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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

Webinar: Flooding and Climate Change in Jamaica, risk to Vulnerable Communities.

CDKN

Join CDKN for a webinar on Aug 19, 2015 at 10:00 AM COT.

Register now! 

Flooding from extreme rainfall events is one of the major natural hazards affecting Jamaica and other small island states in the Caribbean. Jamaica has already experienced several major floods and climate-related hazards in the last decade; the social and economic cost of which has been estimated at US$18.6 billion. Clearly, increased in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events associated with climate change are a major risk to national infrastructure, development progress and the welfare of vulnerable communities.

Despite this very real threat, current flood maps in Jamaica are out of date, education on flood safety is poor and adaptive capacity in flood-prone communities is low. A new project, implemented by the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, is attempting to tackle these deficiencies.

In this webinar, hosted by CDKN, Dr. Arpita Mandal of UWI will present the results from this research project which focuses on the vulnerable communities along the the Yallahs river, as well as communities around the Orange River watershed in Negril. The project aims to create improved flood-preparedness models for these two watersheds, using information from past extreme rainfall events to create maps to plan for future flood risk. The ultimate goal was to model extreme events and create five, ten and twenty-five-year flood risk maps for both present and future climate projections. In the webinar Dr Mandal will also discuss about the importance of working with communities and adapt the results of models to their daily lives and the challenges that they are facing as a result of climate change. These map-based decision-making tool are designed to assist policy-makers in creating or revising effective flood mitigation measures, evacuation strategies and national disaster risk management plans. This will also help determine the adaptation measures that can be adopted by communities to respond to increasing flood risk, and protect those most vulnerable.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

View System Requirements

The Flooding Project in Jamaica was funded by CDKN and managed by CARIBSAVE. It was a collaborative research between Arpita Mandal of Dept of Geography and Geology, UWI Mona, Dr Matthew Wilson of Dept of Geograny, University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, Climate Studies Group, UWI MONA Jamaica, David Smith of Institute of Sustainable Development, UWI MONA, Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust and Dr Arpita Nandi of East Tennessee State University, USA.

Climate Policy Goes Hand-in-Hand with Water Policy

Guyana beverage manufacturer Banks DIH Limited treats all waste water, making it safe for disposal into the environment. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Guyana beverage manufacturer Banks DIH Limited treats all waste water, making it safe for disposal into the environment. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Concerned that climate change could lead to an intensification of the global hydrological cycle, Caribbean stakeholders are working to ensure it is included in the region’s plans for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

The basis of IWRM is that the many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent. High irrigation demands and polluted drainage flows from agriculture mean less freshwater for drinking or industrial use.

Contaminated municipal and industrial wastewater pollutes rivers and threatens ecosystems. If water has to be left in a river to protect fisheries and ecosystems, less can be diverted to grow crops.

Meanwhile, around the world, variability in climate conditions, coupled with new socioeconomic and environmental developments, have already started having major impacts.

The Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GWP-C), which recently brought international and regional stakeholders together for a conference in Trinidad, is aimed at better understanding the climate system and the hydrological cycle and how they are changing; boosting awareness of the impacts of climate change on society, as well as the risk and uncertainty in the context of water and climate change and especially variability; and examining adaptation options in relation to water and climate change.

“Basically we’re looking to integrate aspects of climate change and climate variability and adaptation into the Caribbean water sector,” Natalie Boodram, programme manager of the Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP), told IPS.

“And this is a very big deal for us because under predicted climate change scenarios we’re looking at things like drier dry seasons, more intense hurricanes, when we do get rain we are going to get more intense rain events, flooding.

“All of that presents a substantial challenge for managing our water resources. So under the GWP-C WACDEP, we’re doing a number of things to help the region adapt to this,” she added.

Current variability and long-term climate change impacts are most severe in a large part of the developing world, and particularly affect the poorest.

Through its workshops, GWP-C provides an opportunity for partners and stakeholders to assess the stage of the IWRM process that various countries have reached and work together to operationalise IWRM in their respective countries.

Integrated Water Resources Management is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

IWRM helps to protect the world’s environment, foster economic growth and sustainable agricultural development, promote democratic participation in governance, and improve human health.

GWP-C regional co-ordinator, Wayne Joseph, said the regional body is committed to institutionalising and operationalising IWRM in the region.

