Coping with Climate Change: Adaptation Dialogue Stresses Urgency


Eighteen Caribbean citizens died in widespread floods over the Christmas season, on the islands of St. Lucia, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These were unseasonal storms – perhaps unprecedented, certainly rare – after an exceptionally quiet 2013 hurricane season. As the UK Guardian’s Carrie Gibson notes, “The Caribbean is on the receiving end of the effects of climate change – it has to adapt and respond to the consequences, even though it has contributed little to the problem.” (See the link to her December 31 article below).

Hurricane Sandy approaching the coast of St. Vincent in 2012. (Photo: SVG Times Facebook page)
Hurricane Sandy approaching the coast of St. Vincent in 2012. (Photo: SVG Times Facebook page)

I understand that climate change means this kind of awful unpredictability. So, how do our small tropical islands adapt to the growing symptoms of climate change, whether gradual or sudden in their onset? The non-governmental organization (NGO) Panos Caribbean (headquartered in Haiti and with an office in Kingston) has been rooting out information and encouraging dialogue on the issue. Since 2011 Panos has partnered with the Adaptation Fund‘s NGO Network, through Germanwatch. The Network, established in 2007 under the Kyoto Protocol, supports NGOs in seven other developing countries.

Bridges, homes and roads were destroyed during floods and landslides in St. Lucia at Christmas time. (Photo: St Lucia News Online)
Bridges, homes and roads were destroyed during floods and landslides in St. Lucia at Christmas time. (Photo: St Lucia News Online Facebook page)

At a Panos civil society dialogue on adaptation last October, Gerald Lindo from the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Land, Water, Environment and Climate Change (what a mouthful that is) gave us an overview of the concerns, and of government’s climate change policy. Sea level rise, he asserted, is “worse than we thought” and accelerating. Since much of the Caribbean’s economic activity takes place on or near the coast (including of course tourism) this is obviously a huge concern. A one meter rise would be disastrous. Meanwhile, an overall drying out of the climate, with rising temperatures is expected; but when it does occur, rainfall will be more intense (as it was at Christmas for our neighbors). Coral reefs that protect our coast and create our beautiful beaches will suffer massive die-offs with even a one per cent increase in sea temperature. Areas like Portmore will be under threat (what a mistake it was to build massive housing developments in Portmore, on reclaimed swamp – but then we were not talking about climate change in the seventies).

There are plans to shore up Negril's fast-eroding beach, including the controversial "shore lock" technology, and the installation of breakwaters under the Adaptation Fund. (Photo: Gleaner)
There are plans to shore up Negril‘s fast-eroding beach, including the controversial “shore lock” technology, and the installation of breakwaters under the Adaptation Fund. (Photo: Gleaner)
Gerald Lindo: It's worse than we thought. (My photo)
Gerald Lindo: It’s worse than we thought. (My photo)

While Jamaica’s focus is clearly on adaptation, Mr. Lindo noted, he is concerned about the need to make Jamaicans really aware of climate change; to study the secondary or spin-off effects that many communities already experience; and to “mainstream” the issue of climate change in all sectors of government, so that each can develop its own adaptation plans. This has not yet happened. For example, the Office of Utilities Regulation has not included the likely increased use of energy (for air conditioning, refrigeration etc) in its forecast. Strategies for the government, Mr. Lindo concluded, should include creating networks (no “silos”); the development of research, technology and knowledge; and use of the best science to tackle concerns like water resource management.

Ingrid Parchment (foreground): Let's keep the momentum going.
Ingrid Parchment (foreground): Let’s keep the momentum going. In the background are Danielle Andrade and Suzanne Stanley of the Jamaica Environment Trust.

We are already seeing “real changes” in rural Jamaica, commented Mr. Hugh Dixon of the Southern Trelawny Environmental Protection Association (STEPA), stressing that a sustained public awareness campaign needs to start now. There must be a sense of ownership in communities. Ingrid Parchment of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (which manages the now-threatened Portland Bight Protected Area), agreed that on-the-ground discussions and information-sharing should be “at the top of the list.” But it is not so easy to draw in audiences, said Danielle Andrade of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET); grassroots outreach and mobilization is needed, especially in rural areas. Logistically it’s tricky, but asking elected representatives to help might be one way.

