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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

What’s Really Warming the World? New Study

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Methodology
NASA’s Model
Researchers who study the Earth’s climate create models to test their assumptions about the causes and trajectory of global warming. Around the world there are 28 or so research groups in more than a dozen countries who have written 61 climate models. Each takes a slightly different approach to the elements of the climate system, such as ice, oceans, or atmospheric chemistry.
The computer model that generated the results for this graphic is called “ModelE2,” and was created by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which has been a leader in climate projections for a generation. ModelE2 contains something on the order of 500,000 lines of code, and is run on a supercomputer at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation in Greenbelt, Maryland.
A Global Research Project
GISS produced the results shown here in 2012, as part of its contribution to an international climate-science research initiative called the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase Five. Let’s just call it “Phase-5.”
Phase-5 is designed both to see how well models replicate known climate history and to make projections about where the world’s temperature is headed. Initial results from Phase-5 were used in the 2013 scientific tome published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
There are more than 30 different kinds of experiments included in Phase-5 research. These tests address questions like, what would happen to the Earth’s temperature if atmospheric carbon dioxide suddenly quadrupled? Or, what would the world’s climate be like through 2300 if we keep burning fossil fuels at the current rate?
Phase-5 calls for a suite of “historical” experiments. Research groups were asked to see how well they could reproduce what’s known about the climate from 1850-2005. They were also asked to estimate how the various climate factors—or “forcings”—contribute to those temperatures. That’s why this graphic stops in 2005, even though the GISS observed temperature data is up-to-date. The years 2005-2012 were not a part of the Phase-5 “historical” experiment.
A Word About Temperatures
Climate scientists tend not to report climate results in whole temperatures. Instead, they talk about how the annual temperature departs from an average, or baseline. They call these departures “anomalies.” They do this because temperature anomalies are more consistent in an area than absolute temperatures are. For example, the absolute temperature atop the Empire State Building may be different by several degrees than the absolute temperature at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. But the differences from their own averages are likely to be about the same. It means that scientists can get a better idea about temperature with fewer monitoring stations. That’s particularly useful in places where measurement is very difficult (ie, deserts).
The simulation results are aligned to the observations using the 1880-1910 average. What’s most important about these temperatures are the trends—the shape and trajectory of the line, and not any single year’s temperature.
What the Lines Show
The black “observed” line is the GISS global land and ocean temperature record, which can be found here. It starts in 1880.
The colored temperature lines are the modeled estimates that each climate factor contributes to the overall temperature. Each factor was simulated five times, with different initial conditions; each slide here shows the average of five runs. GISS researchers laid out their historical simulations in detail last year in this article. The modeled years 1850-1879 from the Phase-5 “historical” experiment are not shown because the observed data begins in 1880.
Confidence Ranges
Researchers do not expect their models to reproduce weather events or El Niño phases exactly when they happened in real life. They do expect the models to capture how the whole system behaves over long periods of time. For example, in 1998 there was a powerful El Niño, when the equatorial Pacific Ocean warms ( we’re in another one of that scale now). A simulation wouldn’t necessarily reproduce an El Niño in 1998, but it should produce a realistic number of them over the course of many years.
The temperature lines represent the average of the model’s estimates. The uncertainty bands illustrate the outer range of reasonable estimates.
In short, the temperature lines in the modeled results might not line up exactly with observations. For any year, 95% of the simulations with that forcing will lie inside the band.
Data
Acknowledgments

Many thanks to Kate Marvel and Gavin Schmidt of NASA-GISS.

Credit: Bloomberg Business

UNEP ‘Our Planet’ 2015 Focuses on SDGs

world

Credit: UNEP

An integrated, universal approach to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda is essential, according to the 2015 issue of ‘Our Planet,’ a publication from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner discusses the importance of integration, universality, climate change mitigation, governance and accountability, and financing. He writes that linking the SDGs with climate change mitigation will help countries build energy-efficient, low-carbon infrastructure and achieve sustainable development.

In an article by Tommy Remengesau, Jr., President, Palau, he explains that healthy, productive, resilient oceans are critical to preserving and restoring the balance between humans and nature, and ensuring economic prosperity, food security, health and culture, particularly in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Remengesau advocates for a stand-alone SDG on oceans, and says Palau’s national conservation efforts must be “amplified and augmented by work at the international level” in order to make a difference.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should guide the elaboration of the SDGs, writes Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He stresses that human rights, such as the rights to education, food, health and water, are about empowerment, not charity, and underscores the importance of empowering citizens to be involved in crafting and implementing the SDGs. He adds that “universality applies not just to universal application, but also to universal participation and ownership of the goals.”

