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CERMES Student Shares Research Experience

We have supported extensive field laboratory work for a contingent of students, faculty and support staff  from the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), UWI Cave Hill over the past ten years. The field laboratories are held in Belize, one of the region’s most diverse ecological settings, and afford the students an opportunity to put into action the range of tools they are learning, and observe the relationships between scientific theory and the measurement of critical variables and parameters. The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre looks forward to welcoming the 11th contingent of students in 2015!

Below is a summary of current CERMES MSc student Ryan Zuniga's reflection on his research experience. Ryan is now interning with the Centre.
Ryan Zuniga (left) interviewing two farmers

Ryan Zuniga (left) interviewing two farmers

After fulfilling the classroom requirements for my degree, I was anxious and excited to enter the world of
research. My topic; “Developing a Forest Fire Indicator for Southern Belize”, was selected after nine months of deliberation and several disregarded potential topics.

My research was to be carried out in conjunction with the Ya’axche Conservation Trust, an NGO that has been working in my study area (southern Belize) for several years. This NGO has been making numerous efforts to address several terrestrial environmental issues including poaching of endangered species found in their management area (Maya Golden Landscape), the sustainable use of forest resources by buffer communities and incidences of forest fires as a result of escaped agricultural fires known as milpa burning.

The data collection process commenced almost immediately after the proposal was approved. It was supported by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) who had an interest in the research topic, and therefore gave me the opportunity to conduct my research as an intern at the Centre. Dr. Ulric Trotz , Deputy Director and Science Advisor of the Centre, was the overhead supervisor, and Mr. Earl Green, Project Manager, was my immediate project supervisor at the Centre.

The data required to carry out the study consists of three main parameters, meteorological data (humidity, daily maximum temperatures and precipitation), records of fire incidences and climate projections and modelled data for southern Belize.

The data collection process was filled with many “give up” moments and just as many “I can do this for the rest of my life” moments. However, what stood out to me the most is the hospitality that was shown to me by the people during the interview process. My interviews were focused on the farmers of the Maya villages in Southern Belize, namely Medina, Golden stream, Tambran and Indian Creek. By societal modern standards these farmers can be described as poor, or living at one step away from poverty. However, the farmers will tell you that difficult times or “hard life” as they refer to it are few and far in between for them. While working with them I was more often than not greeted with a smile, and a cup of home grown coffee, that welcomed me into their humble homes. Generally consisting of hammocks, a few plastic chairs and a wooden table these homes were filled with laughter and happiness. This experience I’m sure will stay with me for the rest of my career.

In the end I was only able to gather a fraction of the data that I had proposed, so much for that ground breaking research! However I was able to adopt an index that is identical to what I had hoped to achieve. The index was implemented by The Nature Conservancy (TNC)  in Trinidad and Tobago and was shared with me by TNC’s Director of Fire Management. Ya’axche has already pledged to provide the communities with the necessary equipment needed for the index to be used properly and be effective in reducing the incidences of escaped fires.

 Peruse the October 2014 edition of the CERMES Connections here.

Credit: CERMES Connections

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.

Optimism in The Virgin Islands about $50M per anum in funding to tackle Climate Change

Talking Climate Change (From L-R). Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering, Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour; Mr. George de Berdt Romily, Climate Change Law and Policy Specialist at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre; and Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Adviser Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre. Photo Credit: Gordon French/BVI Platinum News

Talking Climate Change (From L-R). Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering, Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour; Mr. George de Berdt Romily, Climate Change Law and Policy Specialist at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre; and Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Adviser Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre.
Photo Credit: Gordon French/BVI Platinum News

The Virgin Islands is said to be well ahead of most small-island developing states on the issue of climate change adaptation and in the coming months could have in place the framework to access millions to mitigate against the effects of those changes.

Some $50 million will be needed annually to cushion the effects of climate change which experts said has already started to manifest through sea level rise, unpredictable weather patterns and more intense hurricanes.

Deputy Premier and Minister of Natural Resources and Labour, Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering is leading the charge to ensure that residents are sensitized on the issue of climate change.

During the launch of the public awareness campaign yesterday, May 6, Dr. Pickering indicated that the Territory is currently setting up the climate change trust fund as the vehicle to access a portion of the billions the developed countries have set aside to help at-risk states.

