Tag Archive | climate vulnerability

Climate Scientists Use Forecasting Tools to Protect Caribbean Ways of Life

by Zadie Neufville

The following was published by InterPress Service on Aug 7, 2017

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Since 2013, Jamaica’s Met Office has been using its Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) to forecast ‘below average’ rainfall or drought across the island. The tool has allowed this northern Caribbean island to accurately predict several dry periods and droughts, including its most destructive episode in 2014 when an estimated one billion dollars in agricultural losses were incurred due to crop failures and wild fires caused by the exceptionally dry conditions.

In neighbouring Cuba, the reputation of the Centre for Atmospheric Physics at the Institute for Meteorology (INSMET) is built on the development of tools that “provide reliable and timely climate and weather information” that enables the nation to prepare for extreme rainfall and drought conditions as well as for hurricanes.

Regional scientists believe the extended dry periods are one of several signs of climate change, now being experienced across the region. Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Adviser at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) – known regionally as the Five Cs – believes climate change is threatening the “Caribbean’s ways of life”.

The drought tools allow regional authorities to guide farmers so they avoid losses

Dr. Trotz noted, “Some countries in the Caribbean like Barbados and Antigua are inherently water scarce. It is expected that climate change will exacerbate this already critical situation. We have seen in recent times the occurrence of extended droughts across the Caribbean, a phenomenon that is expected to occur more frequently in the future.

“Droughts have serious implications across all sectors – the water, health, agriculture, tourism -and already we are seeing the disastrous effects of extended droughts throughout the Caribbean especially in the agriculture sector, on economies, livelihoods and the well-being of the Caribbean population,” he said.

With major industries like fisheries, tourism and agriculture already impacted, the region continues to look for options. Both the Cuban and Jamaican experiences with forecasting tools means their use should be replicated across the Caribbean, Central and South America as scientists look for ways to battle increasingly high temperatures and low rainfall which have ravaged the agricultural sector and killed corals across the region.

Charged with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)’s mandate to coordinate the region’s response to climate change, the ‘Five Cs’ has been seeking financial support investigating and pooling regional resources to help countries cope with the expected impacts since its birth in 2004. These days, they are introducing and training regional planners in the application and use of a suite of tools that will help leaders make their countries climate-ready.

The experts believe that preparing the region to deal with climate change must include data collection and the widespread use of variability, predictability and planning tools that will guide development that mitigate the impacts of extreme climatic conditions.

The recent Caribbean Marine Climate Report card reflects the findings of the latest Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, pointing to the need for countries to ramp up their adaptation strategies. Both highlight the many significant risks climate change is expected to bring to regional economies that depend heavily on eco-systems based industries; where major infrastructure are located along the coasts and where populations are mainly poor.The report points to the threats to biodiversity from coral bleaching; rising sea temperature and more intense storms which could destroy the region’s economy, and in some cases inundate entire communities.

The tools not only allow the users to generate country specific forecast information, they allow Met Officers, Disaster Managers and other critical personnel to assess likely impacts of climatic and extreme weather events on sectors such as health, agriculture and tourism; on critical infrastructure and installations as well as on vulnerable populations.

Jamaica has more than a million motor vehicles contributing to increased emissions and traffic jams like this one at the Highway 2000 off ramp at Marcus Garvey Drive.- Gleaner photo

Training is being rolled out under the Climate Change Adaptation Program (CCAP) in countries of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). CCAP was designed to build on both USAID’s Regional Development Cooperative Strategy which addresses development challenges in the countries in that part of the region, as well as the CCCCC’s Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to a Changing Climate and its associated Implementation Plan, which have been endorsed by the Heads of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

Regional experts and government officers working in agriculture, water resources, coastal zone management, health, physical planning and disaster risk reduction from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago are being taught to use a variety of tools.

The program aims to build resilience in the development initiatives of the countries as they tackle climate change-induced challenges, which are already being experienced by countries of the region.

At a recent workshop in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, trainees were confident that the tools could become critical to their developmental goals. St Lucian metrological forecaster Glen Antoinne, believes the tools could be “useful for St Lucia because they are directly related to our ability to forecast any changes in the climate”.

He looks forward to his government’s adoption of, in particular, the weather tools to  “support the climatology department in looking at trends, forecasting droughts and to help them to determine when to take action in policy planning and disaster management”.

