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National Training Workshop on Climate Change Impacts Tools

PRESS RELEASE – Belmopan, Belize; November 24, 2017 – The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC/5Cs) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development and Immigration through the National Climate Change Office (NCCO) is hosting a national training on the Caribbean Weather Impacts Group (CARIWIG) Portal and Climate Change Impacts Tools. This training workshop is being funded by the Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP) project. The training will be held over a period of 9 days; the first segment of the training is scheduled for the week of November 27th to December 1st, 2017, while the second segment will be held from January 15th to 18th, 2018 at the George Price Center, Belmopan City, Belize.

Participants of the National Training Workshop, Belize.

The Weather Generator (WG), the Tropical Storm Model / Simple Model for the Advection of Storms and Hurricanes (TSM/SMASH), the Caribbean Drought Assessment Tool (CARiDRO) and accompanying web portal and data sets are specific climate change impacts tools aimed at assisting in the generation of scientific information and analysis to help in making informed decisions along with policy formulation and implementation.

The tools are open source online resources to provide locally relevant and unbiased climate change information that is specific to the Caribbean and relevant to the region’s development. Case studies focused on areas such as drought, agriculture, water resources, coastal zone structures, health (dengue fever), and urban development and flooding were also done to test these tools and information related to these case studies will be shared during the Training along with many other interactive sessions. The integration of the tools into national policy agendas across the region is being spearheaded through regional and country workshops, which are crucial to ensuring effective decision-making and improving climate knowledge and action.

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Caribbean Weather Impacts Group (CARIWIG) Tools and Portal

Brief Description

  1.       A weather generator has been developed and tested on present day meteorological station observations in the region and found to produce reasonable simulations of both average and extreme weather properties. This tool provides the basis for weather generator based downscaling, required to generate locally relevant bias corrected weather scenarios for impact studies.
  2.      A new tropical storm model has been developed to provide spatial 15-minute scenarios of rainfall and wind speed over Caribbean islands under various scenarios of track, category, movement speed and historic notable storm. Managers may consider such scenarios as part of hazard management. Case study results suggest that hurricane speed, an under-reported metric, is actually of key importance, and that near-misses may be more hazardous than previously supposed.
  3.     The CARiDRO tool has been developed to assist the evaluation of meteorological and hydrological drought for the Caribbean and Central American regions, for both present day and future climate projections. This tool greatly simplifies standard but complex analyses and automatically generates a number of graphical outputs (e.g. time series plots and maps). This tool will support the agriculture and water resource sectors in their assessment and adaptation to drought hazard. A case study verified the CARiDRO tool identification of a region-wide historic drought, and found that future projections indicated increasing regional drought frequency.

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The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre coordinates the region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change. We maintain the Caribbean’s most extensive repository of information and data on climate change specific to the region, which in part enables us to provide climate change-related policy advice and guidelines to CARICOM member states through the CARICOM Secretariat. In this role, the Centre is recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Environment Programme, and other international agencies as the focal point for climate change issues in the Caribbean. The Centre is also a United Nations Institute for Training and Research recognised Centre of Excellence, one of an elite few. Learn more about how we’re working to make the Caribbean more climate resilient by perusing The Implementation Plan.

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POLICY BRIEF: Climate data and projections: Supporting evidence-based decision-making in the Caribbean

Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Download POLICY BRIEF: Climate data and projections: Supporting evidence-based decision-making in the Caribbean
No. of pages: 12
Author(s): Will Bugler, Olivia Palin and Dr Ben Rabb
Organisation(s): Acclimatise 
Format: pdf
File size: 620.51 KB

Governments in the Caribbean recognise climate variability and change to be the most significant threat to sustainable development in the region. Policies and strategies such as the regional framework for achieving development resilient to climate change and its implementation plan acknowledge the scale of the threat and provide a plan that aspires to safeguard regional prosperity and meet development goals. To do this, decision-makers need effective tools and methods to help integrate climate change considerations into their planning and investment processes. To build resilience, decision-makers can benefit from access to appropriate climate change data that are specific to their geographical location and relevant to their planning horizons.