However, the proposed legislative framework to establish the fund has to first get approval from Cabinet before it’s taken to the House of assembly for debate and subsequent passage.

Consultant, Mr. George de Berdt Romily, Climate Change Law and Policy Specialist at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre noted that delaying the implementation of climate change adaptation plans will be more costly.

“We recognize that it is totally unrealistic to expect that the Virgin Islands can raise this additional $50 million from existing resources. There is a need to try and find how best we can raise these resources,” Mr. Romily stated.

He further explained, “There is also a commitment from the international community to finance the incremental cost associated with climate change. We do anticipate that once the trust fund is up and running, there will be contributions from international community to pay for the incremental costs. We hope to come close to the $50 million that is needed.”

He said the ability of the Virgin Islands to have continued access to international funds will depend on the Territory’s ability to operate the trust fund in a transparent manner and ensure the viability of the projects on the ground.

In May 2012, Cabinet approved the Virgin Islands Climate Change Adaptation Policy, but the funding is necessary to implement a number of the urgent priority climate change and disaster management programs.

Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Adviser, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre has also been assisting the Territory in implement mitigation plans.

Forging a climate resilient development pathway in the Caribbean

Dr. TrotzDr Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Advisor at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, and a senior strategic advisor to Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), outlines the tremendous opportunities for climate compatible development in the region in a featured Op-Ed published by CDKN Global.

The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean have made significant strides in responding to a changing and variable climate. However, the dissonance between climate change time horizons and immediate development needs and priorities as articulated by public policy-makers pose a primary challenge to the region’s efforts to achieve low emissions, build resilience and promote development simultaneously. Specifically, climate change projections are often expressed in timeframes ( 5 years, 50 years, 100 years) that have little or no relation to the routine development planning timeframes (5 years, 10 years, 30 years) used by the public policy-makers and the expectations of the general public.

This challenge exists alongside the peculiarities associated with multi-country policy-making, hazards of our small size, geography, and limited resources that often impedes ambitious and decisive action. Given this mix of challenges, it’s crucial that the region frames climate change responses such that they’re viewed as urgent and integral for development imperatives such as poverty reduction, debt-servicing, and growth.

The efficacy of this approach is typified by Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves’ strong commitment to make climate change a priority during his chairmanship of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) immediately after the unprecedented weather event that ravaged the Eastern Caribbean in December 2013. In declaring climate change as a key focus of his six month chairmanship of the regional block, Dr Gonsalves noted “we are having systems affecting us outside of the normal rainy season and the normal hurricane season,” which underscores the importance of showing the link between existing weather events and climate projections across time-horizons. Dr Gonsalves’s realisation of this link will allow him to bring a sense of urgency to the XXV Intersessional Meeting of the Heads of Government where climate change will feature prominently in the discussions.

In our quest to forge a climate resilient development pathway, the Caribbean has been tackling the primary challenge of aligning the comparatively distant time horizons of climate projections with more immediate development objectives and political considerations in a multi-country policy-making context. The Heads of Government of CARICOM endorsed the Liliendaal Declaration on Climate Change and Development in 2009, which defines the positions of Member States, and approved “A Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change”. The Regional Framework and its associated Implementation Plan (approved in March 2012), both of which were prepared by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre with support from CDKN, specifies actions and timeframes that complements some of the political time horizons and specific development objectives.

The development of the Caribbean Climate Risk Management Framework and its associated Caribbean Climate Online Risk Assessment TooL (CCORAL) is a direct response to one of the actions defined in the Regional Framework. Climate risk management tools like CCORAL with cross-sectorial applicability are crucial elements of the region’s emerging strong early action framework for building climate resilience and advancing our development objectives.

Caribbean Green Tech Incubator Launched

CCIC Image

Credit: World Bank/infoDev

The Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre (CCIC) was launched today (Monday, January 27, 2014) at the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) in Trinidad and Tobago. The World Bank/infoDev initiative, which is being administered by the Jamaica-based Scientific Research Council and Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), will function as an incubator for businesses solving climate change problems and promote investment in green technology in the region. The Centre is one of eight globally, as others are located in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and Vietnam.

The Centre will provide grant funding of up to US$50,000.00 to MSMEs/ entities to assist them in developing prototypes for commercialization.

