Fri | Dec 3, 2021

Earth Today | Global warming in full effect

Caribbean urged to take stock of new IPCC report

Published:Thursday | August 12, 2021 | 12:08 AM
Volunteers try to control fire in the municipality of Blufi, in the upper Madonie, near Palermo, Sicily, as  many wildfires continue plaguing the region. Sicily, Sardinia, Calabria and also central Italy, where temperatures are expected to reach record hig
Volunteers try to control fire in the municipality of Blufi, in the upper Madonie, near Palermo, Sicily, as many wildfires continue plaguing the region. Sicily, Sardinia, Calabria and also central Italy, where temperatures are expected to reach record hights, were badly hit by wildfires. Climate scientists say there is little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving extreme events, such as heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods and storms.
An exposed dry bed is seen at Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, California, on Wednesday, August 4.
An exposed dry bed is seen at Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, California, on Wednesday, August 4.
Professor Michael Taylor.
Professor Michael Taylor.
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WITH THE warming of the planet set to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in 20 years, the world, and, in particular, the Caribbean, has been given a sharp reminder of the need to ready populations for the devastating impacts of a changing climate.

This is among the findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) most recent report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.

Those findings include that global warming has not slowed – with global surface temperature 1.1 degrees Celsius higher between 2011 and 2020 than between 1850 and 1900; and with larger increases over land than over the ocean.

Further, the report has confirmed that scientists are now more certain than ever that extreme weather phenomena – including severe hurricanes and droughts – are due to a changing climate.

“Evidence of observed changes in extremes, such as heatwaves, heavy rainfall, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) (in 2014),” the report said.

Caribbean must fight for change

Respected climate scientist Professor Michael Taylor has encouraged the Caribbean to take note, recognising that it is still possible to limit global warming to 1.5 or two degrees Celsius to guard against the likely devastation for the region.

“The Caribbean must collectively lobby for greater global greenhouse gas reductions by the whole world at the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP26). Net zero carbon dioxide emissions by mid-century can limit global warming to 1.5 or two degrees within this century,” he said.

“It will not be easy and will require everybody to play their part. This means the Caribbean must also reduce its own emissions through greater use of renewable energy, preservation of blue and green forests, and reducing emissions from waste and transportation,” added Taylor, who is dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at The University of the West Indies.

The 1.5 target is included in the 2015 Paris Agreement to which countries the world over committed.

The agreement specifically provides that parties hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.

They made the commitment also recognising that achieving those targets would increase “the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production and making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development”.

The professor has also flagged as a key finding from the IPCC report that rainfall during summer months in the Caribbean is decreasing and will continue to decrease, while sea levels continue to rise – not only at increasing, but also at alarming, rates.

“With nowhere to retreat to and primarily coastal cities, towns and major infrastructure, sea-level rise is already a concern for the Caribbean and will continue to be so beyond the current century, even with efforts to limit global warming,” Taylor noted.

“Sea-level rise together with storm surges and waves, especially from more intense hurricanes, will worsen coastal inundation and the potential for aquifers to be impacted by increased saltwater intrusion. Sea-level rise will also cause shorelines to retreat for most small islands. Protecting coastal assets using hard and soft measures must be a priority in development planning,” he added.

The IPCC report was released on August 9, representing the first in a series of global assessments of climate change and its impacts that will be released by the IPCC in their current cycle over the next few years.

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