The CARibbean Weather Impacts Group (CARIWIG) project, funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), gives access to climate data that have been downscaled, making them relevant for use in the Caribbean region. The project also provides tools that allow decision-makers to better understand the potential impacts of drought, tropical storms, rainfall and temperature changes. Caribbean decision-makers, researchers and scientists can access this data freely, through the CARIWIG website.

While these data are a useful aid for decision-making, they do not provide certainty about the scale or timing of climate impacts. The process of downscaling data makes them relevant to decisions taken at the national level in the Caribbean, but also increases the uncertainty. The data should therefore be used to inform decisions, but should not form the sole basis for action. Instead, decisions-makers should aspire to take adaptation measures that perform well over a wide range of conditions.

This policy brief provides an overview of CARIWIG data and information and how they can be used, pointing to illustrative examples of how they have been applied in several Caribbean countries. It also provides decision-makers with the tools necessary to make effective climate decisions in the face of uncertainty.

Key messages

  • Climate data and projections that are relevant to the Caribbean region are available through the online CARIWIG portal.
  • Historical climate data and future projections are available for a range of climate variables.
  • A suite of simulation tools, including a weather generator, a tropical storm model and a regional drought analysis tool are also freely available.
  • These resources are useful for decision makers. When combined with other data and information, they can help to build a picture of potential impacts to key economic sectors in the Caribbean.
  • A series of case studies shows how these resources have been applied to real-world situations in Caribbean countries.
  • The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) is providing training and support on how to use CARIWIG outputs.
  • CDKN-funded projects provide methods and tools for decision makers to take proactive action to build climate resilience, despite the uncertainty that comes with future
Credit: Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)

Preparing the country’s readiness and resilience in a time of climate change

A researcher checking out coral bleaching off the coast of Sint Maarten. (Nature Foundation File Photo)

Our country is surrounded by the deep blue Atlantic Ocean on one side the Caribbean Sea on the other.  Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as ours are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters.  Global climate change is expected to increase natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and drought.

In addition, to climate change, population growth and urban development are increasing the vulnerability of SIDS to natural disasters, particularly in urban and coastal areas.  Country Sint Maarten has seen and experienced in the past damages caused by storm systems and inclement weather to those aforementioned areas.

At the end of January it was announced in a discussion at the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament that Curacao and Sint Maarten have not yet formally indicated whether they want to participate in the Kingdom Law proposal to ratify the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.  Aruba has responded that it would like to be a part of the Kingdom Law.

Climate Change is a Kingdom issue and should be addressed at that level, and Sint Maarten should be at the forefront in making sure that it receives the desired and serious attention it deserves.

The topic of climate change was also a discussion point at the recently concluded 15th Overseas Countries and Territories-European Union (OCT-EU) conference in Aruba which was attended by Sint Maarten’s Prime Minister William Marlin.

The effects of global climate change continue on a daily basis.  Each year the global community of nations are informed throughout the year about the impact human activities are having on our world.  One of the most recent developments is at the North Pole which saw for the month of January sea ice volume melting to a record low, according to the United Nations World Meteorological Agency (WMO).

Sea ice extent was the lowest on the 38-year-old satellite record for the month of January, both at the Arctic and Antarctic, according to data cited WMO from both the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and Germany’s Sea ice Portal operated by the Alfred-Wegener-Institut.

“The recovery period for Arctic sea ice is normally in the winter, when it gains both in volume and extent. The recovery this winter has been fragile, at best, and there were some days in January when temperatures were actually above melting point,” said recently David Carlson, Director of the World Climate Research Programme.

He added: “This will have serious implications for Arctic sea ice extent in summer as well as for the global climate system. What happens at the Poles does not stay at the Poles.”

In addition, the ice levels at the Antarctic are also at record lows, even thinner than expected for the summer season there.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement would be beneficial for country Sint Maarten with possible access to the Green Climate Fund, which is a mechanism established to assist SIDS and other countries in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Sint Maarten needs a “Climate Change Adapt-Mitigate” Plan of Action as our own very survival as a country depends on it.  Investments made in time will allow us to mitigate the changes for generations to continue to develop a vibrant and prosperous country for decades to come.  Let’s work towards preparing our country’s readiness and resilience in a time of climate change.

