Thu | Dec 7, 2023

Earth Today | Regional planning for climate change gets research boost

Published:Thursday | May 16, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Planning for a changing climate and the anticipated impacts on the Caribbean – from temperature increases and the associated implications for food and water security to extreme weather events and the associated implications for public health – has got a shot in the arm.

This is thanks to a US$1.9-million contract for light detection and ranging (LIDAR) data collection and processing, recently signed between the University of the West Indies and geo-data specialists Fugro Geoid SAS.

The contract, funded through the Investment Plan for the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Programme of Climate Resilience (PPCR), will allow for the collection of LIDAR data and processing into bathymetric (underwater depth) and topographic (surface elevation) information or products.

The data will be used for assessing coastal vulnerability and to support climate analysis related to sea-level rise, storm surges and flooding in the region.

Professor Michael Taylor, dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology and himself a celebrated climate scientist, said there was no question of the value the new contract brings.

“This is significant on many levels, but if I constrain myself just to the research world, the kind of data that this will produce at greater resolutions and the kind of detail that we will get will be a significant boost to impact vulnerability resilience studies,” he told The Gleaner.

“It will, in a sense, heighten the kind of impactful results that can come out of these studies, and the better the kind of studies that we produce will ultimately be to the benefit of planners and the ability for Jamaica, in terms of its coastal resources, to be resilient and build resilience,” added Taylor, who is also co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chang’s special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius and related greenhouse gas emission pathways.

That report, which looks at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming in the context of “strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty”, among other things, makes the case for unprecedented scaled-up adaptation and mitigation if humanity is to stand a chance against the ill effects of the changing climate. It also stands in testament to the value of research in resilience building.


The UWI-Fugro Geoid SAS contract, meanwhile, will focus on examining some 2,500 square kilometres of vulnerable coastal environments between Jamaica and Haiti.

The Planning Institute of Jamaica, the national focal point for the PPCR, will collaborate with the consultants to ensure that the data collected correspond with local stakeholder needs.

“LIDAR data acquisition is a critical strategy in using research and technology to improve regional resilience,” noted programme manager for the PPCR, Ainsley Henry, in a release to the media.

“We anticipate that LIDAR technology will increasingly be used in the Caribbean, as it provides significant advantages in providing accurate information in support of resilience planning for coastal defences and putting in place mechanisms to ensure our physical resources can better withstand the impacts of climate change,” he added.

At the end of the contract in October, government technocrats in six Caribbean countries are to receive capacity building in the use of the technology, thanks to the regional project.