The tools work by allowing researchers and other development specialists to use a range of climatic data to generate scientific information and carry out analysis on the likely impacts in the individual countries of the region. They are open source, to remove the need for similar expensive products being used in developed world, but effective, said INSMET’s Dr. Arnoldo Bezamilla Morlot.

“We saw the need to develop a drought tool that was not only easy to use, but free to the countries of the Caribbean so they would not have to spend large amounts of money for software,” he said.

“The more countries use the data, the more information that is available for countries and region to use,” Morlot continued, pointing out that the data is used to generate the information that then feeds into the decision making process.

Heavy rains and high waves from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 battered coastal towns, marooned the Kingston’s International Airport, destroyed several roads and bridges .- Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

CCAP also includes activities aimed at the expansion of the Coral Reef Early Warning System for the installation of data gathering buoys in five countries in the Eastern Caribbean providing data which, among other things will be used for ecological forecasts on coral bleaching and other marine events.

The project also provides for the strengthening of the hydro meteorological measurement systems in participating countries. This will allow for better monitoring of present day weather parameters and for generating data to feed into the climate models and other tools.

Among the tools being rolled out under the project are the Caribbean Assessment Regional DROught (CARiDRO) tool; the Caribbean Weather Generator, and the Tropical Storm Model which were designed to help experts to develop scenarios of future climate at any given location and to use these to more accurately forecast the impacts, and inform mitigating actions.

There are accompanying web portals and data sets that were developed and are being introduced to help countries to enhance their ability to reduce the risks of climate change to natural assets and populations in their development activities.

These online resources are designed to provide locally relevant and unbiased climate change information that is specific to the Caribbean and relevant to the region’s development. Their integration into national planning agendas across the region is being facilitated through regional and country workshops to ensure effective decision-making while improving climate knowledge and action.

“The resulting information will help leaders make informed decisions based on the projections and forecasting of likely levels of impact on their infrastructure and economies,” Lavina Alexander from St Lucia’s Department of Sustainable Development noted, pointing to that country’s recent experiences with hurricanes and extreme rainfall events.

As one of the tool designers, Morlot believes that by providing free access to the tools, the project is ensuring that “more countries will begin to collect and use the data, providing regional scientists with the ability to make more accurate forecasts of the region’s climate.”

Putting all the information and tools in one place where it is accessible by all will be good for the region, he said.

Advertisements

SPARKS Launches UWI as a “Big Deal” in Climate Data Computing

UWI Photo

KINGSTON Dec 12, 2016: A new ‘high performance’ or ‘Super Computer’ launched on Nov 30, during climate change week, will help produce the ‘Big Data’ Caribbean small island states (SIDS) need to accurately project and mitigate the effects of climate change on the region.

Effectively, the new system, described as “one of the fastest in the Caribbean,” by Dell’s Peter Chan, gives the Caribbean a massive boost in its climate research capabilities. It has also catapulted The UWI, Mona Campus to ‘computing heavyweight’ status.

Launched in the midst of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) meeting at the Regional Headquarters of The UWI, the Scientific Platform for Applied Research and Knowledge Sharing or SPARKS as it is called, was acquired as part of the Investment Plan for the five-year Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR). SPARKS not only provides much needed computing capacity for climate researchers at The UWI; it also plugs a gaping hole.

At the launch, principal of the UWI’s Mona Campus Professor Archibald McDonald said SPARKS will enhance the region’s standing and recognition for research and as leaders in Climate Research. He noted: “The system will facilitate our scientists to provide climate projection models and high resolution maps for the Caribbean thus giving the region a firmer grasp to understand and manage the impacts of climate change… to evaluate for potential risk and impacts and effectively mitigate those risks as we build more resilient infrastructure”.

Increased processing speeds, faster turnaround times and the ability to run multiple data sets at higher resolution will improve the decision-making process in Jamaica and the Caribbean, Head of the Climate Group Professor Michael Taylor explained in an interview with Mona Magazine.

His excitement is infectious as he outlined the advantages SPARKS brings to The UWI in terms of “faster simulations at higher resolutions, providing more accurate and credible data, and information that will improve climate projections in the short, medium and long term”.

“Climate research and downscaling methods will no longer be limited by the available hardware and software,” he said.