Environmentalists listen closely at the Panos Caribbean dialogue.
Environmentalists listen closely at the Panos Caribbean dialogue.

Update: Soon after this discussion the Climate Change Policy Framework and Action Plan was tabled in the Houses of Parliament as a Green Paper (draft) by Climate Change Minister Hon. Robert Pickersgill on November 5, 2013. A copy of it can be found at http://www.mwh.gov.jm/index.php/focus-areas/climate-change/draft-policy-framework. The Ministry was inviting written comments from the public, NGOs etc. The December 20 deadline is now passed.

Karen McDonald-Gayle of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica makes a point.
Karen McDonald-Gayle of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica makes a point.

So what is being done by the Planning Association of Jamaica, which is the Jamaican government’s implementing agency for the Adaptation Fund? As of November 2012 it had US$9.9 million in the kitty, to be spent over 42 months up to March, 2016. 35 per cent had already been made available in eight parishes. The National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) is to work on the installation of breakwater structures in Negril, after public consultations, to slow the erosion of the beach. Preliminary work is under way. The Ministry of Agriculture, through the Rural Agricultural Development Agency and the National Irrigation Commission, is working to improve water management systems. This includes the building of micro dams in Manchester, the establishment of water users’ groups, the rehabilitation of an existing dam in Yallahs, St. Thomas, and training in soil conservation, land husbandry, rainwater harvesting and drip irrigation. The Ministry of Tourism with the Office of Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Management and NEPA, is conducting training in climate change awareness. A “moderately technical” Climate Risk Atlas is under development and a “digestible” Hazard Risk Atlas is complete.

Storm surge during Hurricane Sandy in Jamaica. (Photo: Gleaner)
Storm surge during Hurricane Sandy in Jamaica. (Photo: Gleaner)
Clifford Mahlung, who heads the Meteorological Service of Jamaica's Climate Change Unit, was a truly valuable and helpful resource person during the discussion.
Senior climate negotiator Clifford Mahlung, who heads the Meteorological Service of Jamaica’s Climate branch, was a truly valuable and helpful resource person during the discussion.

What is civil society doing under the Adaptation Fund? The training of media is under way and Panos is seeking to make environmentalists more widely available to local journalists to increase knowledge levels among the public. The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition is planning more consultations on the logistics hub and other hot issues (environmental groups such as JET are members of the Coalition).

Numerous related issues were raised by the NGOs involved in the Panos dialogue. The Jamaica Conservation & Development Trust’s Robert Stephens (who chairs the Jamaica Protected Areas Trust) wants the government’s endorsement of his plan for carbon trading involving the forests of the Blue Mountains. A representative of the Negril Area Environmental Protection Trust spoke of a fiery stakeholders’ meeting organized with Adaptation Fund funding: You can’t brush stakeholders’ concerns under the carpet.” There seem to be so many environmental concerns in Negril: land use, squatting in the morass and along the river; sewage treatment; and the development of what someone called a “ghetto on the beach.”

So what did we take away from this hugely informative (and at times passionate) dialogue? Firstly, implementation of climate change adaptation projects is not moving fast enough. There was an overwhelming sense of urgency. Secondly, communication between government and NGOs (representing civil society) must become stronger. “Government needs to recognize NGOs as partners,” said one NGO member. Thirdly, it’s vital to ensure that the “ordinary Jamaican” understands climate change and how to adapt to its uncertainties. Creative ways must be found to spread the word.

Let’s work more closely together. Let’s reach out to communities.

And let’s get on with it! The time is now. Climate change is happening, and faster than we think.