“Our major programme is the WACDEP Programme, Water and Climate Development Programme, and presently we are doing work in four Caribbean Countries – Jamaica, Antigua, Guyana and St. Lucia,” he told IPS.

“We’re gender-sensitive. We ensure that the youth are incorporated in what we do and so we provide a platform, a neutral platform, so that issues can be discussed that pertain to water and good water resources management.”

The Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) is a non-profit, civil society body that focuses its resources on empowering Caribbean young people and their communities to develop programmes and actions to address socioeconomic and environmental issues.

Rianna Gonzales, the national coordinator of the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter, has welcomed the initiative of the GWP-C as being very timely and helpful, adding that the region’s youth have a very important role to play in the process.

“I think it’s definitely beneficial for young people to be part of such a strategic group of people in terms of getting access to resources and experts…so that we will be better able to communicate on water related issues,” she told IPS.

The CYEN programme aims at addressing issues such as poverty alleviation and youth employment, health and HIV/AIDS, climatic change and global warming, impact of natural disasters/hazards, improvement in potable water, conservation and waste management and other natural resource management issues.

The GWP-C said the Caribbean region has been exposed to IWRM and it is its goal to work together with its partners and stakeholders at all levels to implement IWRM in the Caribbean.

“A very significant activity for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States has been to prepare a Water Sector Model Policy and Model Water Act which proposes to remedy the key water resources management issues through new institutional arrangements and mechanisms that include water and waste water master planning, private sector and community partnership and investment mechanisms,” GWP-C chair Judy Daniel told IPS.

IWRM has not been fully integrated in the policy, legal and planning frameworks in the Caribbean although several territories have developed/drafted IWRM Policies, Roadmaps and Action plans. Some of these countries include: Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana, Jamaica; The Bahamas; Trinidad and Tobago; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency

Caribbean Governments now insured against excess rainfall

The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) is pleased to announce that eight of its members have become the first countries to purchase its excess rainfall insurance coverage – for the 2014/2015 policy year.

Developed by CCRIF and global reinsurer, Swiss Re, the excess rainfall product is aimed primarily at extreme high rainfall events of short duration (a few hours to a few days), whether they happen during a tropical cyclone (hurricane) or not. Like CCRIF’s tropical cyclone and earthquake insurance, the excess rainfall product is parametric and estimates the impacts of heavy rain using satellite rainfall data from the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM) and exposure from CCRIF’s risk estimation database. Because the excess rainfall product is parametric, a payout can be made quickly (within 14 days) after a rain event that triggers a country’s policy, without waiting for time-consuming damage and loss assessments on the ground.

CCRIF CEO, Mr. Isaac Anthony, stated that “The new excess rainfall product has been eagerly awaited by Caribbean governments as we all realize that considerable damage in the region is caused by rainfall and flooding. This product complements CCRIF’s hurricane coverage which determines losses based on wind and storm surge. We commend our eight members for taking the initiative and purchasing this ground-breaking product and hope that other countries in the region will follow.”

In expressing Swiss Re’s support, Mr. Martyn Parker, Chairman, Global Partnerships stressed, “Securing excess rainfall insurance protection demonstrates that Caribbean countries are taking a proactive approach to manage the contingent risks posed by climate change. Swiss Re is proud to support them in their efforts to ensure fiscal stability after a disaster.”

These countries will now be able to respond better  to an event such as the trough that brought heavy rains to the Eastern Caribbean in December last year, which resulted in loss of life, extensive damage to infrastructure and wide-spread economic disruption. The excess rainfall product is independent of the tropical cyclone product and if both policies are triggered by an event then both payouts are due.

Taking into consideration the fiscal challenges that many of our members face and their increasing levels of vulnerability, CCRIF continues to work towards reducing the overall premium cost to members. To this end, for the 2014-2015 policy year, CCRIF offered two one-off premium discount options due to a third successive year in which none of the policies held by member countries were triggered by an event. The two discount options were: a 25% discount on tropical cyclone and earthquake policy premium if no excess rainfall policy is purchased; and up to a 50% discount if applied to an excess rainfall policy.