SPARKS is filling the research gap that prevented regional scientists from making more of the kinds of credible long term climate projections which their counter parts in the developed world are able to produce easily and quickly. So when the IPPC produces its next global assessment report there will be much more information from the Caribbean, making SPARKS a critical tool in the regional fight against climate change.

Immediately, SPARKS, answers the need for the collection, analysis, modeling, storage, access and dissemination of climate information in the Caribbean. Long-term: SPARKS will allow climate researchers to produce even more accurate and reliable climate projections at higher spatial resolutions and facilitate the piloting and scaling up of innovative climate resilient initiatives, including the development of information products and services for use at the regional and national levels.

Aside, Jamaica and The UWI, Mona are now way ahead of their counterparts in the English-speaking Caribbean and on par with some of the leading institutions in the developed world. This improvement in computing capacity is an asset for attracting more high-level staff and students from outside the region. “This significantly opens up the research capabilities of the University to include research computing – an area we have not delved in on a wide scale in the past as the processing of big data could only be done with partners overseas,” Professor Taylor said.

Before SPARKS, the University’s data processing capacity restricted climate researchers to a single data run at a time, each taking up to six months; there was limited storage and no redundancy. “If anything went wrong, we simply had to start over,” Jay Campbell, research fellow with the Climate Studies Group at Mona told the distinguished guests at the launch.

In an interview, he noted that aside from the usual specifications, of the computer that sits in Mona Information Technology Services (MITS) building, SPARKS has a capacity equivalent to more of 5,000 CDs and is expandable; it is also able to complete a run that usually takes six months in just over two days.

Aside from its importance to crunching climate data for the IPPC reports, SPARKS will provide support for countless research ranging from the social sciences to botany and mathematics. It is set to revolutionise the DNA sequencing, medicinal, biological and other data driven research now being undertaken at the UWI. And with the impending start of the Mona’s clinical trials of medical marijuana products, Taylor believes the super computer will make for a more exciting time for UWI researchers.

More importantly, UWI climate researchers agree that a supercomputer will pull in additional revenues, and bring together the foremost agencies at the forefront of the regional climate fight.

SPARKS, the result of a partnership between Dell and Fujitsu is valued at US$742,376 or and is funded by Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through its US$10.39 million grant funding to implement the PPCR). The project is managed through Mona Office for Research and Innovation.

What is clear, SPARKS is a “game-changer” for climate research at the regional level and for the University’s research community
.- Zadie Neufville

WUI Mona Magazine

Nueva esperanza para recuperar arrecifes del Caribe

Jamaica’s Drought Tool Could Turn the Table on Climate Change

By Zadie Neufville

The following article was published by IPS on  January 13, 2016  
On a very dry November 2013, Jamaica’s Meteorological Service made its first official drought forecast when the newly developed Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) was used to predict a high probability of below average rainfall in the coming three months.

By February, the agency had officially declared a drought in the eastern and central parishes of the island based on the forecasts. July’s predictions indicated that drought conditions would continue until at least September.

54

Parched cracked ground

Said to be the island’s worst in 30 years, the 2014 drought saw Jamaica’s eastern parishes averaging rainfall of between 2 and 12 per cent, well below normal levels. Agricultural data for the period shows that production fell by more than 30 per cent over 2013 and estimates are that losses due to crop failures and wild fires amounted to one billion dollars.

Jamaica’s agricultural sector accounts for roughly seven per cent of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 20 per cent of its workforce.

The Met Service’s, Glenroy Brown told IPS, “The CPT was the main tool used by our Minister (of Water, Land, Environment & Climate Change) Robert Pickersgill throughout 2015 to advise the nation on the status of drought across the island .”

It was also used but the National Water Commission (NWC) to guide its implementation of island-wide water restrictions.

A technician with Jamaica’s Met Service, Brown designed and implemented the tool in collaboration with Simon Mason, a climate scientist from Columbia University’s International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“The tool provides a Windows package for constructing a seasonal climate drought forecast model, producing forecasts with updated rainfall and sea surface temperature data,” he explained.

The innovation was one of the first steps in building resilience under Jamaica’s national climate policy. It provides drought-monitoring forecasts that allows farmers to plan their planting around dry periods and has been “tailored for producing seasonal climate forecasts from a general circulation model (GCM), or for producing forecasts using fields of sea-surface temperatures,” Brown said.

Farmers in the Hills above Kingston depend on rainwater

Farmers in the Hills above Kingston depend on rainwater. Most small farms on the island are rain-fed.

