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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

‘1.5 To Stay Alive’ Campaign Hailed A Success By CARICOM

CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and Dr James Fletcher, who led CARICOM negotiators, in discussion with regional heads of government, ministers and negotiators at the Paris Climate Talks.

The ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’ campaign – run primarily in the lead-up to and during the recent international climate talks in Paris – has been given praise by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman Freundel Stuart.

“CARICOM’s interests were strongly represented in a focused and coordinated manner by heads of government, ministers, the CARICOM secretary-general (Irwin LaRocque)and his staff, and a team of experienced and skilled negotiators led by Dr the Honourable James Fletcher. We are satisfied that our strong advocacy helped to ensure that the [final] agreement reflected the region’s position on our major red-line issues,” Stuart, who is also prime minister of Barbados, said in a release issued by the CARICOM Secretariat through Panos Caribbean.

“The region’s successful campaign, built around the slogan ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’, received energetic support from several groups and organisations, including youth and cultural artistes, whose efforts must be applauded,” added Stuart.

The campaign kicked off in October with a launch event held in St Lucia. At the same time, a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account were established to promote Caribbean negotiating positions and to expose the region’s climate challenges.

Later, a theme song – the collaborative effort of a number of regional acts – was released.

Several other activities, including a Selfie Video Challenge and a flash mob, were also implemented to get Caribbean people in the know and behind the campaign effort.

At the talks, the region, for the first time, had a pavilion – called the Wider Caribbean Pavilion – that afforded the space for strategy meetings by regional negotiators and networking among players.

Caribbean artistes Aaron Silk of Jamaica and Adrian ‘The Doc’ Martinez of Belize were also on hand to spread, through music, the ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’ message, and were big hits with participants.

PAID OFF

In the end, Stuart said it all paid off.

“We believe that the actions and investment approved in the agreement will bring us closer to the goal of maintaining global average temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius and along a clear trajectory downwards towards 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels,” he said.

“That agreement will also help to realise the goals of lower greenhouse gas emissions, greater resilience, and sustainable development, especially among the small-island and low-lying coastal developing states (SIDS), with the most vulnerable populations such as the countries of the Caribbean. We determinedly and successfully promoted recognition of the special circumstances and vulnerabilities of SIDS, which are among the lowest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, but are the most threatened by climate change,” Stuart added.

One Jamaican actor involved in the negotiations agreed that the Caribbean could feel satisfied with the result.

“The CARICOM region can be satisfied with the outcome, which retains the recognition under the (United Nations Framework) Convention (on Climate Change), of the fact that SIDS have specific needs and face special circumstances which render our territories particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. We have also secured a decision for equal funding for adaptation and mitigation,” noted Colonel Oral Khan, a member of the Jamaica delegation to Paris and chief technical director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change.

“This is very significant for us as the science is telling us that the concentration of greenhouse gases is already at a level that can be catastrophic. We, therefore, cannot await the benefits from current mitigation efforts, which will be realised over the next half a century. There are things we must do now to protect vital sectors of our economy and the lives of our people,” he added.

What remains is to have these things actioned.

“The international community must now retain the energising and uplifting spirit of Paris in the process going forward. The world expects no less,” Stuart said.

Credit: Jamaica Gleaner

Stakes High for Caribbean at Climate Change Conference

Stakes High For Caribbean At Climate Change Conference

As the highly anticipated Climate Change Conference begins today in Paris, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) lead Head on Climate Change and Sustainable Development is issuing a grave warning.

St. Lucia’s Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony says that “unless we can get the countries that are the major emitters of greenhouse gases to commit to more ambitious reductions, the Caribbean will be confronted with more extreme storms and hurricanes, more frequent and prolonged droughts, dangerous sea-level rise that will wash away roads, homes, hotels, and ports in every island; greater food insecurity and more acidic oceans that will kill our corals, damage our fish stock and negatively impact our tourism industries.”

Heads of State and Government, Ministers responsible for the Environment, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Scientists and other stakeholders are coming together in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to negotiate a new global climate change agreement.

Credit: ZIZ Online

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

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

Dramatic Climate Change Factor for Masses of Sargasso from Texas to Tobago

sargasso in cancun

Beach resorts in Mexico continue to deal with the intrusive Sargasso problem that has left nearly all of its pristine beaches under a thick layer of the brown seaweed.

