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Politicians must act to cap global warming when they meet at a United Nations summit at the end of the year as the financial and humanitarian consequences of natural catastrophes become ever clearer, reinsurers meeting at an industry conference said.
The $600 billion reinsurance industry helps insurance companies pay damage claims from hurricanes, floods or earthquakes and can help people and companies get back on their feet after a disaster.
The UN’s climate boss warned this week that national promises to cut emissions so far would cap warming at an unacceptably high level, heightening concerns in the insurance industry about politicians’ lack of resolve.
“Definitely we expect political courage to move in a direction that shows responsibility towards future generations and a certain interest in defending the sustainability of this planet,” Swiss Re’s Chief Executive, Michel Lies, told a news conference.
Swiss Re data shows natural disasters caused an average $180 billion in economic damage per year over the last decade, of which 70 percent was uninsured.
Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said big natural catastrophes can also lead to cuts in sovereign credit ratings — making it more expensive for governments to borrow money — with Latin America and the Caribbean most at risk.
These conclusions should help concentrate minds at the climate talks starting in Paris on Nov. 30, reinsurers said.
“What we can bring to the table is a credible price tag for the decisions that are taken or not taken, making sure everybody understands that in the short term you may not take a decision but you will definitely pay a price in the long term,” Lies said.
Weather researchers say global warming will result in more frequent and intense heatwaves, precipitation and storms. Warming needs to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels to avoid the most devastating consequences in the form of droughts and rising sea levels, scientists say.
“Even if this goal is not fully reached, every step in this direction is better than no result at all,” said Peter Hoeppe, head of Geo Risks Research at reinsurer Munich Re.
In the meantime, there must be increasing focus on preventive measures such as flood defences that can help dampen the rise in insurance premiums in the medium to long term, Hoeppe said.
Insurers and Group of Seven industrialized countries are working to expand the availability of insurance to an additional 400 million people in developing countries considered at high risk.
“Climate change is happening, no question,” said XL Group’s Chief Executive, Mike McGavick.
“Insurers and reinsurers have to be at the forefront of transferring that risk,” McGavick said.
Credit: St. Louis Post Dispatch
Fishers of Bluefields Bay tell stories of a time when the coral grew so high parts of the reef were impassable, when boats had to navigate around the coral tips emerging out of the Caribbean’s blue waters. Four decades later a trip underwater will show you a seafloor still covered with the skeletons of these same corals. Due to the effects of hurricanes, decline of algae grazers and climate change, the once lush thicket is only a story told around a bottle of Red Stripe beer and a cup of fish soup (since the fish is too scarce to cook any other way).
Until now. The climate isn’t the only thing changing for some communities around the Caribbean. In Bluefields Bay, Jamaica, the community has come together with the Government to establish one of the fourteen (14) fish sanctuaries island wide. Since 2009, the community based organisation, Bluefields Bay Fishermen’s Friendly Society (BBFFS) has managed the sanctuary with enforcement, public awareness and community engagement. Many of the sanctuary Wardens are former or part-time fishers who can tell the stories of what it used to be like, and now the stories of how things are changing for the better.
A new chapter has started for this community – one of partnerships and growth – and one which hopefully will bring the old memories of corals back to life again. The branching species of coral – Elkhorn coral ( Acropora cervicornis) and Staghorn coral ( Acropora palmata) – which are now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have long been known to provide a good habitat for fish, and provide shoreline protection from storm surges (see reference). They, along with the Fire coral (Millepora complanata), have more recently been used by the Coral Restoration Foundation International (CRFI) in large scale restoration projects in the region.
In early 2015, CRFI in partnership with CARIBSAVE, Sandals Foundation, the Fisheries Division and BBFFS completed the installation of a coral garden at Bluefields Bay’s – the first of its kind on Jamaica’s south coast. This was done through funding provided by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and with co-funding from CARIBSAVE’s C-FISH Initiative.
During this time, 12 persons from a wide range of stakeholders including fishermen were trained in the techniques of ‘coral gardening’. They also participated in the processes needed to assemble and install the coral nursery, such as searching for, fragmenting (coined as ‘fragging’) and hanging of the corals. A total of 1324 coral fragments or nubbins from 25 different colonies were hung in the nursery. Over the course of the next few months the coral fragments should grow, and when large enough will be out-planted to the reefs.
As a beneficiary of the C-FISH Initiative, the Bluefields Bay fish sanctuary has shown great promise in being a successful flagship site and this is yet another step on the road to the promising future.