The Centre’s five focus areas are:
  • Solar Energy – e.g. Residential and commercial self generation, residential and commercial water heating, solar powered air conditioning
  • Resource Use Efficiency – e.g. waste-to energy, materials recovery, reuse and recycling
  • Sustainable Agribusiness – e.g. water/ energy efficient irrigation systems; waste management; high value agribusiness; sustainable land use practices; waste to energy; wind and solar energy for farms
  • Energy Efficiency – e.g. Lighting, household appliances, air conditioning, commercial cooling and ventilation systems, consumer behavior, building and energy management systems, building design and materials
  • Water Management – e.g. Potable water, rain water harvesting, efficient irrigation, wastewater treatment and recycling, water use efficiency, desalination
CCIC Image 2

Credit: World Bank/infoDev/Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre

Dr Ulric Trotz, Chairperson of the CCIC, and Deputy Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, says the CCIC  comes to fruition at a point when unsustainable and inefficient energy consumption exacerbates the enormous socio-economic constraints faced by Member States of the Caribbean Community.

The region, which is among the most vulnerable places to climate change and climate variability, imports in excess of 170 million barrels of petroleum products annually, with 30 million barrels used in the electric sector alone, at a cost of up to 40% of  already scarce foreign exchange earnings.  This dependence on ever more expensive imported fossil fuels increases our economic vulnerability and reduces our ability to invest in climate compatible development. Therefore, it’s crucial that we support initiatives that can make the region’s energy sector more efficient through increased use of renewable energy, which will in turn reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

This comes at a time when economies around the world are re-orientating towards low-carbon, green growth pathways, which have the potential to make some of our established industries, including tourism, more attractive to discerning travellers who are willing to spend more for environmentally sensitive travel packages.

The Centre offers this region a unique opportunity to leverage technological innovation in its bid to adapt and mitigate challenges brought forth by climate change, with particular focus on energy efficiency, resource use, agriculture and water management, as the regional technology space is rapidly evolving and seems poised to take-off with the advent of events and groups like DigiJam 3.0, Caribbean Startup Week, Slashroots, among others. This is encouraging as the development, deployment and diffusion of technology are key factors in any effort to mitigate and adapt to the current and future impacts of climate change.  So the Centre is uniquely positioned to capitalize on these developments and focus them to achieve essential technological advancement.

~Dr Ulric Trotz, Chairperson of the CCIC, and Deputy Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre

Please view the CCIC website at www.caribbeancic.org for further information.

JAMAICA-CLIMATE-International climate conference deemed important to developing countries

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Dec 6, CMC – The Third International Conference on Climate Change Services (ICCS3) was ending here on Friday with stakeholders indicating that the three day forum providing an opportunity to find linkages between international climate services and those in the region.

“This conference is of great importance for developing countries and for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in particular,” said Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Robert Pickersgill.

“It is common knowledge that we are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but what this conference will provide, is an opportunity to build our capacity, and to look beyond weather and hydrological information, to a focus on climate information for decision-making,” he added.

The conference sought to address to address current progress, challenges and opportunities in climate services implementation, and foster discussions regarding the transition from pilot activities to sustained services.

Deputy Director and Science Advisor at the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), Dr Ulric Trotz, said the conference was the first of its kind in the Caribbean and any developing country.

He said the three-day event provided an opportunity to find linkages between international climate services and those in the region.

Officials said climate services are crucial as climate variability and change were posing significant challenges to societies worldwide.

“Therefore, timely communication of climate information helps prevent the economic setbacks and humanitarian disasters that can result from climate extremes and long term climate change,” the officials said.

The CCCCC is supporting a series of national consultations across the Caribbean under the Global Framework For Climate Change Services (GFCS) which was established in 2009 at the World Climate Conference-3 (WCC3).

The vision of the GFCS is to enable society to better manage the risks and opportunities arising from climate variability and change, especially for those who are most vulnerable to such risks.

Launched in May this year, the GFCS uses five components for the production, delivery and application of climate information and services.

Pickersgill told the conference that the 2009 report of the High Level Task Force on the Global Framework for Climate Services had identified that three basic facts had to be taken into account when focusing on climate information for decision-making.