Credit: SOUALIGA Newsday

Caribbean region must boost efforts to prepare for increased drought – UN report

Climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of droughts in the Caribbean, so countries in the region must enhance their capabilities to deal with this and other extreme weather-related challenges to ensure food security and hunger eradication, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said in a new report.

With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the Caribbean, countries’ fresh-water supplies will become increasingly important. Photo: FAO

With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the Caribbean, countries’ fresh-water supplies will become increasingly important. Photo: FAO

The report, Drought Characteristics and Management in the Caribbean, found that the Caribbean region faces significant challenges in terms of drought, FAO said.

“Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries, so this is a key issue for Caribbean food security,” said Deep Ford, FAO Regional Coordinator in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean region already experiences drought-like events every year, with low water availability often impacting on agriculture and water resources, and a significant number of bush fires, FAO noted.

The region also experiences intense dry seasons, particularly in years when El Niño climate events are present. FAO said that the impacts of this are usually offset by the next wet season, but wet seasons often end early and dry seasons last longer, with the result that annual rainfall is less than expected.

The Caribbean region accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries, while one of them – Barbados – is in the top 10, according to FAO.

Impacts of drought on agriculture and food security

With droughts becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean region, agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences, FAO emphasized.

his is particularly important because most of Caribbean agriculture is rainfed. With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the region, countries’ fresh-water supply will become an increasingly important resource, FAO said.

Small-scale, family farmers, are particularly vulnerable to drought – low rainfall threatens rainfed crops and low water levels result in increased production costs due to increased irrigation.

Extensive droughts also cause increased vulnerability in livestock as grazing areas change in nutritional value, with more low quality, drought tolerant species dominating during such dry spells. In addition, the potential for livestock disease outbreaks also increases, FAO said.

Drought also often results in food price increases. Expensive, desalinated water resources are becoming more important in the Caribbean, accounting for as much as 70 per cent in Antigua and Barbuda, and this can impact significantly on the ability of poor households to afford food.

Rural communities can also face a greater scarcity of drinking water during droughts. In such cases, children are at the highest risk from inadequate water supplies during drought.

New challenges posed by climate change

The most frequently occurring natural hazards in the Caribbean are climate-related, and their impacts may increase due to climate change, FAO said. The region’s vulnerability to climate related hazards is manifested in loss of life and annual economic and financial losses that result from strong winds, flooding and drought.

Between 1970 and 2000, the Caribbean region suffered direct and indirect losses estimated at between $700 million and $3.3 billion due to natural disasters associated with weather and climate events.

So far, the region has focused mainly on floods and storms, and it currently lacks effective governance, expertise, and financial resources to deal effectively with drought issues, FAO stressed.

It also has poor national coordination, policy-making, and planning in place. While many regional and national programmes have developed responses to build resilience against the impacts of drought, the report found that too many of these are still only in a drafting phase, or are poorly implemented and in need of review.

Regional frameworks provide a necessary first step

The FAO report noted that the severity of the 2009-2010 drought – the worst in more than 40 years – served as an alarm bell for the Caribbean region.

The event forced the region to consider, particularly in light of climate change projections, the need to introduce more strategic planning and management measures to avert the potential disaster that would result by end of the century from a drier Caribbean region, according to the report.

FAO stressed, however, that the most pressing need is for countries to develop strong national initiatives. According to the report, policy-making and planning related to drought is hindered by weak governance, lack of finance and poorly coordinated land management.

“These can be overcome by strong political will that encourages participation in policy and planning processes by all actors in the social strata, enabling the sustainable development of water supplies to face the upcoming challenges,” Mr. Ford said.

Credit:  UN

Urgent Action Needed to Reduce Effects of Climate Change

Jamaica’s Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz, has described climate change as a “real and present danger” that will persist, and “critical and urgent action” must be taken by nations globally to reduce its effects.