Special thanks to the Government of Jamaica (The Fisheries Division and National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA)) who recognized the importance of this activity and gave invaluable support; to Sandals Foundation who provided assistance; to the team from CRFI who shared their passion and expertise; and to the fishers and wardens who volunteered with great enthusiasm and dedication and were a big asset and source of inspiration and encouragement.
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
Our climate is changing, but do you know the difference between Climate and Weather?
Climate and weather have one difference. Weather measures the conditions of the atmosphere, through temperature, humidity, wind and precipitation, over a short period of time (day, week and month). Climate is the average weather for a particular region and time period, usually taken over 30 years. The climate system is very complex and studying it does not only mean looking at what is going on in the atmosphere but also in the ground, oceans, glaciers and so forth.
Climate change doesn’t mean variability will stop, in the same way that climate change won’t cause hurricanes to stop in the Caribbean. What is happening in Europe can be attributed to the natural variability effect; there’s late winter effect and early winter effect. So this must be seen in a global sense.
While Europe may be experiencing a late winter, others might be experiencing an early spring effect. Last year, in the United States, they had very early spring
~Dr Kenrick Leslie, CBE, Executive Director, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre
Interview with the Jamaica Observer, June 2013
Connect with us and learn more about climate change:
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.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Monday he would use his six month term as chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping to deal with the deleterious effects climate change is having on the socio-economic future of the 15-member bloc.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Dominica are now emerging from the effects of a weather system that left a trail of death and destruction over the Christmas holidays.
Caribbean countries have also had to deal with the annual hurricane season and in many cases, like in Haiti, unseasonal rains that cause widespread devastation.
“The big issue…is global warming, climate change. We are having systems affecting us outside of the normal rainy season and the normal hurricane season,” he said making reference to the floods in April last year and the Christmas Eve rains that resulted in the deaths of nine people and hundreds of millions of dollars in damages here.
“There are lots of monies which countries talk about for adaptation and mitigation to climate change. But I haven’t seen the money yet and we have to use our diplomacy as a region and we have to be aggressive with our climate change center in Belize.
“In my term as chairman of CARICOM this is one of the issues which you will recall I said earlier on…I want dealt with during my term in a continued serious and structured way, (and it) has to deal with the deleterious effect of climate change and to get the requisite responses from the international community in relation to this matter”.
Gonsalves told a news conference that the region does not contribute “anything to these man made weather systems, these problems with putting so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“We are …on the front line,” he said, adding that “this is an issue which is big”.
Gonsalves said that efforts were now underway to stage an international donors’ conference to help the three affected islands recover and rebuild their battered infrastructures.
He said he had already received a letter from Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who is also chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), outlining plans for an international donors’ conference.
“There is a letter which Baldwin sent to me which I have reviewed and make one or two slight alterations and suggestions, but we have to prepare for a donors’ conference well, maybe in March may be in February… but we have to prepare for it well so that we can get the donors to make pledges,” he said, recalling a similar conference had taken place to help Grenada after it was battered by a recent hurricane.
“I know some of the donors came through and others did not, but at least we need to do that to lift the profile,” Gonsalves said.
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister told reporters that an insurance scheme organized through the World Bank, to which all the Caribbean countries contribute, does not go far enough.
“To the extent that the monies you get from the Catastrophic Relief Insurance System is fairly minimal, but of course every little bit helps,” he said.
Gonsalves said he had already written to the leaders of several countries and was now waiting to see “what kind of grant assistance we can get because we really need grants preferably.
“The World Bank will give soft loan monies, the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) will give soft loan monies, the European Union will give grants, Venezuela will give grants, (and) Taiwan will give grants”.
Dr David J. Keeling, Distinguished University Professor of Geography at Western Kentucky University, says “Climate change impacts, both long-term and short-term, are likely to have serious repercussions for Belizean communities without a detailed and comprehensive management plan for accessibility and mobility”. Peruse his exclusive contribution to Caribbean Climate.
Links between climate change and transportation may not seem obvious at first glance, especially when considering the broader social and economic impacts of weather shifts over time and space. The short-term effects of climate events such as tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal surges, or flash floods capture the attention of the media, emergency personnel, and these populations affected primarily because of the immediate humanitarian considerations. People need rescuing, emergency shelters must be provided, potable water and food are needed, and emergency services are charged with helping the devastated communities to recover. Without transportation infrastructure, and without the means to provide accessibility to, and mobility within, the affected areas, tragedy would be compounded. Roads especially are critical to this recovery effort, particularly in poorer regions of a country or in more isolated rural areas, because often this is the only basic infrastructure available to connect people to the outside world.
