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“One must differentiate between climate change and climate variability,” says Dr. Kenrick Leslie

Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CBE

Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CBE

Summer has officially begun. Still, temperatures recorded in some European countries recently told stories of a continent that remains gripped by the cold claws of winter, according to the Jamaica Observer.

Such variable climatic conditions is often conflated with climate change and obscures fruitful debate about climatic realities.
Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Kenric Leslie, CBE recently addressed this issue in an email conversation with the Jamaica Observer.

Dr Kenrick Leslie,  told the paper that late winters are not unprecedented, and they do not mean that the Earth isn’t warming.

One must differentiate between climate change and climate variability. Climate change doesn't mean variability will stop, in the same way that climate change won't cause hurricanes to stop in the Caribbean. What is happening in Europe can be attributed to the natural variability effect; there's late winter effect and early winter effect. So this must be seen in a global sense.While Europe may be experiencing a late winter, others might be experiencing an early spring effect. Last year, in the United States, they had very early spring," Dr Leslie said.

The Caribbean Climate Change Risk Management Project

In a region already characterized by high variability in the current climate, climate change represents additional risks for society, economic sectors and the environment. This changing risk profile will have an effect on the outcome of a wide range of decisions affecting individual, societal and economic well-being. In order to plan effectively, decision-makers must assess and be aware of these changing risks.

As our understanding of climate change improves it is becoming possible to gain increasing confidence about some of the expected changes, such as increasing temperatures.  However, our knowledge of the climate system is not perfect, resulting in uncertainty around the precise extent of future climate change. Furthermore, we cannot know how future emissions of GHGs will change. Uncertainty also stems from our incomplete understanding of the impacts of future climate on society, the environment, and economies.

Workshop participants...

Participants at a Caribbean Climate Change Risk Management consultation in Belize

Despite these uncertainties and regardless of the effectiveness of emissions reductions efforts worldwide, Caribbean governments must continue to make decisions to plan for the future. The Regional Framework is founded upon the principle of using risk management processes and tools to aid decision-making.   Decision-making based on subjective value judgments given the challenges and uncertainties we face, will compromise resilience building. Risk management assists in the selection of optimal cost-effective strategies for reducing vulnerability, using a systematic and transparent process. Policies or initiatives that aim to reduce this vulnerability can be designed to complement and support the goals of poverty reduction, sustainable development, disaster preparedness and environmental protection. The Implementation Plan developed by the Centre to guide the operationalization of the Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change highlights as a priority challenge the need to utilize risk management tools and processes to aid decision makers.

The Caribbean Risk Management Project builds on the work started by the Region in 2003 in the development of Risk Management Guidelines for decision makers, but is intended to be more attuned to the needs and special circumstances of the Region given the prevailing conditions. It will also incorporate the development of new tools and risk management methodologies. The Project will be executed in a phased approach. Phase 1 will be the development of a risk management, web-based tool to guide decision making.  Phase 2 will provide in-depth training for country decision-makers.  Phase 3 will undertake detailed risk assessments in selected countries.  The overall objective is to embed risk assessment into decision-making and management systems across the region in finance and planning.

Proposed Aim & Objectives:

  • Support climate compatible development in the Caribbean by enabling the implementation of key activities outlined in the IP
  • Embed considerations of climate change across the Caribbean, through the development of regional approach to risk management and the creation of a risk ethic in decision making.

The key tasks to be undertaken in this project are set out below:

1 Initial consultation and scoping phase including workshops and in-country meetings in three pilot countries together with a review of existing approaches to risk management in the Caribbean.

2 Review CARICOM Climate Risk Management Guidelines.  Develop a revised risk management framework for the Caribbean taking into account the latest developments in climate risk management techniques. This will be fully supported by existing resources and materials and will link into the latest information on climate science, vulnerability assessments and impact modelling, together with economic, environmental and social system baseline data. The new framework will link into the CCCCC information clearing house.

3 Working with the CCCCC to secure CARICOM approval to the revised Caribbean Risk Management Framework.

4 Launch Caribbean Risk Management Framework at a high profile event.

5 Develop an on-line version of the Caribbean Risk Management Framework with full guidance and links to other tools and techniques.

6 Develop an online ‘stress-test/screening’ tool to enable all organisations (including donors and development banks) operating at regional and national levels to take a high-level view of policies and decisions against the potential impacts of a changing climate.

7 Working with the CCCCC to provide assistance and support in implementing the communications plan aimed at raising awareness in the Caribbean regarding a risk based approach to decision making.

8 Develop an M&E programme to assess the effectiveness of the Caribbean Risk Management Framework

Transformational Change Needed In Belize to Tackle Climate Change ~Dr. Kenrick Leslie

Official Dr. Leslie Dr. Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, gave a wide ranging address about the impact of climate change and climate variability on Belize at the University of Belize’s graduation ceremony last weekend. Dr. Leslie urged the graduates that by tackling climate change we can reduce or eliminate many of our current problems, including the threat of economic stagnation. He urged the graduates to think broadly and use their newly acquired training and knowledge to support and enhance sustainable development though cooperation and partnership with their community and country irrespective of their chosen field.

Dr. Leslie warned that Belize is experiencing the same types of Climate Change impacts as the rest of the world. However, the Central American country’s low population density make the impact of extreme conditions less pronounced, though more intense and frequent, compared to more densely populated areas.

He cited some noteworthy events that have occurred in unpopulated areas, namely:
1. The coastal community of Monkey River has been experiencing extreme coastal erosion for the last two decades. Residents have observed within their lifetimes the loss of the beachfront where they or their parents held functions such as weddings.
2. Similarly, we have seen serious degradation in our coral reef system due to warmer sea temperatures, mechanical damage from tropical cyclones, and sedimentation caused by more frequent and intense flooding.
3. Coastal aquifers are being compromised by over abstraction and sea level rise. Remedial measures such as the installation of reverse osmosis systems in San Pedro and Caye Caulker have been required. The same has occurred in Placencia where piping water under the lagoon from Big Creek is the method of supply.
4. Abnormally warmer conditions in 1999 and 2000 resulted in a pine bark beetle infestation which destroyed 75% of the pine forests in the country.
5. When the heavy rains returned a few years later the denuded soil was unable to absorb the excess water and led to one of the most devastating floods in the Stann Creek District claiming lives, destroying homes and washing away bridges. A permanent bridge was finally installed last year.

He says these conditions can be exacerbated by the further warming of the atmosphere and oceans, which makes adaptation an imperative for Belize and the Caribbean. Read Dr. Leslie’s January 2013 address at UB Commencement

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