The conference room of the Trinidad Hilton was most attentive as the master of ceremonies painted a clear picture of the reality of climate change in the Caribbean. A reality fraught with death and destruction, as highlighted with a moment of silence for the victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
He drew reference to scenarios of 3.5 degrees temperature increase by the end of the century above pre-industrial levels with our current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), 4.5 degrees with no action taken, and alluded to the idea that a 2 degree or lower pathway would have the best outcomes for our fragile planet.
Climate Adaptation in Mitigation
This will set the tone of the four-day conference with motivations and objectives focused on:
- Addressing the role of climate information into shaping and implementing climate policy programs in the Caribbean.
- Highlighting the need for a crucial nexus of science-policy to build resilience.
- Displaying technical and management experience from the hands-on application of climate information.
Dr. Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) iterated the need for adaption mechanisms to be put in place for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) witnessing drastic transitions in weather systems. Tropical Storms have become Category 5 hurricanes in as little as 24 hours.
“The Caribbean region is the lowest contributor of greenhouse gases in the world, yet we are faced with most of the devastating impacts of Climate Change.”
Regional Climate modelling to forecast a future of a 1.5 world was the main focus of the day’s proceedings with presentations by scientists from all over the region in regards to the implications of such a threshold on the Caribbean.
Christopher Burgess of Civil, Environmental, and Coastal (CAEC) Solutions stated that: “Caribbean exposure and damages brought about by storms are expected to increase and by extension, the associated costs.”
Over the past 50 years, storm-attributed costs have increased by a factor of 10!
What does this mean for the future of the cost of remediation efforts regarding storm damages? With the current threshold of 2℃, annual damages are predicted to reach a value of 2.8 billion US dollars by 2055. Based on the GDP data for Caribbean countries in 2013, these damages can account for over 40% of the GDPs in the Caribbean! This potentially places economies in a recessive state and hinders development. However, the costs associated with a 1.5℃ threshold were considerably lower.
Dale Ranike, University of the West Indies (Mona Campus), urged scientists to use a “bottom-up” approach to developing adaptation and mitigation systems. Region specific risks and exposures must be the drivers for technological advancement of relevant and applicable systems. Ranike’s analysis of heat stress on livestock predicted that both summer and winter periods will increasingly warm. He proposed that the 1.5 ℃ represents a critical global target to not only limit the effects of heat stress on livestock, but also the impacts of climate change on a large scale.
Adrian Cashman The Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) identified pressure on water demand. However, in quantifying such stresses on water availability, he was faced with problems of sourcing historical data, “You can’t manage what you can’t count.” He reminded scientists of the necessity of collecting data regarding our resources to accurately produce predictive models. Although most of the studies were done on a national scale, each scientific report had a takeaway lesson that should be applied across the Caribbean:
We must come to the reality that the region will be faced with increasing economic, social and environmental challenges as temperatures continue to increase. Despite this seemingly dismal future, adaptation mechanisms coupled with the establishment of a 1.5℃ threshold can potentially save us in the long run.