Also, as done previously, for 2014/2015 policies, CCRIF allowed 50% of the total premium to be held as paid-in Participation Fee (the one-time fee paid when a country joins the Facility), with the excess therefore being available to co-fund premium, providing an opportunity to further reduce current expenditure on policy premiums. Additionally, countries which have not already done so can exercise the option to reduce their attachment point to a 10-year return period for tropical cyclones. This would result in coverage being secured for events that occur more frequently than was previously available.

As the main part of the Atlantic Hurricane Season approaches, CCRIF remains committed to supporting its members in their disaster risk management initiatives and their progress towards climate resiliency.

Note: TRMM is a research initiative undertaken by the US National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

About CCRIF: CCRIF is a not-for-profit risk pooling facility, owned, operated and registered in the Caribbean for Caribbean governments. It is designed to limit the financial impact of catastrophic hurricanes and earthquakes to Caribbean governments by quickly providing short-term liquidity when a parametric insurance policy is triggered. It is the world’s first regional fund utilising parametric insurance, giving Caribbean governments the unique opportunity to purchase earthquake and hurricane catastrophe coverage withlowest-possible pricing. CCRIF was developed under the technical leadership of the World Bank and with a grant from the Government of Japan. It was capitalised through contributions to a multi-donor Trust Fund by the Government of Canada, the European Union, the World Bank, the governments of the UK and France, the Caribbean Development Bank and the governments of Ireland and Bermuda, as well as through membership fees paid by participating governments. Since the inception of CCRIF in 2007, the Facility has made eight payouts totalling US$32,179,470 to seven member governments. All payouts were transferred to the respective governments within two weeks after each event.
For more information about CCRIF, please visit the CCRIF website at www.ccrif.org or send an email to pr@ccrif.org.
 
Credit: The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facilty

President Ramotar lauds work of region’s Climate Change Centre – as task force is set up

(Left to Right) Selwin Hart, Dr. Kenrick Leslie, Dr. Ulric Trotz

(Left to Right) Selwin Hart, Dr. Kenrick Leslie, Dr. Ulric Trotz

President Donald Ramotar lauded the work of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC) during his presentation today, to CARICOM Heads of Government during their 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting at the Buccament Bay Resort, Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Leaders agreed to establish a CARICOM Climate Change Task Force to provide guidance to Caribbean climate change negotiators, their Ministers and the region’s political leaders. The CCCCC, along with the CARICOM Secretariat has been tasked with setting up the task force and facilitating its work.

Guyana has been playing a lead role with regards to climate change, and priority projects on adaptation are outlined within its visionary Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which seeks to address the effects of climate change while simultaneously encouraging economic development.

The CARICOM Heads also reaffirmed the mandate of the CCCCC, to develop in partnership with member states, a portfolio of bankable projects eligible for climate financing and which is to be presented to the donor community for support.

The Centre is recognised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and other international agencies as the focal point for climate change issues in the Caribbean.

“This is a critical decision by Heads at a time when efforts are underway through the UN (United Nations) to have a global climate change agreement by the end of 2015. We need to ensure that as a region, our voices are being heard on this important issue, and not only from our technical people, but from the collective political leadership in the region,” President Ramotar noted.

He re-emphasised the need for there to be a globally binding agreement on climate change.

“We have to ensure that we push for a climate change agreement by 2015 which is ambitious in terms of emission reduction targets and providing climate financing,” the Head of State said.

He also stressed that, despite the difficulties faced with climate financing and support for adaptation and climate resilience, the region needs to aggressively tap into opportunities that exist now, while it organises for future possibilities.  

The President noted that the CCCCC and Guyana have been working closely since its establishment and closer ties are being developed as part of the LCDS implementation.

The CCCCC coordinates the Caribbean region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and on the region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change in the Caribbean, its website states.

On June 8, 2009 former President Bharrat Jagdeo launched the LCDS that outlines Guyana’s vision to promote economic development, while at the same time combating climate change.  A revised version was published on May 24, 2010 and subsequently the LCDS update was launched in March 2013.

Major efforts have been taken to build the country’s capacity to adapt to the anticipated impacts of climate, including extreme weather patterns and sea-level rise leading to flooding.

The LCDS will support the upgrading of infrastructure and assets to protect against flooding through urgent, near-term measures. Specifically, the LCDS update, identified the project area “Climate Resilience, Adaptation and Water Management Initiatives” for which up to US$100 million will be allocated to improve Guyana’s capacity to address climate change.

Published by: GINA and Kaieteur News.

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