UK Environmental Audit Select Committee Chair Joan Walley cautions that reducing the number of SDGs “risks relegating environmental sustainability to a side issue,” and could shatter “the carefully negotiated consensus.” She also argues for communicating the goals to the public, particularly youth.

Other articles address: the European Commission’s (EC) energy and climate framework, which will promote a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy; the UN Environment Assembly’s (UNEA) role in moving towards an integrated, universal approach to the SDGs; the role of central banks in shifting towards inclusive, environmentally sustainable development; a carbon pricing system; national accounting systems and inequalities; and chemicals and hazardous substances, among other issues.

The issue also highlights the Montreal Protocol as an “ozone success” and a model for achieving a green economy and the SDGs, achievements by UNEP’s Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), and the UNEP Finance Initiative’s work to align the financial system with a low-carbon, carbon resilient green economy. [Publication: Our Planet: Time for Global Action]

Credit: SIDS Policy & Practice

What’s the difference between Weather and Climate?

Credit: CCCCC

Credit: CCCCC

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:
Credit: CCCCC

Credit: CCCCC

 

Coral Reefs Report and Climate Change News

With only about one-sixth of the original coral cover left, most Caribbean coral reefs may disappear in the next 20 years, primarily due to the loss of grazers in the region, according to the latest report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report, Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012, is the most detailed and comprehensive study of its kind published to date – the result of the work of 90 experts over the course of three years. It contains the analysis of more than 35,000 surveys conducted at 90 Caribbean locations since 1970, including studies of corals, seaweeds, grazing sea urchins and fish.

The results show that the Caribbean corals have declined by more than 50% since the 1970s. But according to the authors, restoring parrotfish populations and improving other management strategies, such as protection from overfishing and excessive coastal pollution, could help the reefs recover and make them more resilient to future climate change impacts.

“The rate at which the Caribbean corals have been declining is truly alarming,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme. “But this study brings some very encouraging news: the fate of Caribbean corals is not beyond our control and there are some very concrete steps that we can take to help them recover.”

Climate change has long been thought to be the main culprit in coral degradation. While it does pose a serious threat by making oceans more acidic and causing coral bleaching, the report shows that the loss of parrotfish and sea urchin – the area’s two main grazers – has, in fact, been the key driver of coral decline in the region. An unidentified disease led to a mass mortality of the sea urchin in 1983 and extreme fishing throughout the 20th century has brought the parrotfish population to the brink of extinction in some regions. The loss of these species breaks the delicate balance of coral ecosystems and allows algae, on which they feed, to smother the reefs.

Reefs protected from overfishing, as well as other threats such as excessive coastal pollution, tourism and coastal development, are more resilient to pressures from climate change, according to the authors.

“Even if we could somehow make climate change disappear tomorrow, these reefs would continue their decline,” says Jeremy Jackson, lead author of the report and IUCN’s senior advisor on coral reefs. “We must immediately address the grazing problem for the reefs to stand any chance of surviving future climate shifts.”

The report also shows that some of the healthiest Caribbean coral reefs are those that harbour vigorous populations of grazing parrotfish. These include the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the northern Gulf of Mexico, Bermuda and Bonaire, all of which have restricted or banned fishing practices that harm parrotfish, such as fish traps and spearfishing. Other countries are following suit.

“Barbuda is about to ban all catches of parrotfish and grazing sea urchins, and set aside one-third of its coastal waters as marine reserves,” says Ayana Johnson of the Waitt Institute’s Blue Halo Initiative which is collaborating with Barbuda in the development of its new management plan. “This is the kind of aggressive management that needs to be replicated regionally if we are going to increase the resilience of Caribbean reefs.”

Reefs where parrotfish are not protected have suffered tragic declines, including Jamaica, the entire Florida Reef Tract from Miami to Key West, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Caribbean is home to 9% of the world’s coral reefs, which are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Caribbean reefs, spanning a total of 38 countries, are vital to the region’s economy. They generate more than US$ 3 billion annually from tourism and fisheries and over a hundred times more in other goods and services, on which more than 43 million people depend.

This video, featuring the report’s lead author Jeremy Jackson, explains the significance of the report:

Peruse the full report.

Credit: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
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