The tool combines a number of applications including Google Earth and localised GIS maps, to generate one to five day forecasts that are country and location specific. The information is broken down and further simplified by way of colour-coded information and text messages for the not so tech-savvy user.

The tool designed by Brown and Mason also incorporated IRI’s own CPT (designed by Mason) that was already being used by Caribbean countries with small meteorological services and limited resources, to produce their own up-to-date seasonal climate forecasts. The new tool combined data on recent rainfall and rainfall predictions to provide a forecast that focused specifically on drought.

“It was important for us to design a system that addressed Jamaica’s needs upfront, but that would also be suitable for the rest of the region,” Mason noted.

The scientists explained, “Because impact of a drought is based on the duration of the rainfall” and not only the amount of rainfall, looking forward is not enough to predict droughts because of factors related to accumulation and intensification.

“What we’re doing is essentially putting a standard three-month rainfall forecast in context with recent rainfall measurements,” Mason, told USAID’s publication Frontlines last May. He noted that if below-normal rainfall activity was recorded during an unusually dry period, indications were there was a “fairly serious drought” ahead.

Sheldon Scott from Jamaica’s Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) told IPS that farmers who used the SMS information were able to avoid the worse effects of the drought.

“The impacts were visible in relation to farmers who used the information and others who didn’t, because those who did were able to manage the mitigating factors more effectively,” he said.

During the period, more than 500 farmers received text alerts and about 700,000 bulletins were sent to agricultural extension officers.

Among the farmers who signed up for text messaging service, Melonie Risden told Frontlines, “The information we received from the Met office gave us drought forecasts in terms of probabilities. We still decided to plant because we were fortunate to have access to the river and could fill up water drums ahead of time in anticipation of the drought.”

Risden lost the corn she planted on the 13-acre property in Crooked River, Clarendon, one of the parishes hardest hit by the drought with only two per cent of normal rainfall, but was able to save much of the peas, beans and hot peppers.

Six months after Jamaica’s Met Service made its ground-breaking forecast, the CIMH presented the first region-wide drought outlook at the Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum in Kingston. Now 23 other Caribbean and Central American countries are using the tool to encourage climate change resilience and inform decision-making.

“Regionally the tool is now a standard fixture across several countries within the region, including the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti. This regional effort is coordinated by the CIMH,” Brown said.

Back in Jamaica, the tool is being hailed “a game-changer” in the climate fight by Jeffery Spooner head of the Met Service, who described the CPT as “an extremely important tool in Climate Change forecasting and specifically for the agricultural – including fisheries- and water sectors for rainfall projection .”

The CPT is now also used to provide regular monthly bulletins that are published by the Meteorological Service on their web site http://www.jamaicaclimate.net. RADA has also continued to use the CPT in its extension service, to enhance the ability of farmers’ and other agricultural interests to improve water harvesting, planting and other activities.

Since most of the island’s small farms depend on rainfall, more farmers – including those with large holdings – are using the information to better manage water use and guide their activities, Scott said.

Local and intentional scientists have linked the extreme atmospheric conditions related to the droughts affecting Jamaica and the region to the persistent high-pressure systems that has prevented the formation of tropical cyclones to global warming and climate change.

Drought-map_-629x432

Image from the Jamaica Weather website shows areas likely to have less rainfall

Across the agricultural sector, Jamaica continues to feel the impacts of drought and the challenges are expected to increase with the climate change. In a 2013 agricultural sector support analysis, the Inter-American Development Bank estimated, low impact on extreme climate events on Jamaica’s agriculture sector by 2025 could reach 3.4 per cent of “baseline GDP” annually.

In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report (AR5) pointed to tools like the CPT to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Its importance to Jamaica’s and the region’s food security and water sector cannot be overlooked.

In addition to adaptation for the water sector, the CPT is being modified to provide early warning indicators for wind speeds and coral bleaching among among other applications, said the report.

And as showers of blessings cooled the land and brought much relief in the closing months of the year, CPT shows the drought could well be over.

(End)

 

Caribbean Looks to Aquaculture Food Security to Combat Climate Change

The following was published by IPS on Dec 10, 2015

by Zadie Neufville

Jimmi Jones and wife Sandra Lee’s fish farm in Belize City is unique. His fish tanks supply the water and nutrients  his vegetable garden needs and the plants filter the water that is recycled back to the tanks.

