically we’re looking to integrate aspects of climate change and climate variability and adaptation into the Caribbean water sector,” Natalie Boodram, programme manager of the Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP), told IPS.

“And this is a very big deal for us because under predicted climate change scenarios we’re looking at things like drier dry seasons, more intense hurricanes, when we do get rain we are going to get more intense rain events, flooding.

“All of that presents a substantial challenge for managing our water resources. So under the GWP-C WACDEP, we’re doing a number of things to help the region adapt to this,” she added.

Current variability and long-term climate change impacts are most severe in a large part of the developing world, and particularly affect the poorest.

Through its workshops, GWP-C provides an opportunity for partners and stakeholders to assess the stage of the IWRM process that various countries have reached and work together to operationalise IWRM in their respective countries.

Integrated Water Resources Management is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

IWRM helps to protect the world’s environment, foster economic growth and sustainable agricultural development, promote democratic participation in governance, and improve human health.

GWP-C regional co-ordinator, Wayne Joseph, said the regional body is committed to institutionalising and operationalising IWRM in the region.

“Our major programme is the WACDEP Programme, Water and Climate Development Programme, and presently we are doing work in four Caribbean Countries – Jamaica, Antigua, Guyana and St. Lucia,” he told IPS.

“We’re gender-sensitive. We ensure that the youth are incorporated in what we do and so we provide a platform, a neutral platform, so that issues can be discussed that pertain to water and good water resources management.”

The Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) is a non-profit, civil society body that focuses its resources on empowering Caribbean young people and their communities to develop programmes and actions to address socioeconomic and environmental issues.

Rianna Gonzales, the national coordinator of the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter, has welcomed the initiative of the GWP-C as being very timely and helpful, adding that the region’s youth have a very important role to play in the process.

“I think it’s definitely beneficial for young people to be part of such a strategic group of people in terms of getting access to resources and experts…so that we will be better able to communicate on water related issues,” she told IPS.

The CYEN programme aims at addressing issues such as poverty alleviation and youth employment, health and HIV/AIDS, climatic change and global warming, impact of natural disasters/hazards, improvement in potable water, conservation and waste management and other natural resource management issues.

The GWP-C said the Caribbean region has been exposed to IWRM and it is its goal to work together with its partners and stakeholders at all levels to implement IWRM in the Caribbean.

“A very significant activity for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States has been to prepare a Water Sector Model Policy and Model Water Act which proposes to remedy the key water resources management issues through new institutional arrangements and mechanisms that include water and waste water master planning, private sector and community partnership and investment mechanisms,” GWP-C chair Judy Daniel told IPS.

IWRM has not been fully integrated in the policy, legal and planning frameworks in the Caribbean although several territories have developed/drafted IWRM Policies, Roadmaps and Action plans. Some of these countries include: Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana, Jamaica; The Bahamas; Trinidad and Tobago; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency

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.

Coral Reefs Report and Climate Change News

With only about one-sixth of the original coral cover left, most Caribbean coral reefs may disappear in the next 20 years, primarily due to the loss of grazers in the region, according to the latest report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report, Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012, is the most detailed and comprehensive study of its kind published to date – the result of the work of 90 experts over the course of three years. It contains the analysis of more than 35,000 surveys conducted at 90 Caribbean locations since 1970, including studies of corals, seaweeds, grazing sea urchins and fish.

The results show that the Caribbean corals have declined by more than 50% since the 1970s. But according to the authors, restoring parrotfish populations and improving other management strategies, such as protection from overfishing and excessive coastal pollution, could help the reefs recover and make them more resilient to future climate change impacts.

“The rate at which the Caribbean corals have been declining is truly alarming,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme. “But this study brings some very encouraging news: the fate of Caribbean corals is not beyond our control and there are some very concrete steps that we can take to help them recover.”

Climate change has long been thought to be the main culprit in coral degradation. While it does pose a serious threat by making oceans more acidic and causing coral bleaching, the report shows that the loss of parrotfish and sea urchin – the area’s two main grazers – has, in fact, been the key driver of coral decline in the region. An unidentified disease led to a mass mortality of the sea urchin in 1983 and extreme fishing throughout the 20th century has brought the parrotfish population to the brink of extinction in some regions. The loss of these species breaks the delicate balance of coral ecosystems and allows algae, on which they feed, to smother the reefs.

Reefs protected from overfishing, as well as other threats such as excessive coastal pollution, tourism and coastal development, are more resilient to pressures from climate change, according to the authors.

“Even if we could somehow make climate change disappear tomorrow, these reefs would continue their decline,” says Jeremy Jackson, lead author of the report and IUCN’s senior advisor on coral reefs. “We must immediately address the grazing problem for the reefs to stand any chance of surviving future climate shifts.”

The report also shows that some of the healthiest Caribbean coral reefs are those that harbour vigorous populations of grazing parrotfish. These include the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the northern Gulf of Mexico, Bermuda and Bonaire, all of which have restricted or banned fishing practices that harm parrotfish, such as fish traps and spearfishing. Other countries are following suit.

“Barbuda is about to ban all catches of parrotfish and grazing sea urchins, and set aside one-third of its coastal waters as marine reserves,” says Ayana Johnson of the Waitt Institute’s Blue Halo Initiative which is collaborating with Barbuda in the development of its new management plan. “This is the kind of aggressive management that needs to be replicated regionally if we are going to increase the resilience of Caribbean reefs.”

Reefs where parrotfish are not protected have suffered tragic declines, including Jamaica, the entire Florida Reef Tract from Miami to Key West, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Caribbean is home to 9% of the world’s coral reefs, which are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Caribbean reefs, spanning a total of 38 countries, are vital to the region’s economy. They generate more than US$ 3 billion annually from tourism and fisheries and over a hundred times more in other goods and services, on which more than 43 million people depend.

