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Earth Today | Countries must take responsibility for climate change – Caribbean scientists

Published:Thursday | August 19, 2021 | 12:08 AM
Cover of the IPCC’s ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis’.
Cover of the IPCC’s ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis’.
Professor Michael Taylor
Professor Michael Taylor

THE EXERCISE of personal and shared responsibility by countries, including those of the Caribbean, has never been more important than at this time in the effort to thwart the impacts of a changing climate.

This is according to Professor Michael Taylor and Dr Tannecia Stephenson, both of them respected climate-change researchers from The University of the West Indies (UWI), and who have noted for the region key findings from the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.

“How bad it becomes will depend on how bad we let it become! The world, and the Caribbean, have a say in how bad climate change eventually becomes and also how bad the impacts will eventually be,” the duo insisted in a paper shared with The Gleaner.

“The Caribbean has to intensify efforts to get limits on global warming. But even then, the world has already committed itself to some level of increase and impact. This means adaptation planning takes on even greater importance for the Caribbean, as well as issues such as ‘loss and damage’,” Taylor and Stephenson added.

“Does the region have collective positions on mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage? Is it making that position known to the world and its own citizens? Is everybody aware of what they can do? The stark message to the region is that everybody has to be part of the solution!” they said further.

Taylor is dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at The UWI, while Stephenson heads the Physics Department. Both are leaders in the Climate Studies Group, Mona.

Their statement follows findings from the IPCC report, which reveal, among other things, that with every additional increment of global warming, changes in extremes continue to become larger. This is even as with further global warming, every region is projected to increasingly experience concurrent and multiple changes in climatic impact-drivers.

“Changes in several climatic impact-drivers would be more widespread at 2 degrees Celsius compared to 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming and even more widespread and/or pronounced for higher warming levels. For example, at 2 degrees Celsius global warming and above, the Caribbean is projected to experience an increase in frequency and/or severity of agricultural and ecological droughts,” Taylor and Stephenson said, citing the report.

It is critical, they insist, that all efforts be made to restrain global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, in alignment with the Paris Agreement.

That agreement, signed in 2015, commits countries to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below two 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”

“We can still limit global warming to 1.5 or two degrees, but only if global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced drastically,” they noted.

To get there, they said, “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. 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,” the researchers noted.

The COP, held annually, is where climate deals are brokered. This year’s event is to be held in Glasgow in November and is seen as critical, as countries the world over look to settle the course – from the required reporting protocols to financing, among other issues – towards a stable climate future.