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Excerpt taken from the Inter-American Development Bank’s publication:
Integration & Trade Journal: Volume 21: No. 41: March, 2017
One of the greatest injustices of pollution is that its consequences are not limited to those who produce it. The Caribbean is one of the least polluting regions in the world but it is also one of the most exposed to global warming due to the importance of the tourism sector within its economy.
Carlos Fuller, an expert from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, explains the consequences of the region’s dependence on petroleum and analyzes the potential of public policy for supporting renewable energy.
How is climate change impacting the Caribbean?
The Caribbean’s greenhouse gas emissions are very small because we have a small population, we are not very industrialized, and we don’t do a lot of agriculture, so we don’t emit a lot. However, mitigation is important for us because of the high cost of fuel and energy. Most of our islands depend on petroleum as a source of energy, and when oil prices were above US$100 per barrel, we were spending more than 60% of our foreign exchange on importing petroleum products into the Caribbean. In that respect, we really want to transition to renewable energy sources as we have considerable amounts of solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy potential.
Has climate change started to affect tourism?
It has. Climate change is severely impacting our natural attractions, our tourist attractions. For example, we have a significant amount of erosion because of sea level rise, wave action, and storm surges, which is causing tremendous erosion and affecting our beaches. Our coral reefs, which are a big attraction, are also suffering a lot of bleaching which is impacting our fish stock. Those resources are being affected significantly. We do have significant protected areas; however, we need more resources to enforce the protection of these.
What role do public policies play in developing renewable energy?
In some countries, [we’re] doing reasonably well on this front. In Belize, for example, we now have independent coal producers and we have transitioned to an increased use of hydro, solar, and biomass, so more than 50% of our domestic electricity supply is from renewable energy sources. However, on many of the islands, we need to create an enabling environment to allow renewable energy to penetrate the market. We are going to need a lot of assistance from the international community to put in the regulatory framework that will allow us to develop renewable energy in these places. We then need to attract potential investors to provide sources of renewable energy in the region. Of course, the Caribbean’s tourism is an important sector of the economy, which is one of the reasons we need to protect our reserves and natural parks. We are also trying to make our buildings more resilient to the effects of extreme weather. That is the focus of our work.
How does the Green Climate Fund work?
The Green Climate Fund is headquartered in South Korea and it has an independent board of management. However, various agencies can be accredited to access the fund directly. We have already applied for a project to preserve the barrier reef and another to promote biomass use in the Caribbean. So, we have two projects in the pipeline through the Green Climate Fund which are valued at around US$20 million.
Do you think that the Paris and Marrakesh summits brought concrete results for the region?
We were very pleased with the outcome in Paris. The objectives that the Caribbean Community wanted were achieved: the limit for warming was set at 2°C; adaptation was considered along with mitigation; finance, technology transfer, and capacity building were included; and a compliance system was put in place. All the things that we wanted out of Paris, we achieved, and so we are very happy with that.
Peruse the complete Integration & Trade Journal: Volume 21
Caribbean scientists say fishermen are already seeing the effects of climate change, so for a dozen or so years they’ve been designing systems and strategies to reduce the impacts on the industry.
While some work on reef gardens and strategies to repopulate over fished areas, others crunch the data and develop tools designed to prepare the region, raise awareness of climate change issues and provide the information to help leaders make decisions.
In December 2017, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) secretariat, with funding from the UK government, announced a Climate Report Card to help formulate strategies to lessen the impact of climate change on regional fisheries.
“The CRFM is trying to ensure that the issue of climate change as it relates to the fisheries sector comes to the fore… because the CARICOM Heads of Government have put fish and fishery products among the priority commodities for CARICOM. It means that things that affect that development are important to us and so climate change is of primary importance,” said Peter Murray, the CRFM’s Programme Manager for Fisheries and Development.
The grouping of small, developing states are ‘fortifying’ the sectors that rely on the marine environment, or the Blue Economy, to withstand the expected ravages of climate change which scientists say will increase the intensity of hurricanes, droughts, coastal sea level rise and coral bleaching.
In its last report AR5, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported: “Many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change,” patterns that are already being noted by Caribbean fishers.
In an email to IPS, Murray outlined several initiatives across the Caribbean that ,he says are crucial to regional efforts. The Report Card, which has been available since March, will provide the in-depth data governments need to make critical decisions on mitigation and adaptation. It provides information covering ocean processes such as ocean acidification; extreme events like storms, surges and sea temperature; biodiversity and civil society including fisheries, tourism and settlements.
In addition, the 17-members of the CRFM agreed to incorporate the management of fisheries into their national disaster plans, and signed off on the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy for the fisheries sector.
“It means that anything looking at climate change and potential impacts is important to us,” Murray says.
The IPCC’s gloomy projections for world fisheries has been confirmed by a 2015 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report indicating that for the last 30 years, world fisheries have been in decline due to climate change. In the Caribbean, reduced catches are directly impacting the stability of entire communities and the diets and livelihoods of some of the region’s poorest. Further decline could devastate the economies of some islands.