There has been an estimated 90 tons of sargassum algae washed up on Cancun’s beaches causing some tourists to cancel their sunny beach vacations. Mexican authorities are doing their best to deal with the issue, having recruited hundreds of diggers and machinery to clear the beaches.

The problem is not only along the Mexican coast though.

Since May, the seaweed has hit nearly every part of the Caribbean, causing major headaches from Texas all the way to the island of Tobago in the south Caribbean.

Scientists say that the seaweed is an important part of the coastal eco-system and explain that it plays an important role in beach nourishment. They also say that they have associated the massive quantities of this year’s seaweed in the Caribbean region with higher than normal temperatures and low winds, two elements that influence ocean currents.

sargasso playa del carmen beaches

Sargassum is a floating algae that circulates through the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic where it forms the nearly 2 million-square-kilometer Sargasso Sea.

It is common for the seaweed to wash up on beaches in the Gulf, southern US Atlantic coast and northern Caribbean during the spring and summer months.

In 2011, however, the unwanted seaweed began showing up in unprecedented amounts, often in places it had never been seen before.

One example is a three-mile stretch of beach on Galveston Island, Texas where, over a 24-hour period, scientists recorded more than 8,400 tons of it. That occurred in a single day in May 2014.

Jim Franks, a senior research scientist at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, reports that the seaweed is showing up in areas where before, it had been seen only rarely or not all. He says that circulation patterns in the equatorial Atlantic even carried mats to Africa for the first time. Satellite data suggest the amount of sargassum in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Atlantic may hit an all-time high in 2015.

Tobago’s Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment began removing sargassum from 16 beaches in early May, but officials admit their efforts were futile as the seaweed simply continued to wash ashore.

There have been many dramatic changes to the environment in recent years. The results of this dramatic climate change appears to be a factor in the reason for the explosion in sargassum. This means the seaweed-covered beaches from Texas to Tobago could be the new norm, a major inconvenience for beachgoers and a potential economic disaster for tourism industries.

Credit: Riviera Maya News

Caribbean Coral Reef Leaders Complete Intensive Fellowship at the Great Barrier Reef

Credits: Environmental Graffiti

Photo Credit: Environmental Graffiti

Coral reefs in the Caribbean are amongst the most at risk globally. The loss of reefs is also a serious economic problem in the region, where large populations depend on fishing and tourism. Having lost 80% of its corals over the last half century, mainly due to a changing and variable climate, coastal development and pollution, the Caribbean is seeking to turn the tide through partnerships. A group of five coral reef managers from across the Caribbean recently participated in an intensive three week Coral Reef Management Fellowship programme at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia – the best managed reef in the world.

The Caribbean contingent was among a group of 12 fellows, including their peers from the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Caribbean fellows are: Roland Baldeo (Grenada), Andrea Donaldson and Christine O’Sullivan (Jamaica), Michelle Kalamandeen (Guyana) and Andrew Lockhart (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

The fellows visited government departments, research stations, farms, schools and other reef-associated operations. They experienced the Great Barrier Reef and many facets of catchment to reef management through direct interactions with a diversity of land and sea habitats, scientists, managers, farmers, educators, media, volunteers and industry leaders. The Fellowship also included home-stays with local marine scientists as part of a cultural exchange.

This was a rare and valuable experience as it brought together coral reef managers from diverse locations to gain and share expertise. Dr Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, welcomed the successful completion of the fellowship, noting:

“This is an excellent programme to boost understanding of marine protected areas and the role it can play in sustainable development. It gives our people an opportunity to see how effective coral reef management is done in another community. Importantly, they are gaining insights from the major work being done to rectify some of the issues with the world’s longest barrier reef. It’s a unique experience.”

Citing the fellows’ exposure to an intensive leadership course at Orpheus Island Research Station, which included theory and exercises to plan, problem solve and teamwork, Dr Leslie urged the fellows to be agents of change across the Caribbean.

“At this point in our development it is important that we ensure that whatever we do, we do not make the assumption that resources are unlimited and that all our actions are resilient and our environment is protected,” Dr Leslie added.

The Caribbean and Pacific fellows are part of an Australia Awards Fellowship programme funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, titled Improving coral reef management for sustainable development in the Caribbean and Pacific. Australia Awards are prestigious international Scholarships and Fellowships funded by the Australian Government to build capacity and strengthen partnerships. The programme supports short-term study, research and professional development opportunities in Australia for mid-career professionals and emerging leaders.

