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PRESS RELEASE – “1 point 5 to stay alive”, the Caribbean speaks to the world at global Climate Change Conference

PRESS RELEASE – Bonn, Germany. 13 November 2017.  “1 point 5 to stay alive”, the Caribbean speaks to the world at global Climate Change Conference

“1.5 is a matter of necessity,” said University of the West Indies’ Professor Michael Taylor, speaking at an event convened by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) as part of the Conference on Climate Change, COP23, taking place in Germany until the end of this week.

Prof. Taylor was at the time delivering the main results of a study funded by the CDB, a study that has brought together 45 Caribbean scientists from 11 regional institutions to examine and compare the implications of climate change for the region.

The facts speak for themselves. On average, the temperature on this planet has already increased by 1 degree Celsius over what it was before the world began to industrialise, and the impacts of that increase are there for all to see.

In the Caribbean, global warming has already resulted in more intense hurricanes with stronger winds and much more rain, but it is also responsible: for increases in both air and ocean temperature; for more very hot days and nights; for longer and more frequent periods of drought; for an increase in very heavy rainfall events; and for sea-level rise and coastal erosion.

Climate change is real, and things can only get worse, but the question is: how much worse? This is the question that was at the centre of the climate change negotiations in Paris two years ago, and this is why the Caribbean considered it a success that the Paris Agreement made a commitment to an increase of “not more than 2 degrees”, trying to achieve the target of 1.5 degrees.

“This 1.5 Caribbean project,” said Prof. Taylor, “is the region doing its own science, putting Caribbean science in the literature of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

And the messages from that research are clear. With ‘business as usual’, temperatures will increase by at least 2.5 degrees by the end of the century, reaching 1.5 degrees in the late 2020s, and 2 degrees in the 2050s.

“At 2 degrees, we would have a significantly harsher climate. We would be moving into the realm of the unprecedented. It’s a matter of compromise,” said Prof. Taylor, “even a 1.5 degree temperature increase will be very problematic.”

The message that the Caribbean is giving at the UN Conference is therefore one of urgency, a message that was echoed by Saint Lucian Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, who spoke at the session and who is attending the Conference in his capacity as CARICOM Lead on Sustainable Development and Climate Change.

“The Caribbean and other small island developing states (SIDS) have been patiently waiting for the world to get its act together,” said PM Chastanet, “but we now need action; we don’t have the ability to wait any longer, we need investment to build our resilience. Financing is a major constraint, and we now need a dedicated source of funds to support resilience building, specifically for the SIDS”.

The need for accessible and appropriate financing was also stressed by Dr. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada and current Chairman of CARICOM, who declared that “we need funding for adaptation but, with the projected impact of a 1.5 increase, adaptation is not enough, thus our call for a more comprehensive regime on Loss and Damage.”

“Since the Climate Change Conference of 2009 in Copenhagen, when the message of 1 point 5 to stay alive was first sent out, the Caribbean has been advocating that a target of 1.5 degrees is both necessary and feasible,” said Dr Kenrick Leslie, the Executive Director of the CCCCC.

At the Bonn Conference this year, thanks to the work of Prof. Taylor and other Caribbean scientists, and to the tireless work of Caribbean delegates in these critical negotiations, this message is coming across even louder and stronger, backed by the highly credible scientific work of the region’s scientific community.

For more information, contact climate.justice@panoscaribbean.org and visit www.1point5.info and https://www.facebook.com/savethecaribbean/

Is climate change the culprit in Tropical Storm Erika?

In this handout provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from the GOES-East satellite, Erika, a tropical storm is pictured losing strength as it passes over Haiti on Aug. 29, 2015. NOAA/NASA GOES ProjectGetty Images

Rescue teams are still searching for dozens of missing villagers in rural areas of the Caribbean island of Dominica, days after Tropical Storm Erika caused massive flooding and landslides.

The storm has already killed at least 20, and Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says that number could rise as helicopters reach areas cut off by eroded roads.

Dominica was the island worst affected by the storm — which weakened over eastern Cuba on Saturday, losing its title of tropical storm after drenching Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Heavy rains could still hit parts of Florida.

In his address to the nation late Friday, Skerrit continued his call-to-action after tweeting that Dominicans are “living the effects of climate change.”

“Let us consider this disaster as a test of our ability to respond collectively, patriotically and imaginatively to the peculiar challenges of globalization and climate change that have been intensifying since the start of the 21st century,” he said.

Dominican photographer Chris Louis traveled throughout the country photographing the storm’s destruction. He says the damage from Erika is some of the worst he’s seen and climate change could be to blame.

“We usually expect [mudslides] when heavy rains follow a prolonged dry spell, and there has not been much rain recently,” he says. “[But] a few years ago, this kind of weather would not have done as much damage.”

According to the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, small islands like Dominica are especially vulnerable to rising temperatures, shore erosion and increased storm intensity. Although the Caribbean accounts for just one percent of global CO2 emissions, Gerald Lindo, senior technical researcher for Jamaica’s Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, says the Caribbean is disproportionately affected.

“It’s messing up our economies, creating a perpetual recession,” he says. “Most of the islands of the Caribbean have been experiencing a really rigorous drought. We were coming into this hurricane season in the weird position of really hoping for some water without extreme flooding. So it wasn’t just the storm that kind of signaled climate change for us.”

But Dr. Michael Taylor, professor of physics at the University of the West Indies at Mona, cautions against pinpointing a single storm as an indicator of climate change. He says several factors could have contributed to Dominica’s substantial flooding and landslides.

“You have to be wary of taking one storm as a sign of what’s to come,” he says. “But a storm like this makes us sit up and pay attention. The science is supporting the fact that underlying conditions for these intense rains is a result of warming global temperatures.”

Debate over climate change in many Caribbean nations is largely divided. Within Dominica’s diaspora, some aren’t ready to declare Erika’s damage a direct result of a changing environment.

Kevin Dorsett, a Dominican now living in Washington, DC, says that while he does think storms are getting stronger, Erika could just be a case of the most vulnerable island at the worst possible time.

“I don’t believe climate change was the result of this,” he says. “Dominica is not like the rest of the Caribbean. It is very mountainous and rarely has any flat areas. We [have] tons of rivers and lakes so, with all the non-stop rain, rivers just overflowed.”

On the island, Sabra Luke says climate change isn’t something people in Dominica usually consider. Right now, rescuing trapped and missing Dominicans is their only priority. She says some of the hardest hit areas are barely recognizable.

“There are many persons who have lost everything,” she says. “Medical teams are needed here; we need emergency relief supplies.”

The search for missing Dominicans will continue throughout the weekend. In his address, Skerrit called on the international community for help.

“We have, in essence, to rebuild Dominica,” he says. The prime minister estimates that tropical storm Erika has set back development and infrastructure in Dominica by 20 years.

Credit: Global Post
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