But even as climate change is expected to intensify the effects of warming ocean waters, pelagic species could avoid the Caribbean altogether, bringing even more hardships. So the regional plan is centred on a Common Fisheries Policy that includes effective management, monitoring and enforcement systems and tools to improve risk planning.
In addition to the disaster plan and its other activities, the Community has over time installed a Coral Reef Early Warning System; new data collection protocols; improved computing capacity to crunch climate data; an insurance scheme to increase the resilience of fishing communities and stakeholders; as well as several tools to predict drought and excessive rainfall.
Worldwide, three billion people rely on fish as their major source of protein. The industry provides a livelihood for about 12 per cent of the world’s population and earns approximately 2.9 trillion dollars per year, the WWF reports. With regional production barely registering internationally, the Caribbean is putting all its efforts into preserving the Blue Economy, which the World Bank said earned the region 407 billion dollars in 2012.
The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, known regionally as the 5Cs, has coordinated and implemented a raft of programmes aimed at building systems that will help the region cope the effects of climate change.
Through collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 5Cs has been setting up an integrated network of climate and biological monitoring stations to strengthen the region’s early warning mechanism.
And as the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further. In addition, warming sea water is expected to shift migration routes for pelagic fish further north, reducing the supply of available deep sea fish even more. Added to that, competition for the dwindling resources could cause negative impacts of one industry over another.
But while scientists seek options, age-old traditions are sometimes still pitted against conservation projects. Take an incident that played out in the waters around St. Vincent and the Grenadines a few weeks ago when whale watchers witnessed the harpooning of two orcas by Vincentian fishermen.
The incident forced Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to announce the end of what was, until then, a thriving whaling industry in the village of Barouille. For years, government turned a blind eye as fishermen breached regional and international agreements on the preservation of marine species. The continued breaches are also against the Caribbean Community’s Common Fisheries Policy that legally binds countries to a series of actions to protect and preserve the marine environment and its creatures.
On April 2, five days after the incident, Gonsalves took to the airwaves to denounce the whaling caused by “greed” and announce pending regulations to end fishing for the mammals. The incident also tarnished the island’s otherwise excellent track record at climate proofing its fishing industry.
Murray’s email on regional activities outlines SVG activities including the incorporation of the regional strategy and action plan and its partnership with several regional and international agencies and organisations to build resilience in the marine sector.
Over in the northern Caribbean, traditions are also testing regulations and international agreements. In Jamaica, the Sandals Foundation in association with major supermarket chains has launched a campaign to stop the capture and sale of parrotfish for consumption.
Scientists say that protecting the parrotfish is synonymous with saving the reefs and mitigating the effects of climate change. And further north in the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. While trade is regulated, household use of both, sea turtles, and some sharks remain unregulated; and residents are resistant to any restrictions.
And while many continue to puzzle about the reasons behind the region’s climate readiness, scientists caution that there is no time to ease up. This week they rolled out, among other things, a coastal adaptation project and a public education and awareness (PAE) programme launched on April 26 in Belize City.
The PAE project, named Feel the Change, is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Project (J-CCCP) public awareness programme. Speaking at the launch, project development specialist at 5Cs, Keith Nichols, pointed to the extreme weather events from severe droughts to changes in crop cycles, which have cost the region billions.
“Climate change is not just sea level rise and global warming; climate change and climate variability is all around us,” he said.
Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency
The escalating cost of climate change to the Caribbean region makes a compelling argument for taking early action for adapting to climate change. An analysis of ten years of climate change research in the Caribbean found that sectors that are vital to regional economic and social development, including agriculture and tourism, are especially vulnerable to climate change and its impacts. The findings suggest that well-targeted measures to adapt will be essential to protect the development gains made by the region in recent decades.
The findings come from a new synthesis of climate research that has been compiled and released by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). The package draws on three CDKN-funded projects that have studied climate change in the Caribbean region over the past decade. The new analysis provides fresh insight into the nature of the climate threat to key sectors in the Caribbean, and draws together practical tools and methods that decision makers in the region can use to help them adapt.
The newly released ‘knowledge package’ draws on the CDKN-funded research to identify cross-cutting lessons. This, the second in a series of four knowledge package releases, focusses on making the case for climate resilient investment, identifying the risks and potential adaptation options.
The research, tools and other resources that have been used to formulate the knowledge package have been compiled and can be accessed via the CDKN website: cdkn.org/2017/02/climate-risk-caribbean-prosperity.
Key findings from the research include:
- Climate variability and change are already having severe impacts on key sectors including agriculture and tourism.
- These impacts are reversing economic growth, exacerbating poverty and undermining the future prosperity of Caribbean countries.
- CDKN research has provided locally appropriate climate change projections that give fresh insight into the vulnerability of key sectors.
- Adaptation investment in the agriculture sector is needed to account for projected changes in rainfall and growing seasons, and occurrence of extreme events, especially drought.
- Adaptation investment in the tourism sector is also needed to build resilience to rising seas, bleached coral reefs, water scarcity and gradual temperature increase.
- There are many potential adaptation measures that can be applied by governments, businesses, individuals and development partners.
- Financial support is needed to support adaptation action as high up-front costs are a barrier to local adaptation efforts.