The fellowship programme was organised and hosted by Reef Ecologic, an environmental consulting company with expertise on coral reef management, which was founded by former Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority employees Dr Adam Smith and Dr Paul Marshall.

“We have observed the decline of coral reefs globally and we recognized that training of future leaders is essential for turning the tide towards a more sustainable future. Australia is the world leader in coral reef conservation and marine resource management. This Fellowship is a chance to share Australia’s expertise with the world,” said Dr Marshall.

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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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5Cs Wins Energy Globe Award for Renewable Energy and Potable Water Project in Bequia, St Vincent and the Grenadines

St.Vincent_and_theGrenadines_banner2015

SVG Certificate

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) received the 2015 Energy Globe Award for its renewable energy and potable water work in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Energy Globe, an internationally recognized trademark for sustainability, is one of the most important environmental prizes today with 177 participating countries. The award, which is made from a cross-section of over 1, 500 entries annually, is given in recognition of outstanding performance in terms of energy efficiency, renewable energy and resource conservation.

The CCCCC won the 2015 Energy Globe National Award for the project “Special Programme for Adaptation to Climate Change”. The project was executed on the island of Bequia in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and focuses on the production and provision of clean drinking water for more than 1,000 people. This is being done through the acquisition and installation of a reverse osmosis desalination plant. The project is deemed highly sustainable as the water input is inexhaustible sea water and the energy used is solar, a renewable, carbon-free source.

 Learn more about the project!

The landmark project was also presented by Energy Globe as part of a global online campaign (www.energyglobe.info) on World Environment Day. The campaign ran under the patronage of UNESCO and in cooperation with UNEP and received significant recognition.

“To be honoured with this award is a great recognition of our work for a better environment and motivates us to continue our endeavours in the future,” – Henrik Personn, Renewable Energy Expert, CCCCC

Since completing this key project, we have applied the lessons learned in Belize and on the Grenadian islands of Petite Martinique and Carriacou. Review the poster below to learn more about the progress we are making in Grenada:

Credit: CCCCC

Do you have an excellent project? Submit it for the Energy Globe Award 2016. Review the details on www.energyglobe.info.

Grenadian Youngsters Raise Awareness About Climate Change (Video)

 

How to raise awareness about the effects of climate change, particularly amongst the youth? Grenada might have found the answer!

On Wednesday, 15th October, the Grenada Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, in conjunction with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) unveiled a recently produced music video which will champion climate change awareness activities in the Isle of Spice, particularly amongst the youth. After only three days the video was clicked more than 1500 times on YouTube.

The song, entitled “Can’t Do This Alone”, was written by three budding young artistes, Jevon “Avonni” Langaigne, Elon “Eclipse” Cambridge and Edison “Swipe” Thomas. The music video was commissioned by GIZ and produced by Arthur Daniel, with the assistance of the Grenada True Blue Bay Boutique Resort.

Swipe, Aclipse, Avonni-1

The video was filmed at several locations in Grenada and Carriacou which are vulnerable to the negative impacts of Climate Change. Commenting on their experience producing the video, Jevon Langaigne said, “This has been a truly amazing experience for us, as we all want to pursue careers in music and entertainment. We recorded the song in 2012 for the competition “Spice it up- Sing for preparedness” on Disaster Awareness and are very excited that our song was selected to spread the message on Climate Change Adaptation. We were most impressed with the quality of the video production which rivals videos produced internationally.”

Swipe,Eclipse,Avonni-2

The video was produced under the Integrated Climate Change Adaptation Strategies (ICCAS) project, which is currently being implemented throughout Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

The overarching goal of ICCAS is to increase resilience of vulnerable communities and ecosystems to climate change risks. New is the integrated and cross-sectoral approach of the project: Instead of only implementing isolated measures, the project offers an integrated approach by linking local activities with national policies and sector-specific experiences with comprehensive intervention packages. For example, at the national level, the project supports the institutionalization of a systematic risk analysis by using the Caribbean Climate Change Online Risk and Adaptation Tool (CCORAL), a seminal tool produced and managed by by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre. An important role for the success of the project is the involvement of the local population through a “Community Adaptation Fund” accessible for tangible, visible adaptation action on the ground. Finally the project supports Grenada in gaining access to longterm funding for adaptation measures. This comprehensive approach should serve as a “good-practice” example for other countries in the region.

Swipe,Eclipse,Avonni-3

The ICCAS project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety under the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and jointly implemented by the Government of Grenada, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

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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