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Dr Leonard Nurse, Chairman of the Board and Mr Carlos Fuller, International and Regional Liaison Officer of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) attended the 99th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) in their personal capacities. Other participants from the Caribbean at the meeting held in Phoenix, Arizona, USA from 6 to 10 January 2019 included Dr David Farrell, Principal of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), Mr Glendell de Souza, Deputy Coordinating Director of the Caribbean Meteorological Organization (CMO) and representatives of the national Meteorological Services of the Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana and Suriname.
There were several presentations by scientists from the CIMH. Shawn Boyce presented on “Impact-Based Forecasting and Assessment in the Caribbean”. Lawrence Pologne delivered a presentation on “The Potential, Viability and Co-benefits of Developing Wind Energy to Mitigate Climate Change in the Caribbean” based on his University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill doctoral thesis. Branden Spooner, an Intern at CIMH, presented on “Using Virtual Reality Technology as a Tool in Disaster Risk Reduction”.
There were several presentations of interest to the region. Kristie Ebi delivered on “Building Resilience of Health Systems in Pacific Island Least Developed Countries”. She also worked with Cory Morin of the University of Washington who delivered a presentation on, “Use of Seasonal Climate Forecasts to Develop an Early-Warning System for Dengue Fever Risk in Central America and the Caribbean”. They expressed an interest with collaborating with the CCCCC in developing this warning system.
The CIMH, and the national Meteorological Services of Belize and Jamaica were used in Catherine Vaughan’s, “Evaluation of Regional Climate Services: Learning from Seasonal Scale Examples across the Americas”. She is working out of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Colombia University.
Belize may find the presentation by Jorge Tamayo of the State Meteorological Agency, Spain, on “New Projects on Iberoamerican Meteorological Cooperation” of special interest. One project is on the development of a lightening detection network for Central America. They are also collaborating with the Regional Committee of Hydrological Services (CRRH) and the Central American Integration System (SICA) on a meeting in 2019 on the delivery of climate services.
In an interesting session on Communicating Climate Change, Mike Nelson of KMGH-TV in Denver Colorado, presented on “Communicating Climate Change – Be the Expert in the Living Room”, and Hank Jenkins-Smith of the University of Oklahoma delivered a presentation on “Stability and Instability in Individual Beliefs about Climate Change”. Jenkins-Smith noted that based on polling trends, conservatives were more likely to change their beliefs on climate change while liberals were more likely to retain their opinions on climate change.
In a session on Climate Extremes in the Tropical Americas: Past, Present and Future, Derek Thompson of Louisiana State University (LSU) presented on “Spatiotemporal Patterns and Recurrence Intervals of Tropical Cyclone Strikes for the Caribbean Islands from 1901 to 2017”, and Prashant Sardeshmukh, CIRES presented on “Can We Trust Model Projections of Changes in Climate Extremes over the Tropical Americas?”. He noted that dynamics played a more important role than atmospheric temperature in explaining extreme weather events. Current climate models were not capturing this aspect accurately and more work was required in this area. Kristine DeLong of LSU presented her work on “Last Interglacial Sea Surface Temperature Variability in the Tropical Atlantic Warm Pool: A Comparison of Model and Coral-Based Reconstructions”, which focused mainly on paleoclimatic reconstructions based on coral samples in the Caribbean. She noted the importance of collaboration with Caribbean institutions.
The 100th AMS Meeting will be held in Boson, Massachusetts from 12 to 16 January 2020. Caribbean meteorologists, hydrologists and climate change experts are encouraged to attend these meetings to be appraised of the most recent research on these subjects.∞
The Water Partnership Programme (WPP) published a new video that shows how climate change affects the Middle East, Latin America and Central Asia. The video looks at how climate change impacts the poor and most vulnerable populations. It is a free resource for those in the climate change community who want to raise awareness on the issue. The WPP works globally to counter the effects of climate change by supporting water-related programmes that promote innovative tools to help countries build resilience and prepare for an uncertain future.