“We are now facing a future that almost certainly will be hotter, wetter and drier due to climate change. We will continue to experience increasing temperatures as well as more frequent and intense weather events, such as hurricanes, drought and floods,” he said.

The Minister was speaking at a forum at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston, on March 23 to mark World Meteorological Day, under the theme: ‘Hotter, Drier, Wetter – Face the Future’.

Mr. Vaz said the view expressed by some interests that climate change and environmental issues “only affect some of us, and is a problem for the distant future,” is a “misconception.”

“When temperatures soar to record levels, as they did during much of last year, it is not a few who feel the heat, but all of us. When drought ravages our crops and there are outbreaks of bush fires, we all pay higher prices at the market,” he noted.

Additionally, Mr. Vaz said when floods, resulting from hurricanes or intense rainfall, damage roads and other infrastructure, “the country stands the cost of rebuilding.”

“There is little wonder, therefore, that more Ministries within the Caribbean region are including climate change within their portfolio responsibilities,” he noted.

In this regard, Mr. Vaz commended the Meteorological Service of Jamaica (MSJ) for being at the forefront of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

“Your members have been very vocal on the international scene in championing the cause of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), like Jamaica, which are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change…which highlights our true inter-dependence,” he said.

The forum was jointly staged by the Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change II (Ja REEACH II) Project and the MSJ.

It featured a panel discussion on the theme: ‘Hotter, Wetter, Drier – The Jamaican Context’, with climate change presentations by representatives of state agencies and academia, as well as an exhibition.

Ja REEACH is a four-year project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and jointly implemented with the Government of Jamaica.

It aims to safeguard agricultural and natural resource-based livelihoods, in order to improve institutional capacity to successfully adapt, mitigate and manage the effects of climate change.

World Meteorological Day is observed globally each year to promote sustainable development and to tackle climate change through the provision of the best available science and operational services for weather, climate, hydrology, oceans and the environment.

Credit: Jamaica Information Service

Jamaica’s drought tool could turn table on climate change

Drought-map_-629x432

On a very dry November 2013, Jamaica’s Meteorological Service made its first official drought forecast when the newly developed Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) was used to predict a high probability of below average rainfall in the coming three months.

By February, the agency had officially declared a drought in the eastern and central parishes of the island based on the forecasts. July’s predictions indicated that drought conditions would continue until at least September.

Said to be the island’s worst in 30 years, the 2014 drought saw Jamaica’s eastern parishes averaging rainfall of between 2 and 12 per cent, well below normal levels. Agricultural data for the period shows that production fell by more than 30 per cent over 2013 and estimates are that losses due to crop failures and wild fires amounted to US$1 billion.

Jamaica’s agricultural sector accounts for roughly seven per cent of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 20 per cent of its workforce.

The Met Service’s, Glenroy Brown told IPS, “The CPT was the main tool used by our Minister (of Water, Land, Environment & Climate Change) Robert Pickersgill throughout 2015 to advise the nation on the status of drought across the island.”

It was also used but the National Water Commission (NWC) to guide its implementation of island-wide water restrictions.

A technician with Jamaica’s Met Service, Brown designed and implemented the tool in collaboration with Simon Mason, a climate scientist from Columbia University’s International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“The tool provides a Windows package for constructing a seasonal climate drought forecast model, producing forecasts with updated rainfall and sea surface temperature data,” he explained.

The innovation was one of the first steps in building resilience under Jamaica’s national climate policy. It provides drought-monitoring forecasts that allows farmers to plan their planting around dry periods and has been “tailored for producing seasonal climate forecasts from a general circulation model (GCM), or for producing forecasts using fields of sea-surface temperatures,” Brown said.

The tool combines a number of applications including Google Earth and localized GIS maps, to generate one to five day forecasts that are country and location specific. The information is broken down and further simplified by way of colour-coded information and text messages for the not so tech-savvy user.

