Christopher Serju, Sunday Gleaner Writer
While the impact of climate change has been getting the priority attention it deserves across the globe, there are fears that the focus on greenhouse gases to the exclusion of other effects could undermine efforts to raise public awareness about the gravity of the situation.
"This is the fundamental challenge that confronts our planet and all communities ... when it comes to climate change, a number of countries often focus on the question of cutting greenhouse gases emissions. This is understandable and necessary but it is not the whole story," declared Suzanne Ebert, officer director - environment and health, USAID/Jamaica.
"Is there anyone here today who can deny that he or she has been impacted by climate change in a real way? We see it in the longer dry seasons, the weather raining seasons, stronger storms and changes in our growing seasons. And I'm sure you can provide many more examples," Ebert told the graduation ceremony for 98 climate change action agents at the Girl Guide Association of Jamaica headquarters in St Andrew last Friday.
Declaring that with Jamaica experiencing the unrelenting effects of climate change, adaptation is both a practical need and moral imperative. Ebert emphasised the urgency of the situation for action now.
"It means that we, you, me, all the people in Jamaica and around the world can and must learn to adapt to climate change. We must get serious about adaptation, and we must do so now.
"There is no time for delay, and what's more, people who are bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change are those who can least afford to cope and those who have contributed least to causing the problem.
"In a matter of years, if we do not act now and change our behaviour and how we live, climate change will usher in chronic hunger and malnutrition across the globe," argued Ebert.
In endorsing Ebert's views, Gerald Lindo, senior technical director of mitigation in the climate change division of the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment & Climate Change, painted an even more graphic picture.
"These impacts that we are going to be facing and are facing, right now, as a matter of fact, are the most important events that we are going to be seeing in our lifetime. And I say that without exaggeration," argued Lindo.
"We know that when it's dry, it's going to be dryer and people's crops are going to suffer. When it will be wet, it will be torrential. we know there will be stronger hurricanes and we know that the sea level will be rising," Lindo warned.
"We know that there will be increased temperatures ... but by 2023 there will be such an increase that it will be what we call climate departure. The world is changing around us, the earth is changing, the sea rising - everything around us is moving at a pace that is frightening sometimes."
Lindo called for more sustained action and leadership in countries all over the world, but especially in countries like Jamaica which are very, very vulnerable to the effects of climate change.