A longer view of climate change impacts on people and places requires governments and societies to think about transportation in different ways. Of course, we understand intuitively that transport improvements are critical to socio-economic growth and wellbeing, but this does not necessarily translate into concrete policy in many parts of the world, especially Latin America. In Brazil, for example, Latin America’s most robust economy and most populated country, less than 10 percent of the country’s roads are paved, compared to nearly 60 percent in China or 99 percent in Thailand. In smaller countries such as Belize that have fewer available resources, the transportation challenges are more critical and immediate. Climate change impacts, both long-term and short-term, are likely to have serious repercussions for Belizean communities without a detailed and comprehensive management plan for accessibility and mobility.
Less than 20 percent of Belize’s roads are paved, many are two-laned only, some are washboard-dirt in composition, and often patched with gravel or sand. Many Belizean communities are located quite far from major highway access points, and could be viewed as much more susceptible or vulnerable to coastal changes than larger towns and cities. Regional plans for infrastructural improvements under the auspices of the Plan Puebla-Panamá include the Guatemala-Yucatán Axis that aims to improve economic integration and mobility along the Caribbean coast. However, little progress has been made to date, in part because of regional geopolitical differences. Yet local planning for long-term climate change impacts, such as rising sea levels, more intense rainfall, or other climatic shifts, needs to be harmonized with transportation infrastructure challenges in mind. Belize needs to have a comprehensive, forward-looking management plan that anticipates the relationship between climate change, accessibility, and mobility. This is especially critical for the tourism industry and for agriculture, forestry, and other primary economic activities.
As climates change, so too do economic opportunities and potentials. In short, Belize is vulnerable to the long-term impacts of climate change in myriad ways. It needs, therefore, a proactive, integrative set of management goals that recognize how transportation infrastructure is inextricably intertwined with socio-economic goals and strategies. Even a small country like Belize can have big ideas and policies that can set the standard for how to manage future climate change.
The sixteen member governments of the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) renewed their hurricane and earthquake insurance for the 2013/14 policy year that started June 1. Since CCRIF’s inception in 2007 – and despite increasing economic and financial pressures – member countries have recognised the value of including CCRIF’s parametric hurricane and earthquake coverage in their national disaster risk management strategies.
This year was no different, especially given that the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted an active 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season with more and stronger hurricanes than usual. For the six-month hurricane season, which began June 1, NOAA stated there was a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms – well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms.
In light of the budgetary constraints felt by countries across the region, CCRIF sought again this year to minimise premium costs. For the 2013/14 policies, CCRIF provided a 25% discount on premiums because no payouts were made by CCRIF in 2012/13, resulting in an underwriting surplus for the organisation, which is run as a not-for-profit entity. Also, countries could apply a portion of their Participation Fee (a deposit paid when they initially became a CCRIF member) toward their premium payment and had the option to lower the minimum attachment point for tropical cyclones (hurricanes) from a fifteen-year to a ten-year return period. These all led to a reduction in the effective cost of coverage to countries this year by at least 25% but in some cases up to 50%.
The Facility also added the new excess rainfall product to its portfolio of offerings to Caribbean governments for 2013/14. This product specifically covers extreme rainfall events, from both cyclonic systems and from non-cyclonic systems. It should be noted that rainfall is not included in CCRIF’s current hurricane policies, which trigger based on damage from wind and storm surge. Many countries have consistently expressed interest in excess rainfall coverage and in fact, the new product is of interest to countries which are not yet CCRIF members since they are not vulnerable to hurricanes or earthquakes but have significant extreme rainfall risk.
CCRIF recognises that rainfall is a leading cause of damage in the Caribbean – not only during hurricanes but throughout the year, and is seeking ways to enable countries in the region to obtain this coverage. Earlier this year, CCRIF, in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank, Sustainability Managers held a meeting with international development partners to explore ways in which they could support the roll-out of this product. These donors were very interested and committed to examine how they could provide support.
Since the inception of CCRIF in 2007, the Facility has made eight payouts totalling over US$32 million to seven member governments on their hurricane or earthquake policies. All payouts were transferred to the respective governments within 14 days after each event.
The payouts made by CCRIF since 2007 are listed below.
Event Country Payouts ($US)
Earthquake, 29/11/07 Dominica 528,021
Earthquake, 29/11/07 Saint Lucia 418,976
Tropical Cyclone Ike, 09/08 Turks & Caicos Islands 6,303,913
Earthquake, 12/01/10 Haiti 7,753,579
Tropical Cyclone Earl, 08/10 Anguilla 4,282,733
Tropical Cyclone Tomas, 10/10 Barbados 8,560,247
Tropical Cyclone Tomas, 10/10 Saint Lucia 3,241,613
Total for the Period 2007 – 2012 — 32,179,470
Source: CCRIF Press Release