UWI Climate studies group warns Caribbean under threat

By Rumi Samuel Published on April 20, 2022
UWI Climate studies group warns Caribbean under threat

The University of the West Indies Mona Climate Studies Group (CSGM) says Caribbean islands need to pay attention to the second instalment of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, known as the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

The report, which was released in February, presents a dire warning of the significant implications of inaction for the globe and the region; noting that even temporarily exceeding the global warming of 1.5°C that is anticipated in the next two decades will result in severe effects, some of which will be irreversible.

CSGM says while the report covers the global impacts, vulnerabilities, and risks of climate change, Chapter 15 is dedicated to addressing small islands in the Caribbean, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

“It details that a sense of urgency is prevalent among small islands to combat climate change and adhere to the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” it said, noting that the chapter’s executive summary cautions that “small islands present the most urgent need for investment in capacity building and adaptation strategies”.

CSGM said it had compiled ten urgent takeaways for the Caribbean following an analysis of the IPCC February report, noting, for instance, that as global warming continues to rise, “small islands face an existential threat if global warming increases above 1.5°C.

“People, ecosystems, and economies in the Caribbean will be significantly impacted. Among these include loss of lives and livelihoods, decreased food and water security, infrastructure and settlements, degradation of human health and well-being, and loss of cultural resources and heritage.”

It said urgent action is needed if 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is surpassed between now and 2040, noting that although the Caribbean is at the forefront of negotiations to stay below1.5°C global warming, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

“Urgent action is needed worldwide to reduce the possibility of global warming going beyond 1.5°C,” the CSMG said, adding that Caribbean islands already face many annual impacts in hurricanes, storm surges, and heatwaves droughts, and floods.

Regarding coral bleaching and declines in coral abundance that have been observed in many small islands, CSMG, said. At the same time, some damage will be irreversible; coral reefs provide beach sand and are fish nurseries.

“Increasing droughts in the Caribbean can affect human health and crop production. Integrated watershed management and building reservoirs to store freshwater received in the rainy season are fundamental for water security. Improved access to climate information for crop production and new technologies for growing drought-resistant crops and crops adapted to flood conditions. “

In its analysis, the CSMG said no single adaptation response is a complete solution to reducing risks to people and nature, advising that the Caribbean should use a mix of adaptation responses such as protection, accommodation, advance and retreat.

Regarding barriers to adaptation and enabling conditions that hinder responses, the CSMG said to make progress in transformation; the Caribbean needs enablers such as better governance, political commitment; legal reforms; improving justice; equity, and gender considerations.

It also calls for increased access to climate information, adequately downscaled climate data and embedding Indigenous and local knowledge adaptation responses.

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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