Related articles

 


27 thoughts on “Coping with Climate Change: Adaptation Dialogue Stresses Urgency

  1. Look at and assess the policies which have been put into effect. How many of them have actually been geared at protection of life and mitigation of damage?

    Like

  2. The reason your meeting kept coming around to time is because the UN along with its crony organisations and spin-offs have their own deadlines. The earth does not see major climatic shifts in a human lifetime. Our mini ice age has been transitioning for ages, not years. So they are impressing on you to put the policies in effect and giving you money to kill off your industries so you end up dependent on donor agencies for as little as the money to pay your striking police, nurses and teachers.

    Like

    1. Yes, they have their own deadlines. I don’t see a problem with taking action to put policies in effect. The IMF has a big say in what we are doing in the economy at the moment, as you probably know. We will see what 2014 brings. I am not sure what industries you think we are killing off. And our policemen, nurses and teachers rarely (if ever) go on strike.

      Like

      1. Our mining sector is under the same cap and trade that the meeting seems to exalt. That means the heads ARE invariably stifling the sector. They signed the policy documents put forward by the UN. Sugar is under attack from all angles, not only has the sector produced a maximum of their so called emissions through burning, but real sugar is under attack and is replaced with chemical compounds. The sugar industry has had to see land be reclaimed as protected, it has had to see shutdowns and diversifications to shore down production to get the carbon levels down.

        Like

  3. So many business administrators, so many managers, so many personnel in fields that don’t make any form of developmental sense at all. And another thing, your precious so called credible international agencies and sources have very interesting descriptions of sustainable development that we seem to be trying desperately to reach. Go find them and read them. Find the UN document on weather weapons issued in the 60’s and read it and none of you should make another post in this discussion without full clarity and understanding of the things you are talking about. The evidence is stacked up against your talking points and your arguments are very questionable.

    Like

  4. We are all reaping the hell we have sewn with this so called debate on climate change. Even the next generation is seeing it as their own personal problem without trying to ascertain what the true cause of the problem is. They have set goals to use less of this and that and some have even declared their own existences a problem. You all need to go into a Grade 5 class and ask them about this. None of these children have the mentality of problem solving. It is all about gathering money to pay their way through life and it is sad. Check how many enrollments in physics, math, meteorology, engineering, dynamics, astronomical-physics, geometry, metrology…stuff that matters to a changing earth, enrollments to study these topics are practically non-existent. We have a lot of marketters though. Many are willing to sell on an idea they heard about without finding out what it is they are selling. Sad.

    Like

  5. You all need to check with the climate negotiator why Jamaica no longer has a mining sector and why our utility bills are stratospherically high in comparison to other nations in the basin. Ask them what happened to the plans for the excavation of rare earth minerals. You call yourselves journalists and bloggers and friends of the earth… you all are contributing to the destruction of national economies if you purport this foolishness.

    Like

    1. You are entitled to your opinion. I don’t call myself a journalist but I AM a blogger (I don’t call myself one, I have been blogging consistently since 2010) and I have always, since my childhood, been concerned with the environment. You are not clarifying much with your comments I am afraid. All I know (for sure) is that environmentalists in Jamaica are NOT bent on stifling development and growth in Jamaica. This is a myth that is being put around by those who oppose them.

      Like

  6. Why is there record cold over the north this year? Why is there a colder than normal summer in Jamaica last year? Why are your guinep trees not doing as well as previous years? Why were there less hurricanes. All these are features of warmth and when there is not enough warmth, the features are less or are not as good or tasty as we would like. Climate change is real but is not at all caused by factories and sports cars. Do you see Al Gore driving a Volt or a Pric? Do you see him shutting down the heat and air in his California mansion? No. But journalists follow Obama into Africa to tell the poor and dying that they can either have the fridge to cool the medicines or the air con on in the hospital but never both at the same time because it will cause a category 5 in the Atlantic.

    Like

    1. Factories,sports cars and air conditioned mansions were never mentioned in our discussion. We were discussing how to adapt. You seem to have a thing against journalists. In the first discussion there were no journalists. The second discussion was to try to help journalists to do their research.