The Commonwealth Secretariat has appointed Bharrat Jagdeo, former President of the Republic of Guyana, to chair a new Commonwealth Expert Group on Climate Finance. Mr Jagdeo will lead a high-level team of experts to identify solutions for unlocking resources to enable small, poor and climate-vulnerable Commonwealth countries to combat climate change.
Mr Jagdeo will be joined by eight others, including Dr Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, to press the international community to help identify practical solutions for those countries most vulnerable to climate change.
To provide further opportunity for dialogue with the Commonwealth Expert Group on Climate Finance, the Commonwealth Network on Environment and Climate Change will be launched at Marlborough House, headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat, in London from 25 to 26 June 2013.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma says the Group will present their report to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka in November 2013.
In accepting the appointment Mr Jagdeo said: “Some of the most climate-vulnerable people in the world are in our Commonwealth. Millions of people are in danger – the magnitude of the challenges they face is overwhelming and they cannot face those challenges solely from their own resources. Over the years, many pledges of assistance have been made – but we have not seen enough action. I hope that the Expert Group can identify ways, both to identify financing at a scale that matches the problem, and also to enable Commonwealth Heads of Government to take specific actions to enable financing to be deployed in a way that rapidly gets to the people who need it.”
The Commonwealth Secretariat is facilitating the gathering of evidence on good practices in climate finance through its online workspace for professional communities of practice, Commonwealth Connects: www.thecommonwealth.org/climatefinancecfe.
Build Better Jamaica’s Somer Spencer tackles climate change related risks and the need to develop strategies and policies to enable building resilience in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean in an exclusive guest post at Caribbean Climate, the region’s premier climate change focused blog.
‘“Never seen flooding like this” Storm particularly harsh on St. Elizabeth, Manchester’ ~Jamaica Observer, Oct. 3, 2010
‘Hurricane Sandy moving across Jamaica with heavy rain, high winds’ ~Caribbean 360, Oct. 24 2012
‘Flooding in St. Mary’ ~The Gleaner, Nov. 10, 2012
‘Prepare for drought! ODPEM Warns Citizens to Get Ready For Dry Season’ ~The Gleaner, Jan. 7, 2013
‘Cabinet approves $30m to Fight Drought – Robertson Says Allocation Insufficient for West St. Thomas’ ~The Gleaner, Jan. 23, 2013
These are just a few headlines that have been in Jamaica’s media recently. Over the past years, the island of Jamaica has faced a hurricane, flooding and drought conditions. These are only a few of the climatic issues the island faces and with climate change, it is predicted to intensify. Climate Change is no longer something that is expected to happen, it is already here!
WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE RESILIENT BUILDING?
Before we can define a climate change resilient building, we need to define the term resilience. Resilience speaks to ‘the capacity for a system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function and structure’. When applied to buildings, a climate change resilient building may be defined as a structure, whether permanent or temporary, that is enclosed with exterior walls and a roof constructed on a plot of land that has the capacity to absorb disturbances, in particular climate change related impacts, and still retain its basic function and structure. Climate Change Resilient Building encompasses the actual structure as well as the siting of the building and its materiality.
WHY DO WE NEED TO HAVE CLIMATE CHANGE RESILIENT BUILDINGS?
Caribbean Terrace in Jamaica is a perfect example (but not the only one) of why we need resilient buildings. On numerous occasions, this seaside community has been affected by storm surge, in some cases displacing its residents. During the reporting period 1980 to 2010, there were 29 natural disasters recorded that had affected approximately 1,895,317 persons and causing a death toll of 226. Yearly, that is approximately 61,139 persons are affected, with 7 persons dying from natural disasters alone.
Building exteriors are similar to the human skin, in that it protects its occupants from climatic conditions. Without it, we are all vulnerable. With the predicted escalations in climate change related impacts, attention needs to be focused on increasing the resilience of our building stock to prevent loss of life and property.
HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THIS?
Codes. Building codes play an important role in raising the minimum standard of the building stock, by establishing the minimum requirements for: the siting /location of the building, the building envelope, the building material, systems and sustainable practices.
