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Earth Today | Early warning systems said key to avoiding climate disasters

Published:Thursday | January 27, 2022 | 12:08 AM
 Early warning systems have been championed as essential to the adaptation response to climate change impacts.
Early warning systems have been championed as essential to the adaptation response to climate change impacts.

GIVEN PROJECTED shifts in the frequency and scale of climate-related events, the call has come for a proper consideration of early warning systems as pivotal to adaptation for Jamaica and other small island developing states (SIDS).

“Early warning systems are an important part of ‘climate services’, which globally has become a necessary component in the pursuit of resilience. Climate services and early warning systems hold significant value for SIDS and places like Jamaica where a harsher climate future is projected,” said Professor Michael Taylor, a respected Jamaican and Caribbean climate scientist.

Jamaica and other SIDS are among the most vulnerable to climate-related disasters, including those associated with extreme weather events, that can have a ripple effect across many sectors, causing not only loss of lives but also massive livelihood losses.

“Under climate change, the projected shifts in the intensity and frequency of climatic events are such that even one event is capable of significantly derailing the development trajectory of a small island state. Early warning systems offer the opportunity for proactive and planned responses to weather and climate events as opposed to the kinds of reactive approaches that currently typify our approach,” explained Taylor.

According to the physicist and dean of the Faculty and Science and Technology at The University of the West Indies, Mona, it is time to change that.

“Countries like Jamaica have not fully explored the potential value and application of early warning systems outside of disaster risk reduction, for example, hurricane warnings, and to a lesser extent for agriculture (namely, drought). There is significant scope for many more applications, for example, in health, water, energy and financial sectors, but it will require significant investments in monitoring systems, technology, personnel and research,” he explained.

Businesswoman and development specialist Eleanor Jones has herself noted the value of developing early warning systems for Jamaica and other SIDS.

“What is important is to understand the particular hazard and the vulnerability of each area, and that is important in order to design an early warning system. The business of early warning systems also have to be taken into account. The citizens have to understand what it is about, what they are exposed to do and why it is important to prepare so that they can respond effectively. This is becoming increasingly important because as we see more and more disasters occurring, people need to be made aware of how they can take charge of their vulnerability. That will be assisted by early warning systems that are very carefully designed, carefully executed and based on the science,” she told The Gleaner.

Jones, who heads Environmental Solutions Limited, added that taking an approach to early warning systems that embodies partnerships is the way to go for Jamaica and other SIDS at this time.

“Disasters occur mainly at the community level and we need to build capacity. There are several approaches which can be used to effect reduction of loss and damage, from the simple to the sophisticated. It is about partnerships: partnerships with the people, partnerships with communities and partnerships with the scientific base,” she noted.

Their statements come in the wake of news from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) that it had become the largest financier of early warning systems in the world.

Carolina Fuentes, GCF’s secretary to the board, revealed late last year that some US$1.2 billion of GCF’s approved budget is going to climate information and early warning. She was speaking at a GCF event – hosted during the annual UN climate talks held in Glasgow – on a panel of international and national organisations, civil society organisations and young professionals looking at how to boost capacity in climate early warning systems in SIDS.