Jones has been showing off the “JimSan Aquaponics” style of organic farming in meetings across the Caribbean to support efforts by the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) in promoting aquaculture as a food security option in combatting global climate change.

As global warming increases sea temperatures, wild catch fishery could decline by as much as 50 per cent, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned. Warming seas are expected to devastate regional fisheries by shifting the travel routes of pelagic fish and the distribution of high-value species while causing die offs of many other popular marine species.

A Sept 2015 study from the University of British Columbia noted that warmer seas could alter the distribution of many marine species and worsen the effects of pollution, over-fishing and degraded habitats, resulting in economic fallouts worldwide.

To ensure food security, the CRFM, the regional body responsible for the responsible use of regional resources, is promoting aquaculture as part of a range of initiatives to build climate-resilient fisheries. A five-year plan has been drafted by the Secretariat and a working group established to guide the process.

The CRFM strategy is among activities the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) proposed to lessen the impacts of climate change on small-scale producers.

Jones’ aquaponics operation illustrates how aquaculture can help farmers, particularly small subsistence fish and food farmers, to boost their family income while providing adequate food and protein for the table.

Sandra Jones reaping vegetables for sale

Sandra Jones reaping vegetables for sale

With modifications, this method of aquaculture can be applied on large or small operations; it reduces water use by 90 per cent while allowing farmers to produce up to 10 times more vegetables than terrestrial plots within the same footprint, while eliminating the need for pesticides and other chemicals. The addition of renewable energy systems could further reduce production costs.

“In essence you feed the fish, they produce waste, the waste goes through a bacterial process that breaks it down from ammonia to nitrate, which is basically plant food, along with other processes that happen. You’re growing fish and vegetables using the same infrastructure; the water goes through a filtration system and you grow the plants without using soil,” Jones explained.

Despite what seems to be an easy enough undertaking, aquaculture has been on the decline in the Caribbean. In 2012, production plummeted from between 5,000 and 6,000 tonnes to 500 tonnes when the Jamaican fish-farming industry collapsed under pressure from cheap imports.

Aquaculture production in Jamaica, at one time the largest producer in the region, fell from around 11,000 tonnes in 2010, to just over 7,700 in 2011, falling even further in recent years.

Jamaican fish farmer Vincent Wright pointed to government policies that have made it difficult for them to compete. “The global economic downturn, high cost of energy, theft and a lack of adequate and suitable water supplies have made things even harder,” he said.

Executive Director of CRFM Milton Haughton has challenged regional governments to implement systems and regulations that will help investors to “overcome the impediments” aquaculture farmers face.

“We do need to provide the necessary legislative and regulatory framework, the policy support and the incentives to our fish farmers and private sector investors, so that they can grow the sector and increase production, not only for local consumption but also for exports,” he said.

In the last year or so, the CTA and the CRFM partnered to review the development aquaculture in region and in bid to identify the challenges, find solutions and guide the re-development of the industry, Haughton said. Among the improvements, policies regarding the development and distribution of land and water, as well as the production of brood stock and food.

Jimmi gives a tour of the farm

Jimmi gives a tour of the farm

Wright, who is also a scientist, said most Jamaican fish farms are built on marginal lands that are prone to flooding and with limited access to water. Given the locations and the existing conditions of local farms, climate changes will likely cause increased flooding, and disease, while reducing the availability of water for farms during periods of drought, he said.

The admission of Martinique and Guadeloupe to the CRFM family in 2014 is making up for the lack of research in the industry through Martinique-based French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) , an organisation with decades of research and development experience in tropical fish culture, nutrition, disease and mortality in farmed species.

The Centre also draws on the expertise of the national research capabilities of the French Republic. Before now, the 18-member states of the CRFM were short on aquaculture research. Now Ifremer is committed to helping the region develop its research capabilities. Useful as climate change is predicted to have serious economic effects on world wild catch fisheries.

But while scientists predict heavy losses for the Caribbean, they also suggest there is sufficient information for governments to begin to develop policies to help the industry adapt to the expected changes.

Jones sees aquaculture as a way of adaptation to climate change. This year he expanded the 111.5 square metre (1,200 square feet) green house to 557 sq metres (6,000 square feet), to double production in the short term with the possibility of a five-fold increase at peak agricultural production periods.

