Increased use of climate information improves Jamaica’s resilience
The increased availability of timely climate and weather information will position Jamaica to become more resilient to climate change impacts and improve development across key sectors such as health, agriculture and tourism.
This was the consensus of experts at a forum and exhibition which was held in recognition of the 2016 World Meteorological Day, under the theme: ‘Hotter, Drier, Wetter. Face the Future’ on Wednesday at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston.
“There is no doubt that future strategies to deal with climate change will depend upon sound knowledge of past and present climate in our nation and in our region,” said Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.
A panel discussion chaired by Professor Michael Taylor, director of the climate studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, brought home the potentially disastrous impact of climate change fallout on the everyday activities of Jamaicans.
Sherine Huntley-Jones, medical epidemiologist from the Ministry of Health, discussed the impact of climate change on vector-borne diseases and went on to explain that “even in prolonged periods of drought we are expected to see an increase in vector borne diseases as persons are going to be storing water which will lead to an increase in breeding sites”.
Jacqueline Spence, from the Meteorological Service, introduced the fire danger rating index being developed for the country which will indicate the preconditions that would increase the likelihood for the occurrence of forest (bush) fires.
Emeleo Ebanks, chief fire prevention officer at the Jamaica Fire Brigade, acknowledged the relevance of the fire danger rating index, and indicated that this tool coupled with public education campaigns would be effective in minimising the incidences of forest fires.
Presenters Glenroy Brown and Dr Arpita Mandal, respectively, discussed climate services and products available for agriculture planning and management and future implications for land use and economic planning in low-lying areas based on climate models.
The forum brought to the fore one of the strategies the Ja REEACH II, in collaboration with the Meteorological Service and other Government of Jamaica partners will undertake to advance availability and quality of climate data to be utilised across key sectors.
A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, National Irrigation Commission and the Meteorological Service to undertake the management of 36 automated weather stations valued at J$18 million.
The weather stations acquired by the Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change II (Ja REEACH II) project, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will improve the availability of weather and climate information that will be packaged and the products made available to enhance decision-making by national, public and private institutions in furtherance of building Jamaica’s resilience to climate change shocks and stressors.
The meteorological forum and exhibition was co-hosted by the Ja REEACH II project and the Meteorological Service.