Young People Consider Climate Change, Part I: Climate Change Solutions – Why Wait?

With the upcoming COP-21 bearing down on us, (the Paris Climate Change Conference), discussion is becoming more intense and a sense of urgency heightens. I am sharing two articles by young Jamaicans. It is the youth who will inherit this Planet – or the degraded, abused Planet we older ones have left for them. Environmentalist Nalini Jagnarine expresses her views below.

In December, there will be a convergence of world leaders at COP21 (the Paris Climate Conference) to outline new mandates, review plans submitted by individual countries around the world and receive firm commitments regarding reduction of carbon emissions and climate change mitigation. Based on these agreements, Jamaica and other countries around the world, will be “pressured” to align the nation’s development interests with initiatives that would curb the effects of climate change (long term). Especially for developing countries, I am fearful and apprehensive of the type of agreements made and the resulting costs for Jamaica to conform to these new global principles.

Despite this looming pressure and uncertainty, COP21 is important because we are already feeling the impacts of Climate Change. With devastating floods in Dominica and the prolonged droughts in Jamaica and Antigua, the Caribbean seems to be “heating up.” Pamella Thomas, Director of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), reported that, “The prolonged drought (in Antigua & Barbuda) continues to seriously impact the availability of crop and livestock production.”

It is becoming clear to us as a region that rising temperatures will do more than increase the severity of weather related disasters; climate change can and will implicate our food sector by completely altering the seasonal availability of agricultural produce.

According to data gathered by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, the first six months of 2015 were the hottest on record, both on land and at sea. Warming seas will disrupt entire ecosystems and cause fish that we eat and that are commonly found in our tropical waters to migrate to areas that are more conducive for living and spawning.

It follows then, that although Jamaica and other Caribbean territories are minimal producers of carbon emissions (the major catalyst for increasing climate change), we will feel the impacts of Climate Change more severely than developed countries, which are considerably larger carbon emission contributors. However, it should not be left unsaid, that developed countries such as the United States are already experiencing impacts of climate change with large forest fires and floods occurring.

Based on the events we have witnessed, I am positive that we cannot wait any longer to act. Climate change is not waiting on us; we have seen that firsthand. We must therefore move faster on short term goals… stronger ones with the right enforcement and regulation to help effectively move our region into a brighter and better future. We need goals that will help us reduce our vulnerabilities to climate change related activities, lead the country to continuous improvement and of course allow our country to surmount its problems and become more resilient.

In the words of Dr. Arun Kashyap (the former UN Representative in Jamaica): “Time therefore is not on our side, and (our) leaders must act.”

Long term goals are a must and are needed. However, we see where the need to act on short term goals would greatly benefit us all and help us to be better prepared to tackle the longer term objectives. There are emerging local and regional policies and projects, but until these initiatives are linked to form one collective long term plan, we will be unable to truly measure or see the results of any progress made. I applaud the work that has started to date, but climate action calls for united action and action now.

The renewable energy industry is booming and rainwater harvesting has been a success. Why not capitalize on these aspects and make them a national act? Let’s now make it personal! These small actions are things that we can do now to help reduce our footprint and make our own positive impact, until we are able to fight on a larger scale. Ever heard the saying “every mickle mek a muckle?”

We should not wait on the discussions in Paris to dictate how we move forward. Based on already prevailing droughts, water shortages and forest fires (which were not an annual norm until recent years) we need goals that will help us to reduce our vulnerabilities to climate change related disasters. These goals should lead our country to grow while embracing a stronger commitment to environmental development and preservation.

I believe that any long term plan for communal growth and security should start with raising awareness and educating people. Jamaica’s Climate Walk and Ja REEACH are exemplary short term initiatives for widespread communication. However, our leaders, whether political, environmental or scientific, must acknowledge their roles to extend the effectiveness of these events and coordinate long term effective visions for climate change adaptation and mitigation. No need to wait until December 2015, Year 2020 or Year 2050. Jamaica is a nation of leaders and “overachievers.” We should start now.

Hurricane Ivan (September 10 - 12, 2004) wreaked havoc in Jamaica.
Hurricane Ivan (September 11 – 12, 2004) wreaked havoc in Jamaica.

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