Jamaica and across the Caribbean were affected by extended droughts in the last two years and forced Wright and his counterparts to cut back production, but Jones’ green house and fish tanks were not affected. The system lost roughly one per cent, between 379 litres and 750 litres (100 and 200 gallons), from roughly 53,000 litres (14,000 gallons) of water running through the system at any one time, he said.

“Aquaculture is the way to go if we are to provide adequate protein for our people,” he said.

In fact, the position is supported by the findings of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in its 2014 State of Fisheries and Aquaculture report.

“Based on its dynamic performance over the last 30 years, with the fairly stable catches from capture fisheries, it is likely that the future growth of the fisheries sector will come mainly from aquaculture,” the report said.

According to the FAO, between 1990 and 2000, global production of food fish production grew 9.5 per cent per year from 32.2 million to 66.6 million tonnes at an average of 6.2 per cent per year between 2000 and 2012.

Regional growth has, however, remained static.

Regardless of the methods used, aquaculture “offers the region the best opportunities to provide a healthy, safe, guaranteed supply of food for our people,” Jones said.

Source: Caribbean Looks to Aquaculture Food Security to Combat Climate Change

Climate Change Will Increase Damage, Losses in Coastal Communities

Jamaica's Negril beach in the vicinity of the Tree House Hotel bar after rough seas on Good Friday 2013 and prior to the fire that destroyed the Country Country Hotel restaurant in the foreground. Credit: Mary Veira/IPS

Jamaica’s Negril beach in the vicinity of the Tree House Hotel bar after rough seas on Good Friday 2013 and prior to the fire that destroyed the Country Country Hotel restaurant in the foreground. Credit: Mary Veira/IPS

By Zadie Neufville

The following was published by IPS on December 4,  2015. The original is here
Residents of Rocky Point, a bustling fishing village on Jamaica’s south coast, woke up one July morning this year to flooded streets and yards. The sea had washed some 200 metres inland, flooding drains and leaving knee-deep water on the streets and inside people’s home, a result of high tides and windy conditions.

“I’ve been here for 43 years and I have never seen it like this,” Sydney Thomas told the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

Over at the Hellshire Fishing Beach, a community several miles outside the capital city Kingston, fishermen watched as their beach disappeared over a matter of weeks. The sea now lapped at the sides of buildings. Boats that once sat on the sand were bobbing in the surf along the edge of what remained of the white sand beach.

At the far end of the Hunts Bay basin, the inner-city community of Seaview Gardens sits at the edge of the mangrove swamp. For decades, residents there lived with overflowing sewage systems, the result of a backflow that is caused when seawater enters outflow pipes, flooding the network and pushing waste water back into homes and the streets.

Flooding in coastal communities around Jamaica is nothing new but in recent years, what used to be unusual has become a frequent occurrence.

Coastal Zone Management Specialist Peter Wilson-Kelly has seen several areas of the island where the stories are the same.

“It’s a combination of incremental climate change factors like sea level rise, hurricane damage from which new shoreline position baselines have evolved and man-made influences, such as hard structures too close to the shore,” he said.

Heavy rains and high waves from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 battered coastal towns, marooned the Kingston's International Airport, destroyed several roads and bridges .- Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

Heavy rains and high waves from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 battered coastal towns, marooned the Kingston’s International Airport, destroyed several roads and bridges .- Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

In 2004, six people died when a storm surge pushed by Hurricane Ivan inundated Portland Cottage. And in East Kingston, several multi-million dollar homes along Caribbean Terrace, a residential community overlooking the sea, were destroyed when the hurricane pushed the sea inland.

High waves also destroyed the sand dunes, which prior to that time, had served as a natural fortification for the Palisadoes Road, which connects the historic town of Port Royal and the Norman Manley International Airport to the rest of the country.

The Caribbean has contributed very little to global climate change, but UN experts warn that small island nations like these are expected to bear the brunt of the damage. In Jamaica, the destruction of wetlands to make way for development projects and overfishing have reduced the effectiveness of the reefs, exposing the coastline to unchecked wave actions and undermined the effectiveness of the wetlands to limit the impact of high tides.

Wilson-Kelly also blames unchecked development for the problems at the Hellshire beach.

“The reef’s been damaged for some time and hurricanes Ivan, Dean, Sandy and a bunch of other systems have passed and influenced the shoreline. However, the numbers of facilities that have established themselves on the Hellshire beach have also increased,” he said.