This video, featuring the report’s lead author Jeremy Jackson, explains the significance of the report:

Peruse the full report.

Credit: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

U.S. National Climate Assessment

Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The Third National Climate Assessment: Climate Change Impacts in the United States was published today. The Third National Climate Assessment (NCA), which delivers on USGCRP’s legal mandate and the President’s Climate Action Plan, is the most comprehensive, authoritative, transparent scientific report ever generated on U.S. climate impacts, both as currently observed and as projected for the future. The Third NCA documents climate change-related impacts and responses across key sectors and all regions of the U.S. with the goal of better informing public and private decision-making at all levels.

Tune into the White House's livecast about the report http://www.whitehouse.gov/live

Where Can You Find The Assessment?

The Third NCA is available to download and also can be explored in a novel interactive format through USGCRP’s newly redeployed web presence at http://globalchange.gov. An important feature of this interactivity is the traceability of the data and other information in the report, giving users the means to refer back to these data for their analyses and decision support. The site is mobile-compatible and every piece of the report—from highlights to chapters to key messages to graphics—has its own unique URL for social network sharing. Please find below links that will help you navigate the Third NCA:

Beyond the Third NCA, the new globalchange.gov features accessible and dynamic information on a wide range of climate-related topics.

White House materials about the release of the Third NCA: http://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change. At 2:00 pm EDT, the White House is hosting a stakeholder event that will feature speakers from the Administration, NCA authors, and users of the report. For those who won’t be at the event in person, you can tune into the live webcast:http://www.whitehouse.gov/live.

What Can Be Found In This Latest Assessment?

The data and information in the Third NCA can be of great value to the adaptation planning and implementation efforts of U.S. Federal Agencies and their partners and stakeholders. Some examples include:

  • The latest science on observed trends and projected future conditions of changes in the climate across the 8 NCA regions and contiguous U.S. as well as 13 sectors and cross-sectors.
  • Examples throughout of on-the-ground impacts across the U.S. , many of which are already directly affecting substantial numbers of Americans.
  • For the first time in a U.S. national assessment, explicit chapters on Decision Support, Mitigation, and Adaptation, with specific information on those topics as they are practiced now in addition to identifying research needs associated with these topics for improving future implementation of climate resilience measures. Specifically related to adaptation, the following information is captured in the Adaptation chapter:
o   Adaptation key terms defined
o   An overview of adaptation activities at multiple levels including the Federal government, states, tribes, local and regional governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector
o   Example barriers to adaptation
o   Several illustrative case studies of adaptation in action
  • A useful and informative section that answers some frequently asked questions about climate change. The questions addressed range from those purely related to the science of climate change to those that extend to some of the issues being faced in consideration of mitigation and adaptation measures.
  • Data and metadata behind content and images used in the assessment are accessible and traceable.

 

President Ramotar lauds work of region’s Climate Change Centre – as task force is set up

(Left to Right) Selwin Hart, Dr. Kenrick Leslie, Dr. Ulric Trotz

(Left to Right) Selwin Hart, Dr. Kenrick Leslie, Dr. Ulric Trotz

President Donald Ramotar lauded the work of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC) during his presentation today, to CARICOM Heads of Government during their 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting at the Buccament Bay Resort, Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Leaders agreed to establish a CARICOM Climate Change Task Force to provide guidance to Caribbean climate change negotiators, their Ministers and the region’s political leaders. The CCCCC, along with the CARICOM Secretariat has been tasked with setting up the task force and facilitating its work.

Guyana has been playing a lead role with regards to climate change, and priority projects on adaptation are outlined within its visionary Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which seeks to address the effects of climate change while simultaneously encouraging economic development.

The CARICOM Heads also reaffirmed the mandate of the CCCCC, to develop in partnership with member states, a portfolio of bankable projects eligible for climate financing and which is to be presented to the donor community for support.

The Centre is recognised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and other international agencies as the focal point for climate change issues in the Caribbean.

“This is a critical decision by Heads at a time when efforts are underway through the UN (United Nations) to have a global climate change agreement by the end of 2015. We need to ensure that as a region, our voices are being heard on this important issue, and not only from our technical people, but from the collective political leadership in the region,” President Ramotar noted.

He re-emphasised the need for there to be a globally binding agreement on climate change.

“We have to ensure that we push for a climate change agreement by 2015 which is ambitious in terms of emission reduction targets and providing climate financing,” the Head of State said.

He also stressed that, despite the difficulties faced with climate financing and support for adaptation and climate resilience, the region needs to aggressively tap into opportunities that exist now, while it organises for future possibilities.  

The President noted that the CCCCC and Guyana have been working closely since its establishment and closer ties are being developed as part of the LCDS implementation.

The CCCCC coordinates the Caribbean region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and on the region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change in the Caribbean, its website states.

On June 8, 2009 former President Bharrat Jagdeo launched the LCDS that outlines Guyana’s vision to promote economic development, while at the same time combating climate change.  A revised version was published on May 24, 2010 and subsequently the LCDS update was launched in March 2013.

Major efforts have been taken to build the country’s capacity to adapt to the anticipated impacts of climate, including extreme weather patterns and sea-level rise leading to flooding.

The LCDS will support the upgrading of infrastructure and assets to protect against flooding through urgent, near-term measures. Specifically, the LCDS update, identified the project area “Climate Resilience, Adaptation and Water Management Initiatives” for which up to US$100 million will be allocated to improve Guyana’s capacity to address climate change.

Published by: GINA and Kaieteur News.

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