The tool designed by Brown and Mason also incorporated IRI’s own CPT (designed by Mason) that was already being used by Caribbean countries with small meteorological services and limited resources, to produce their own up-to-date seasonal climate forecasts. The new tool combined data on recent rainfall and rainfall predictions to provide a forecast that focused specifically on drought.

“It was important for us to design a system that addressed Jamaica’s needs upfront, but that would also be suitable for the rest of the region,” Mason noted.

The scientists explained, “Because impact of a drought is based on the duration of the rainfall” and not only the amount of rainfall, looking forward is not enough to predict droughts because of factors related to accumulation and intensification.

“What we’re doing is essentially putting a standard three-month rainfall forecast in context with recent rainfall measurements,” Mason, told USAID’s publication Frontlines last May. He noted that if below-normal rainfall activity was recorded during an unusually dry period, indications were there was a “fairly serious drought” ahead.

Sheldon Scott from Jamaica’s Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) told IPS that farmers who used the SMS information were able to avoid the worse effects of the drought.

“The impacts were visible in relation to farmers who used the information and others who didn’t, because those who did were able to manage the mitigating factors more effectively,” he said.

During the period, more than 500 farmers received text alerts and about 700,000 bulletins were sent to agricultural extension officers.

Among the farmers who signed up for text messaging service, Melonie Risden told Frontlines, “The information we received from the Met office gave us drought forecasts in terms of probabilities. We still decided to plant because we were fortunate to have access to the river and could fill up water drums ahead of time in anticipation of the drought.”

Risden lost the corn she planted on the 13-acre property in Crooked River, Clarendon, one of the parishes hardest hit by the drought with only two per cent of normal rainfall, but was able to save much of the peas, beans and hot peppers.

Six months after Jamaica’s Met Service made its ground-breaking forecast, the CIMH presented the first region-wide drought outlook at the Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum in Kingston. Now 23 other Caribbean and Central American countries are using the tool to encourage climate change resilience and inform decision-making.

“Regionally the tool is now a standard fixture across several countries within the region, including the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti. This regional effort is coordinated by the CIMH,” Brown said.

Back in Jamaica, the tool is being hailed “a game-changer” in the climate fight by Jeffery Spooner head of the Met Service, who described the CPT as “an extremely important tool in Climate Change forecasting and specifically for the agricultural – including fisheries- and water sectors for rainfall projection .”

The CPT is now also used to provide regular monthly bulletins that are published by the Meteorological Service on their web site www.jamaicaclimate.net. RADA has also continued to use the CPT in its extension service, to enhance the ability of farmers’ and other agricultural interests to improve water harvesting, planting and other activities.

Since most of the island’s small farms depend on rainfall, more farmers – including those with large holdings – are using the information to better manage water use and guide their activities, Scott said.

Local and intentional scientists have linked the extreme atmospheric conditions related to the droughts affecting Jamaica and the region to the persistent high-pressure systems that has prevented the formation of tropical cyclones to global warming and climate change.

Across the agricultural sector, Jamaica continues to feel the impacts of drought and the challenges are expected to increase with the climate change. In a 2013 agricultural sector support analysis, the Inter-American Development Bank estimated, low impact on extreme climate events on Jamaica’s agriculture sector by 2025 could reach 3.4 per cent of “baseline GDP” annually.

In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report (AR5) pointed to tools like the CPT to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Its importance to Jamaica’s and the region’s food security and water sector cannot be overlooked.

In addition to adaptation for the water sector, the CPT is being modified to provide early warning indicators for wind speeds and coral bleaching among other applications, said the report.

And as showers of blessings cooled the land and brought much relief in the closing months of the year, CPT shows the drought could well be over.

Credit: Caribbean 360

Caribbean environmental experts explore climate change and public health responses

Flooding in Cuba *Photo credits: IPS News

Flooding in Cuba *Photo credits: IPS News

The Caribbean, mainly comprised of small island nations, is the world’s most tourist-dependent region, and one of the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

Within recent times, the Region has experienced more frequent and severe storms and hurricanes, increases in mosquito-borne diseases, rises in sea level, prolonged periods of drought and salt water intrusion of coastal groundwater sources, which pose a significant threat to human health.

