Sophia Frazer Binns | Jamaica needs to play critical role in combating climate change
There is no doubt that time is almost at its end for the protection of the environment. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report of August 2021 cited some ominous warnings that cannot be ignored. There is an imminent threat to ecosystems especially in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Ocean acidification has increased globally in tandem with the level and frequency of marine heatwaves. These are projected to increase with continued global-warming scenarios between 1.5 and two degrees Celsius. Sea levels will more than likely continue to rise in the face of higher emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The impact of sea-level rise, storm surges, and stronger weather systems will result in shorelines retreating.
Speaking of the role of human activity to climate change, in an unprecedented move, the authors of the IPCC’s sixth global science assessment concluded, “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land.” Without significant emissions reduction “in the next decades,” the critical warming barrier of 2°C will be “exceeded within the twenty-first century”. Indeed, irreparable damage will be done if the temperature increases by 3°C. Research has shown that without significant measures to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, the Earth will warm by at least 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next two decades. As the world battles with the eve- increasing effects of climate change, the direct threat to our way of life and natural disasters is evident and puts the fundamental goals of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in jeopardy. Warming trends are expected to continue until emissions are reduced.
The latest analysis also shows that the warming has caused major disruptions to many of our planet’s support systems for durations ranging from centuries to millennia. Every degree of warming will exacerbate the repercussions, and many of these consequences will be irreversible.
CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS
The effects of climate change are evident in human settlements, particularly those who live along coastal environments. These persons are particularly vulnerable to ocean- related hazards such as sea-level rise, tropical cyclones, marine heatwaves, desalination, and ocean acidification. Additionally, marine life and biodiversity are at risk. These realities make it considerably more difficult for SIDS to devote resources and funds to long-term development and also increases their vulnerability to additional climate-related effects.
Despite the fact that Jamaica and other SIDS are among the least culpable for climate change of all nations, the reality is that we bear the brunt of its consequences and could become uninhabitable. In Jamaica, for example, our future looks uncertain if one considers that our two major airports are below sea level and the possibility of loss of entire towns like Portmore or Annotto Bay. We have started to see the real effects of rising sea levels in places like Hellshire in St Catherine and Alligator Pond in Manchester.
Across the world, in recent days, climate change has caused flooding in North Korea, Iran, Germany, and Sudan. Wildfires have caused major damage and loss of lives in Bulgaria, Albania, North America, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Lebanon, to name a few. There are ongoing droughts in many countries, including North America. The 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season is predicted to be very active, which poses a clear and present danger to Jamaica.
As the world prepares for COP26, (Conference of the Parties), we cannot ignore the findings in this report. Many small developing countries will be aggressively pursuing $100 billion in annual climate finance from wealthy nations. National governments would also need to develop policies to manage emissions trading. Incentives for faster emission reductions would also need to be made available.
Jamaica has a significant role to play in leading the dialogue. Like other SIDS, our objective must be to exert pressure on the countries that emit the most carbon dioxide to take more aggressive climate action. Limiting climate change necessitates significant and long-term reductions in GHG emissions from human activities like fossil-fuel use. It is past time for the world’s wealthiest nations to get on track to accomplish their goals and provide the zero-carbon future we all desire.
Locally, we must accelerate our efforts to minimise hydrocarbon usage. We need to restructure our economy to be more sustainable, utilising green technologies and nature- based solutions. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on the use of renewable sources for energy production, distribution, and usage.
We must strengthen the protection of our environment, the preservation of our forests and waterways. We must re-examine our development policies and protocols in the areas of green building, sustainable agriculture, mining, transport, tourism, power generation, water harvesting, and conservation and disaster preparedness.
Jamaica must be at the helm of the advocacy against climate change and global warming. At the CoP26 meeting, we must lead the discourse with sound, science-based and economic arguments demanding immediate change. For us, climate change is an immediate existential crisis.
When as a nation we send Minister Pearnel Charles Jr to COP 26 to represent us, he must return with gold like our team at the Olympics. This IPCC report will give him a stronger platform from which to capture the minds and hearts of the more wealthy industrial countries and help to unite the region in the development of a regional climate strategy. The primary goal should be to inspire them to take action towards NetZero emissions. The secondary goal is to achieve climate justice by returning with adequate climate finance to support the local changes we must make to adapt and or mitigate against this climate crisis.
Senator Sophia Frazer Binns is shadow minister of Land Environment and Climate Change. Send feedback to email@example.com.