Sustainable practices. As Alex Wilson from Building Green puts it: ‘It turns out that many of the strategies needed to achieve resilience–such as really well-insulated homes that will keep their occupants safe if the power goes out or interruptions in heating fuel occur–are exactly the same strategies we have been promoting for years in the green building movement. The solutions are largely the same, but the motivation is one of life-safety, rather than simply doing the right thing. We need to practice green building, because it will keep us safe–a powerful motivation–and this may be the way to finally achieve widespread adoption of such measures.’ Sustainability needs to be forefront in everyone’s mind. It needs to become a way of building rather than an option.
Enforcement. All the ideas and strategies in the world will make little difference without governance and enforcement.
Consolidation of resources. Currently, there are many different organizations and resources available. Some are more accessible than others. Creating a collaborative single resource that is easily accessible will help minimize confusion, duplication and prevent the use of different resources for validation.
THE NEXT STEP
- As a region, we need to have enforceable building codes …
- As a region, we need think sustainably …
- As a region, we need to recognize and improve the weaknesses in our system …
- As a region, we need to work together…
‘Build Better Jamaica’ is a public awareness campaign for an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded project with the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies titled: Developing Design Concepts for Climate Change Resilient Buildings. This project analyses the climate change related risks and is charged with developing strategies and policies to increase resilience in the building stock in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. The results of the research are intended to aid in improving building practices and provide input for legislative reforms for Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
Somer Spencer R.A.(FL), LEED® AP BD+C, NCARB is part of the team of consultants lead by MODE Ltd, who are undertaking a review of Building Codes, as one of the focus areas of the Developing Design Concepts for Climate Change Resilient Buildings project.
Dr. Jason Polk, Associate Director of Science at the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, says climate-driven water resource problems in the Caribbean could give rise to another intractable problem, community resistance to increased costs and regulations, if a concerted effort to educate the public about the challenges and possible solutions is delayed. Read his exclusive contribution to Caribbean Climate.
The Caribbean is changing every day. The people are changing, as is the geography. Perhaps most importantly, the Caribbean’s climate is changing, like it always has for thousands of years, yet never under the scrutiny with which it is examined today. Geographically, the Caribbean is diverse in its makeup. Isolated islands and small coastal nations that seem lonely and individually reliant upon their ability to persevere against the onset of environmental challenges. These countries comprise a group that shares a long and rich history, and are collectively facing challenges in addressing the risks and impacts from global climate change. Of these, one of the most pressing is the potential impact on the region’s water resources.
Water. Simple, natural, and plentiful. Mention the Caribbean and one immediately thinks of the sea, warm beaches, hurricanes, and shipwrecks. While these images certainly are a reality, behind them exists a region in trouble due to a changing global climate and the demand for fresh water. So, a question to be answered is from where does one obtain water on a Caribbean island? From the rivers? From the ground? Maybe from the ocean? These are all questions needing both to be asked and answered by people of the Caribbean and those looking in from outside. In answering these questions, one may be better able to understand the complex and pressing challenges that climate change has on water resources in the region.
Over the past few decades, new information and events have spurned a closer examination of the future temperature and rainfall patterns of the Caribbean. Results from the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and other regional climate studies indicate the Caribbean region will undergo significant changes, including the following:
- variability in seasonal rainfall distribution, including decreasing average rainfall amounts of up to 20% or more and subsequent droughts in some areas, while increased seasonal rainfall and flooding events may occur elsewhere
- changes in hurricane intensity and unpredictability, with the likelihood of more severe storms, including higher winds
- an increase in average temperatures across the region
- sea level rise of several millimeters or more, causing coastal inundation and changes in geography and topography
With these changes, there will be impacts on the fresh water resources of every nation in the region. Water stress will be one of the greatest challenges, as reduced precipitation and increasing temperatures will cause a lack of water availability in countries like the Bahamas, Grenada, and Jamaica, who already suffer from water scarcity. Several countries, such as Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, are among the most water-stressed nations in the world, meaning that they require more water than is available to the population on an annual basis. Part of this is due to the seasonal availability of rainfall, which is slowly changing due to climate variability.