Recognizing the critical need to be more climate change resilient, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), UNEP-Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP CAR-RCU), and the Government of Saint Lucia, will host a Conference to address issues related to climate change and health.

Dr.-James-Hospedales-1024x682

CARPHA Executive Director Dr. James Hospedales said that because Climate Change threatens traditional public health infrastructure, the focus will be on environmental health services.

Executive Director, CARPHA, Dr. C. James Hospedales explained that “climate change threatens traditional public health infrastructure. It will stress environmental health services, such as efforts to respond to severe weather events and disease outbreaks, provide assurance of drinking water safety, and implement vector control measures.

At the same time measures like alternative transport such as biking and walking and rapid mass transport can improve population health, mitigate climate change through reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security, and reduce the import bill for oil.”  He added that the Conference “will bring together government representatives, and regional and international organizations to address issues of public health, environment and socio-economic well-being.”

The meeting, which will be held at the Golden Palm Conference Centre in Saint Lucia, runs from November 18 – 20 November, 2015, and will serve as a platform for information-sharing, and also as a “think tank” for developing innovative, Caribbean-specific solutions to our environmental health and sustainable development challenges.

Agenda items include discussions on preparations for Zika Virus and recent experiences with Chikungunya; food and water security; achievements of the Caribbean Cooperation for Health III; and a Caribbean Environmental Health Officers and Partners Planning Session.

Credit: St. Lucia News Online

CARDI Review: Improving Lives Through Agricultural Research – Issue 14

The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) has a new issue of CARDI Review. The new issue is the first of three issues which will appear in the next few months.

  • The first paper examines the issue of planting densities for hot pepper and arrives at the conclusion that yields could be increased by planting at higher intra-row densities.
  • The second paper showcases work which is being undertaken to mitigate against the effects of climate change, which already appears to be a factor that farmers have to contend with. Ten sweet potato cultivars and landraces were evaluated during the severe Trinidad dry season of 2014.

There were some clear conclusions as to the most drought tolerant: but results like this will, of course, need to be verified by further evaluations in different geographic environments. They also need to be repeated in other harsh climatic conditions before definite conclusions can be drawn. Nevertheless, much more is now known about the relative performance of the ten cultivars and landraces.

Peruse the CARDI Review: Improving Lives Through Agricultural Research

Lessons from Jamaica’s Billion-Dollar Drought

The Yallahs River, one of the main water sources for Jamaica's Mona Reservoir, has been dry for months. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The Yallahs River, one of the main water sources for Jamaica’s Mona Reservoir, has been dry for months. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

As Jamaica struggles under the burden of an ongoing drought, experts say ensuring food security for the most vulnerable groups in society is becoming one of the leading challenges posed by climate change.

“The disparity between the very rich and the very poor in Jamaica means that persons living in poverty, persons living below the poverty line, women heading households with large numbers of children and the elderly are greatly disadvantaged during this period,” Judith Wedderburn, Jamaica project director at the non-profit German political foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), told IPS.

“The food production line gets disrupted and the cost of food goes up, so already large numbers of families living in poverty have even greater difficulty in accessing locally grown food at reasonable prices.” — Judith Wedderburn of FES

“The concern is that as the climate change implications are extended for several years that these kinds of situations are going to become more and more extreme, [such as] greater floods with periods of extreme drought.”

Wedderburn, who spoke with IPS on the sidelines of a FES and Panos Caribbean workshop for journalists held here earlier this month, said Caribbean countries – which already have to grapple with a finite amount of space for food production – now have the added challenges of extreme rainfall events or droughts due to climate change.

“In Jamaica, we’ve had several months of drought, which affected the most important food production parishes in the country,” she said, adding that the problem does not end when the drought breaks.

“We are then affected by extremes of rainfall which results in flooding. The farming communities lose their crops during droughts [and] families associated with those farmers are affected. The food production line gets disrupted and the cost of food goes up, so already large numbers of families living in poverty have even greater difficulty in accessing locally grown food at reasonable prices and that contributes to substantial food insecurity – meaning people cannot easily access the food that they need to keep their families well fed.”

