Fri | Feb 28, 2020

Climate change brings oppressive, dangerous heat

Published:Monday | January 27, 2020 | 12:17 AM


Jamaica, for many, is dubbed ‘the gateway to the world’, and while our strategic location has brought us many advantages, we are left susceptible to the harsh reality of climate change. One may consider if the time is drawing nigh, as in Isaiah we were reminded that the Lord will come with fire to render His anger with fury.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has sought to urge Caribbean countries to be proactive and prepare to deal with heatwaves. For many of us living in Jamaica, summer 2019 was one of the hottest ever recorded and if this period was something to judge by, then heatwave is a major health concern. Exposure to extreme heat can cause a variety of health and environmental problems, such as heatstroke, reduction in water, loss of crops, forest fires and even death.

Currently in Australia, wildfires have devastated the country, destroying over 1,300 houses and resulting in the loss of lives. Jamaica must take a lesson from this unfortunate occurrence and prepare accordingly so that ‘too late’ will not be our cry.

This extremity in Australia is an excruciating reminder of what took place in Flagaman, St Elizabeth, where farmers lost millions in crops and farming equipment to wildfires. The Meteorological Service of Jamaica has already issued a warning that in 2020 we could experience below-normal rainfall, which may have dire impact on our water sources.

As a country, we must seek to be more proactive by putting long-term plans in place to include creating a heat-preparedness plan aimed towards energy efficiency and opening cooling centres during extreme and continuous heat. In keeping with global solutions, the preservation and the introduction of green spaces can be used as means of cooling temperatures and assist with air quality.

Jamaica must position itself for modern development, especially in our construction and building sector. The execution of any project should take into account installing green roofs, cool pavements, and other solutions aimed at building climate resilience.

Benyamin Cooke