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Climate Change and Water: Local water woes could aid climate cause

Published:Tuesday | August 18, 2015 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor
Albert Daley ... we are all agreed that we are being impacted by climate change.

The current water crisis affecting Jamaica could strengthen the Caribbean's hand and, by extension, that of small-island developing states in the upcoming climate talks in Paris, France - but only provided the other negotiating parties are willing to listen and take heed.

"It certainly does [make a difference] for those who are willing to look at the facts. We have had, this year and last year, some of the hottest months since records have been kept," Albert Daley, head of the Climate Change Division, told The Gleaner.

"We can point to those significant changes and, therefore, the more frequent occurrence of drought as evidence that the climate has changed and is changing. That will resonate well with those who are not just looking at their personal interests, but at others who are being affected," he added.

Jamaica has, over the past several months, been hard hit by drought, which has forced the National Water Commission to cut supplies to households and businesses, given increasingly dried-up freshwater resources.

Together with the case of others in the region, Jamaica's recent challenges help to make the case for small-island developing states already experiencing climate impacts - from extreme weather events such as droughts, to sea-level rise, among others.

This is while lending urgency to a new deal that addresses deep greenhouse gas-emission cuts, towards a less-than-two-degree increase in global temperatures.


"We (small-island states) are all agreed that we are being impacted by climate change, and there are some critical areas in which we are being impacted. Some of the islands can point to sea-level rise and the fact that they are being submerged. Others can point to the level of rainfall or drought frequency, and so on. We all have common or related issues. The issue really is whether the large and fast-developing countries will commit to significant cuts in emissions," Daley noted.

It is widely expected that the Paris talks will yield a new international agreement on climate change; however, it remains to be seen what it will look like.

Meanwhile, Jamaica's water woes were predicted for some time now.

"Raw water supplies are directly affected by changes in climatic conditions. Changes in the amount of rainfall as well as its frequency and intensity determine the amount of water that will be available for exploitation," reveals the report of the island's first national communication on climate change to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which dates back to 2000.

"The changes to the amount of total rainfall that Jamaica may receive under the climate-change scenarios are uncertain; however, even minor changes in Jamaica's rainfall patterns could have a significant impact on its water resources. Reductions in rainfall will have a number of effects on water sources and supply, most obviously reduced supply availability," the document added.