The cause and effect relationship between precipitation and water scarcity is one of the simpler connections to be made from predicted climate change patterns; however, many others will arise and vary with regional geography, and potential water resource impacts include:
- challenges to access due to changing conditions in surface streams, springs, and groundwater supplies during drought conditions
- water quality issues that arise from flooding and population growth as communities and city centers grow in the face of declining agriculture
- increased flooding from severe storms and hurricanes
- salt water intrusion into coastal groundwater aquifers
- increasing water scarcity due to infrastructural challenges and limited capacity to adapt quickly enough to changing climatic conditions
For example, take Barbados, which relies primarily on groundwater from a karst aquifer. Karst is a landscape typified by caves and springs, wherein the rock dissolves away and water is stored in the remaining voids. This type of landscape is commonly found throughout the Caribbean region, and its water resources are highly vulnerable to impacts like pollution, drought, and sea-level rise. Inundation by salt-water can permanently ruin a karst aquifer’s freshwater supply, as the saline water will displace the freshwater, decreasing both its quantity and quality. In places like Barbados and Curacao, desalination plants are necessary to make up the difference in water demand and supply. However, these can be expensive to build and maintain, creating additional environmental consequences in the form of briny discharge and fossil fuel consumption. Curacao is among the region’s oldest user of desalination, having utilized the technology for many decades in the region; yet, today the demands for fresh water still exceed the supply capacity and larger plants are necessary to meet the island’s needs.
There will continue to be an increasing demand on water resources throughout the region from tourism growth as countries look toward economic gain to finance the mitigation of changing environmental conditions. Water utilities will need to be expanded, coastal development will require additional engineering solutions, and the cost of addressing the human health aspects of waterborne diseases may increase. Without a concerted effort to inform the public of the issues and possible solutions related to climate-driven water resource problems, a bigger challenge may be community resistance to increased costs and regulations. Even those people who opt for cheaper solutions, such as rainwater collection or local wells, may be forced to rely less on these as viable options if rainfall amounts decrease or salt water intrudes, and may demand access to public utilities as an alternative.
Water resource management policies and mitigation plans are often driven by political, economic, and developmental priorities, rather than science- or education- driven solutions, including technological and sustainable ways to adapt to climate change. In the Caribbean region, there exist several possible solutions already in use to varying degrees, including:
- rainwater collection from roofs using barrels and cisterns
- desalination plants that are solar powered and able to produce minimal byproducts
- purchasing and shipping in water from nearby locations (like the water barges used between Andros and Nassau, Bahamas)
- public education and outreach about conservation efforts
A comprehensive assessment of water resource demands, infrastructure, and policies across the region is needed in order to address the critical areas requiring attention. Leaders have resources available to them to assist in information gathering and decision-making, such as those provided by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and other groups. Several courses of action are possible to mitigate water resource challenges caused by climate change. Yet, the first step is to become educated about climate change science and both local and regional water resource issues. Community members can play a role at all levels, from individual conservation efforts to leading regional programs for entire communities. Most importantly, call for action to help build resiliency through education and training. To effect large-scale changes, nations must develop sustainable policies at a regional level to work together to address climate change impacts on water resources.
The reality is climate change impacts do not discriminate among nations, people, governments, economic levels, or geographies, nor do they wait for communities to prepare before occurring. Addressing climate change in the region requires that leaders and community members think locally and act globally. Get to know about climate change science. Get to know a neighbor. Get to know the geography of the Caribbean. Become a part of the conversation in your communities and in the region.
** Dr. Polk is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Geology at the University of Western Kentucky.
Peruse our vault of works (internal and external) on climate change and the Caribbean’s water sector here, by entering the keywords ‘water and climate change’. You’ll find guides on adaptation measures to address the absence of freshwater and coastal vulnerability, pilots, including the Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment System in Bequia, and national water sector strategies for Jamaica and Belize, and much more.