“Firstly, we know that everyone is affected by climate – particularly its extremes, which cause loss of lives and livelihoods all over the world, but overwhelmingly in developing countries.

Secondly, we know that – where they exist – needs-based climate services are extremely effective in helping communities, businesses, organizations and governments to manage the risks and take advantage of the opportunities associated with the climate.

Thirdly, we know that there is a yawning gap between the needs for climate services and their current provision. Climate services are weakest in the places that need them most namely, climate-vulnerable developing countries.”

Pickersgill said that the identified climate change impacts, multiplicity of stressors, and the available scientific information all suggest that the Caribbean region is  a climate change hotspot. “This presents a clear need at the national level and as a concerned region, for climate services that will help families, businesses, and communities to make informed decisions,” he said, adding there “is a clear need to promote integrated service delivery and stimulate the development of environmental technologies, applications and services in the private sector.

“The provisions of inundation mapping services, to inform decisions on sea level rise and storm activity, are critical and are urgently needed. The assistance to our farmers through modelling will help them to adapt to the changing climate through services such as drought forecasting, precipitation modelling as well as vulnerability and risk mapping.”

Pickergill said that developing countries, in particular, would be looking at the products that would inform  health sector managers in responding to heat projections and the potential changes required in health services; as well as those that will inform our business leaders and national governments in investment decisions and planning.

“Pioneering climate services will enable us to make smart decisions to ensure public safety, increase our resilience, drive smart public and private sector-led infrastructural investment and stimulate economic growth,” he added.

The next national consultation on a Framework for Climate Services will be held in Barbados.

CMC/if/ir/2013

Credit:CMC

Dr. Ulric Trotz says the Caribbean lags in climate finance

Dr. TrotzThe Deputy Director and Science Advisor of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), Dr. Ulric Trotz has defended regional countries from criticisms that they are more interested in seeking financial assistance from the developed world when dealing with the impact of climate change.

We can’t get away from the question of finance because we need to have finance,” he said, noting that “one of our problems is that we are poor, we know what to do.

Trotz told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the region needed the finances to deal with issues like strengthening coastal defences, making airport and seaports less vulnerable to climate risks.

But we don’t have the resources. Take a country like Holland, they are below sea level like Guyana, but they have invested in a one in a 1000 year flood event to protect Amsterdam and the coast of Holland from that type of event. We in the Caribbean don’t even have the resources to protect ourselves from a one in a 10 year event. So finances are important and this is one of the arguments that we have at the international level because we are saying “look, we are in a position now, you are facing a risk that is as a result of your lifestyle, your pattern of development, we are not responsible for this but being poor and living where we are, we are very vulnerable to the impacts basically that results from that type of development which you have been enjoying for years”.

Trotz said that the Caribbean has always felt “there is a moral argument for the developed countries to provide us with financing to help us to deal with the impacts of climate change, a phenomena that is on us as a result of your developmental patterns.

And so the question of finance is central to the entire argument and basically it is a key issue for us as we move forward to address climate change in the region.

Trotz also acknowledged that the developed world has maintained its position regarding the climate change arguments despite the moral and other arguments from the region, telling CMC, the “other challenge that we have and this is the one we are trying to make, is to make a business case for responding to climate change.

“A business case for adaptation and for mitigation,” he said noting “we still have to depend on aid etc, but there are a lot of opportunities, for instance in the energy sector right now for the new business opportunities, basically it would result in a more sustainable energy sector and it is good business.”

He said this is the road being taken by the United States with President Obama “trying to preach to the American private sector that there are new business opportunities unfolding by addressing some of the risk we face with climate change.

So we hope to be able to sell that as an opportunity now for our private sector to look at new investments and see how we can marry that opportunity with getting us on teh road to what we should be doing to increase resilience in the Caribbean.

Trotz said while he is aware that the new venture would be a challenge “but I don;t think we would have a choice”.

The CCCCC senior official said an examination of the disasters in the Caribbean would show the region suffers from weather related events that would get worse in the future.

So we should be dealing with our present day exposure to climate risk, and there is a lot of action that we should be taking. Yes we look at the destructive side of it but now under the discussions we are having internationally about dealing with climate change there are tremendous opportunities for the region to basically address several of our development issues.

**This article is an edited version of a CMC story by Peter Richards

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