- Effectively prioritising adaptation options can maximise their value and lead to positive co-benefits for individuals, businesses and society.
An information brief, video and infographic have been produced which identify the most important findings from the research. To access these and to find out more about the research on which they were based visit: cdkn.org/2017/02/climate-risk-caribbean-prosperity
A new study has predicted that if current trends continue and the world fails to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nearly all of the world’s coral reefs, including many in the Caribbean, will suffer severe bleaching — the gravest threat to one of the Earth’s most important ecosystems — on annual basis.
The finding is part of a study funded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners, which reviewed new climate change projections to predict which corals will be affected first and at what rate.
The report is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. Researchers found that the reefs in Taiwan and the Turks and Caicos archipelago will be among the first to experience annual bleaching, followed by reefs off the coast of Bahrain, in Chile and in French Polynesia.
Calling the predictions “a treasure trove” for environmentalists, the head of the UN agency, Erik Solheim, said the projects allow conservationists and governments to prioritise reef protection.
“The projections show us where we still have time to act before it’s too late,” Solheim said.
On average, the reefs started undergoing annual bleaching from 2014, according to the study.
Without the required minimum of five years to regenerate, the annual occurrences will have a deadly effect on the corals and disrupt the ecosystems which they support, UNEP said.
However, it said that if governments act on emission reduction pledges made in the Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to combat climate change and limit global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius, the corals would have another 11 years to adapt to the warming seas.
Between 2014 and 2016, UNEP said the world witnessed the longest global bleaching event recorded.
Among the casualties, it said, was the Great Barrier Reef, with 90 per cent of it bleached and 20 per cent of the reef’s coral killed.
As the climate changes and temperatures warm, corals are becoming more susceptible to bleaching. Now, researchers have looked at bleaching in detail and have discovered when and where bleaching will occur in the coming years.
“Our new local-scale projects will help resource managers better understand and plan for the effects of coral bleaching,” said Ruben van Hooidonk, the lead author of the new study, in a news release. “At some locations, referred to in our study as ‘relative refugia,’ lower rates of temperature increase and fewer extreme events mean reefs have more time to adapt to climate change. Managers may decide to use this information to protect these locations as refuges, or protected areas. Or they may take other actions to reduce stressed cause by human activities.”
Coral bleaching is primarily caused by warming ocean temperatures. This phenomenon is a major threat to coral reef health. When the water is too warm, corals expel the algae living in their tissues; this causes the corals to lose their vibrant colours and turn white. These bleached corals are under more stress and are more likely to die, which can leave reefs barren and lifeless.
In order to project future bleaching occurrences, the researchers used a regional ocean model and an approach called statistical downscaling. This allowed them to calculate the onset of annual severe bleaching at a much higher resolution. The resulting local-scale projects of bleaching conditions may help managers include climate change as a consideration when making conservation decisions.
There are certain regions, of course, that will be more impacted than others. Countries that are projected to experience bleaching conditions 15 or more years later than neighbouring regions include the reefs in Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos and Mexico. These areas could potentially be conservation priorities.
The findings reveal a bit more about bleaching conditions, which could help managers make better decisions in the future.
The findings are published in the journal Global Change Biology.
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)
Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Brief Highlights Climate Change Impacts on Fisheries and Aquaculture
The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) has issued a brief,’Climate Change: Implications for Fisheries and Aquaculture,’ which details the threats of climate change and ocean acidification to fisheries, aquaculture and marine resources as relayed in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).
The brief highlights that climate change and ocean acidification are altering ocean ecosystems, leading to a loss of marine biodiversity and changes in seafood production levels, including through the displacement of stocks and rising mortality of shellfish. It notes that other factors such as over-fishing, habitat loss and pollution worsen the impacts of climate change on marine resources. The publication also highlights impending issues such as: the rapid decline of coral reef ecosystems, with the risk of collapse of some coastal fisheries; the likely increase in coral bleaching; potential increases in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing from changes in coastal resources and food insecurity; and possible mass die-offs in farmed fish due to harmful algal blooms.
The brief explains that fishers can adapt to some of the impacts, through, inter alia: changing gear or target species; increasing aquaculture; and moving to dynamic management policies. Additionally, some positive impacts of climate change are highlighted, including faster growth rates and food conversion efficiency, longer growing seasons, and new growing areas due to decreases in ice cover.
Regarding the potential for mitigation in the fisheries sector, the brief highlights options such as strengthening coastal zone management to reduce land-sourced pollution, over harvesting and physical damage to resources. It also suggests creating new habitats, such as artificial reefs, to act as fish nurseries in areas where coral reef destruction occurs. According to the report, protecting some ocean ecosystems will help moderate the speed and scale of climate change, as well as build ecosystem health.
The brief is published jointly by the SFP and the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and Cambridge Judge Business School, and is supported by the European Climate Foundation. It is one of a series of publications synthesizing the most relevant AR5 findings for specific economic and business sectors, and grew from the idea that the fisheries and aquaculture sector could make better use of the AR5, if distilled into an accessible and succinct summary.
Credit: SFP News Story from the Climate Change: Implications for Fisheries and Aquaculture publication.