One local researcher predicts that things are likely to get even worse. Dale Rankine, a PhD candidate at the University of the West Indies (UWI), told IPS that climate change modelling suggests that the region will be drier heading towards the middle to the end of the century.

“We are seeing projections that suggest that we could have up to 40 percent decrease in rainfall, particularly in our summer months. This normally coincides with when we have our major rainfall season,” Rankine said.

“This is particularly important because it is going to impact most significantly on food security. We are also seeing suggestions that we could have increasing frequency of droughts and floods, and this high variability is almost certainly going to impact negatively on crop yields.”

He pointed to “an interesting pattern” of increased rainfall over the central regions, but only on the outer extremities, while in the west and east there has been a reduction in rainfall.

“This is quite interesting because the locations that are most important for food security, particularly the parishes of St. Elizabeth [and] Manchester, for example, are seeing on average reduced rainfall and so that has implications for how productive our production areas are going to be,” Rankine said.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced recently that September 2014 was the hottest in 135 years of record keeping. It noted that during September, the globe averaged 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit (15.72 degrees Celsius), which was the fourth monthly record set this year, along with May, June and August.

According to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Centre, the first nine months of 2014 had a global average temperature of 58.72 degrees (14.78 degrees Celsius), tying with 1998 for the warmest first nine months on record.

Robert Pickersgill, Jamaica’s water, land, environment and climate change minister, said more than 18,000 small farmers have been affected by the extreme drought that has been plaguing the country for months.

He said the agricultural sector has lost nearly one billion dollars as a result of drought and brush fires caused by extreme heat waves.

Pickersgill said reduced rainfall had significantly limited the inflows from springs and rivers into several of the country’s facilities.

“Preliminary rainfall figures for the month of June indicate that Jamaica received only 30 per cent of its normal rainfall and all parishes, with the exception of sections of Westmoreland (54 percent), were in receipt of less than half of their normal rainfall. The southern parishes of St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Thomas along with St Mary and Portland were hardest hit,” Pickersgill said.

Clarendon, he said, received only two percent of its normal rainfall, followed by Manchester with four percent, St. Thomas six percent, St. Mary eight percent, and 12 percent for Kingston and St. Andrew.

Additionally, Pickersgill said that inflows into the Mona Reservoir from the Yallahs and Negro Rivers are now at 4.8 million gallons per day, which is among the lowest since the construction of the Yallahs pipeline in 1986, while inflows into the Hermitage Dam are currently at six million gallons per day, down from more than 18 million gallons per day during the wet season.

“It is clear to me that the scientific evidence that climate change is a clear and present danger is now even stronger. As such, the need for us to mitigate and adapt to its impacts is even greater, and that is why I often say, with climate change, we must change,” Pickersgill told IPS.

Wedderburn said Jamaica must take immediate steps to adapt to climate change.

“So the challenge for the government is to explore what kinds of adaptation methods can be used to teach farmers how to do more successful water harvesting so that in periods of severe drought their crops can still grow so that they can have food to sell to families at reasonable prices to deal with the food insecurity.”

 Credit: IPS News

Jamaica to host Youth Climate Change Conference

Youth Climate Change Conference

Youth Climate Change Conference

The USAID-funded Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change (Ja REEACH) project is hosting a mock United Nations-style assembly on climate change at the inaugural Youth Climate Change Conference in Kingston, Jamaica on September 14, 2014.
Themed, "One Climate, One Future...Empowering Youth for Action" high school delegates will deliberate on the availability, access, and quality of water in Jamaica, a relevant and timely issue considering the country's current drought condition.
The assembly will discuss the rights and use of water across Jamaica's social and economic sectors, focusing on tourism, agriculture and fisheries, manufacturing and industry, health and recreation, and the environment. The deliberations will be collated to formulate a youth position on risk management strategies and actions for sustainable use of the resource in the face of a changing climate.
The conference will also incorporate a poster competition, exhibit of climate information, water conservation and clean technology solutions display, a concert and a fashion show.
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