      Like

      1. If a discussion is aimed at trying to help journalists to do their research, and they still hold on to the myths from outside, weak, unresearched sources, how then are they of any benefit to the solution? We have even Gerald Lindo telling people that sea levels are rising. Seriously??? Look at the global levels. Look how much of the ice has been reclaimed by the north and south poles. Tell Lindo to check the stream gauge situated out at the St. Thomas coast, and he will see that the swash level has actually dropped on the order of millimeters over the past 3 years. Plus, there is a projected leveling off. AND the level has not risen significantly in over 3 climate periods.

        Like

  7. Such a critical issue – thanks for the overview but are we going to act in time!? I read the book ‘Sea Sick’ by Alanna Mitchell in 2013 – highly recommend it for anyone concerned about the issue of climate change.

    Like

    1. Yes, I know. The meeting kept coming back to the issue of time – it’s not on our side and it is happening so much faster than was predicted. Thanks for the book recommendation – it sounds interesting. Thanks again for your comments and all the best!

      Like

    2. I refuse to accept any information on science put forward by any journalist. Alana’s book is fiction. It states nothing about the natural absorption by the atmosphere whic. Accounts for hundredths of a percent more than human activity. She also demonises industry and advancements by the third world as well as the first world and seems to have the same agenda as the tax pushers. I urge ppl to listen carefully and analyse what climate pushers say. According to Al Gore, we should basically all be dead by now.

      Like

      1. Well, it seems I am starting up a heated discussion here! It is such a complex and controversial topic. I am a total NON scientist – just reporting on what I see and hear. I am open to all views! But whatever you want to say about Al Gore, he did give us a good wake-up call didn’t he?

        Like

      2. Very credible journalists reporting on what very credible scientists working for very credible scientific organizations say about climate change is good enough to give me pause for thought…

        Like

      3. It’s interesting how we afford credibility to journalists and scientists without any knowledge if their backgrounds. Al Gore is not a scientist, he is a politician and a globalist with DECLARED intentions to usher in a trading scheme where persons and governments pay money to a fund in order to light a fire and use air conditioning. The journalist is merely helping to steer you all down the path to acceptance that your stove and car are making Mt. St. Helen, Krakatoa, another the Pacific do strange things.

        Like

      4. I am not sure which journalist you are referring to. I know Al Gore is not a scientist. He may have his own motives, that is true. I DO know the backgrounds of all the scientists and environmentalists at this particular discussion, in fact.

        Like

  8. Look too at the forecasts put out by the Hpc. All of them predicted excess of 50mm which is usually a threshold for flooding. The so called unseasonably quiet 2013 hurricane period was this way because of an excess of dust and reflectivity. This is caused by the position of the Azores high driving the dust into the Atlantic as it moves off the African coast. Notice that the sun is now in the southern hemisphere and on its way back north. It is a clear indication of a wetter than normal dry season as the residual warmth from the w

    Like

  9. Why do we keep blaming the climate for our own mistakes? The reason the death occurred was due to poor analysis, poor interpretation and a lack of will to make key decisios about the weather. The weather bureaus missed what was an easterly wave passing under the same trough that sat over the area for weeks. Obviously the deep trough promoted the heavy rains. Simple interpretation could have determined that there would be huge rainfall amounts.

    Like

    1. I do take your point, it’s important. I was not “blaming” climate change – none of us are. We just need to accept it as a reality and understand its unpredictability. The purpose of the activities under the Adaptation Fund is to help Jamaicans with this understanding and train them in ways to adjust, adapt, and live with it. As for the weather forecasters, that’s an issue I also have and we have in the past experienced this in Jamaica. But it is all to do with the unpredictability factor too; perhaps our Met Offices will have to do a lot of re-training, and in Jamaica we now have a Climate Division in our Met Office. They will have to do a better job at explaining and trying to predict. Then perhaps more lives will be saved and livelihoods preserved in the future.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.