According to a 2010 UNDP report, Modeling the Transformational Impacts Climate Change on the Caribbean, “Rising sea levels caused by climate change are set to cause billions of dollars in damage to the islands states and wipe out the best Caribbean tourist resorts by the middle of the century.”

It is the reason Caribbean countries like Jamaica are lobbying for a 1.5 degree Celsius cap on temperature rise above preindustrial levels at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in France, in December.

Scientists writing in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report (AR5) noted, “Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems. Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development.”

The Caribbean is reported to have lost 136 billion dollars due to damage from climate change between 1990 and 2008, due to climate related damage. In its 2010 Modeling report, the UNDP warned that without adaptation and mitigation, the Caribbean could lose five per cent of its GDP or 10.7 billion dollars by 2025. By 2050, that figure could more than double, rising to roughly 22 billion dollars by 2050 or about 10 per cent of GDP.

Coastal infrastructure are at risk. Kingston Wharves at Gordon Key lies inside the Kingston Harbour.

Coastal infrastructure are at risk. Kingston Wharves at Gordon Key lies inside the Kingston Harbour.

In 2011, Jamaica’s second communication to the UNFCCC projected that the cost of protecting tourist resorts in the most vulnerable areas could cost between 92.3 million dollars and 993.8 million dollars. Some reports are, that by 2080, the 15 CARICOM member states could face a staggering 187 billion dollars in repairs and rebuilding costs for some of their best tourist resorts.

The outlook is ominous, given Jamaica’s history of destructive storm surges and major incidents of floods in recent decades and resulting in damage to infrastructure and loss of life. Besides the unsanitary effects of flooded sewers, the value of social and economic assets exposed to the hazards associated with coastal flooding has been estimated at 18.6 billion dollars.

Economist Maurice Mason noted, “Everything up to 10 meters of Jamaica’s coast, all of the island’s critical facilities, including power generation facilities, trans-shipment ports, both major airports and resort towns” representing about 70 per cent of the country’s GDP are at risk.

Elevating four kilometers of the Palisadoes road just over three metres in 2010 cost Jamaica some 65 million dollars. Several mitigation projects later, Rocky Point continues to suffer coastal flooding.

In Portland Cottage, residents replanted denuded mangroves to strengthen their natural coastal fortifications that they credited with minimising the loss of lives in 2004.

Along the famous Negril beach, government and residents still haggle over the most effective way to protect the coast because none, neither government nor private sector, can afford the full cost of protection and the international community has provided only a fraction of the estimated 25 million dollars needed.

But as the experts contend, “Many adaptation and mitigation options can help address climate change, but no single option is sufficient by itself. “

Under Jamaica’s Vision 2030 Plan, many adaptation measures will, over time, mitigate some of the effects. Several communities have and do benefit, but only education, continued preparation and global action can manage the effects.

(End)

Against the Odds, Caribbean Doubles Down for 1.5 Degree Deal in Paris

By Zadie Neufville

This article was first published by IPS on Nov 23 2015 (original article is here).
Negotiators from the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are intent on striking a deal to keep the global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels, but many fear that a 10-year-old agreement to buy cheap petroleum from Venezuela puts their discussions in jeopardy.

Across the region, countries are rolling out their “1.5 to Stay Alive” Campaign to raise awareness about the effects of climate change, while building momentum for the region’s negotiating position ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (UNCCC) in France in December.

Some say the petroleum agreement could cause friction between member nations because of new incentives, including assistance with healthcare and agriculture through a Caribbean Economic Development Zone. President of the Venezuelan Republic Nicolas Maduro pledged to maintain the PetroCaribe deal, a legacy of his late predecessor Hugo Chavez alive, while celebrating its 10th anniversary in Jamaica on September 9.

PetrojamD20060815RBPetroCaribe is an alliance between 12 member states of CARICOM and Venezuela for the purchase of oil at market prices with between 5 and 50 per cent up-front payment. There is a grace period of one to two years for paying the balance or through financing over 17 to 25 years at 1 per cent interest if prices are above 40 dollars per barrel. Media reports say Maduro is negotiating with non-members of OPEC to keep oil prices stable in support of the pact.

While agreeing that PetroCaribe could be a disincentive for investments in domestic renewable energy, Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy at WorldWatch Institute noted, “Caribbean governments are increasingly aware of the enormous financial, environmental and social costs associated with continued dependence on fossil fuels.”

Caribbean SIDS are not major contributors to global warming and resulting climate change, but are expected to bear the burden of the effects from the heat and rising seas: coastal flooding, more intense hurricanes, extended droughts, coral death and up to 50 per cent reduction in valuable marine species.

Behind the 1.5 to Stay Alive campaign are warnings that inaction could cost the community about 10.7 billion dollars by 2025 or 5 per cent of GDP and about 22 billion dollars by 2050, roughly 10 per cent of GDP. Most CARICOM states are already experiencing climate change, with associated damage between 1990 and 2008 estimated at 136 billion dollars.

Head of the CARICOM Energy Unit, Devon Gardner, told IPS, “The region is still campaigning for 1.5 degrees Celsius with the understanding that other negotiators including the European Union are looking at 2.0 degrees.”

An agreement for any less than 1.5 some argue could mean the inundation of many nations and the loss of a critical infrastructure of others. Several member states are below sea level and most are island nations with limited land. In most states, critical infrastructures are located mainly along the coast and are already subject to flooding.

In 2013, the community adopted a regional energy policy to make renewables 48 percent of their electricity generation by 2027 and a roadmap was drawn up to guide the process.

There is significant losses in the energy generated because of inefficient distribution systems.

There are significant losses in the energy generated because of inefficient distribution systems.

“Even if the problem of global warming did not exist, and the burning of fossil fuels did not result in extensive local air and water pollution, CARICOM would still have to mandate to transition away from these fuels as swiftly as possible for reasons of social opportunity, economic competitiveness and national security, ”said Ochs, one of the authors of the new Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment, launched on October 28.

“C-SERMS is pivotal to the attainment of the sustainable energy and development goals of the Caribbean Community,” said Gardner in a press release announcing its launch. He is also the CARICOM Secretariat’s Program Manager for Energy and is overseeing the sustainable energy roadmap.

“CARICOM envisions that implementing the C-SERMS Baseline Report and Assessment advances regional goals whilst simultaneously supporting member states,” Gardner continued.

Most CARICOM states spend up to half of their earnings on petroleum products, but get less energy than they need. WorldWatch Data from 2013 shows the region, generating an estimated 18,369 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity and consuming about 20,776 GWh. Investments are, however, helping to keep the region on track to reduce their dependence on fossil fuel, reduce emissions and cut electricity costs.

On November 3, Barbados signed a 4 million dollar EU agreement to, among other things, increase the share of economically viable renewable energy on the island. In June, the EU announced 23 million dollar grants and loans for sustainable energy projects in the Eastern Caribbean. In January, US Vice-President Joe Biden promised 10 million dollars to help Jamaica achieve the renewable energy targets of its National Development Plan.

In Jamaica, where electricity costs four times as it does in the US, more than 200 million dollars has been invested to add 115 megawatts of alternative energy to the grid. The aim is to reduce petroleum-generated electricity by 30 per cent by 2020. On September 19, the island’s single electricity retailer Jamaica Public Service Company signed 20-year ‘power purchase agreements’ to add 78 MW of renewable energy to the grid.

Even with additional investments in renewables, the US continues to see, PetroCarib as a contradiction of regional efforts to reduce carbon emissions and keep temperatures down.

“There is no reason why countries from this region should be relying on dirty fuels supplied largely by one country when there is an abundance of sun, wind, geothermal and natural gas capability,” US Energy Bureau envoy Amos Hochstein told reporters at the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF) held in Florida in October.

Ochs and Jamaica’s Junior Minister for Energy Julian Robinson are confident that in the long run, energy security and the positive spin off from sustainable energy solutions will influence the region’s long-term goals.

Wigton Wind Farm, Jamaica. Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

Wigton Wind Farm, Jamaica. Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

“The falling cost of renewable energy technologies as well as government policies will make these energy alternatives attractive for investors and ordinary people,” Robinson said.

Ochs noted, “In tandem with renewable energy technologies, it will be important for countries to look towards investing in more energy efficiency and conservation projects. Energy efficiency measures are often both the cheapest and fastest way to lessen the environmental and economic costs associated with a given energy system.”

Member states attending the UNCCC negotiate within the CARICOM framework and as a bloc as part of the Alliance of Small Island States.