Editorial

Climate change: The night is dark and full of terrors

Tuesday, April 01, 2014    

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THE latest United Nations report on climate change makes instructive reading that all governments, especially in this region, should study and use as a basis to improve adaptation measures.

According to the group of scientists and officials who make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the impacts of global warming are likely to be "severe, pervasive and irreversible".

Rising temperatures, the IPCC said, are likely to affect people's health, their homes, food and safety. The panel also pointed out that, since 2007, scientific evidence on the impacts of global warming has almost doubled.

Journalists attending a news conference after the IPCC meeting in Yokohama, Japan, heard from Mr Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, that "nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change".

His colleague, Dr Saleemul Huq, is also quoted as saying: "Before this we thought we knew this was happening, but now we have overwhelming evidence that it is happening and it is real."

The IPCC document warns that over the next 20 to 30 years the threat to coral and other species will increase as the oceans will become more acidic; and, as mercury levels rise, animals, plants and other species will start moving towards higher ground or towards the poles.

Crop yields for rice, wheat and maize will suffer reductions of more than 20 per cent, and warmer sea waters will see fish migration, resulting in a more than 50 per cent reduction in potential catches in sections of the tropics and Antarctica.

The IPCC report also pointed to the threat of flooding — which we are already seeing in the Caribbean, the United States and Britain — as well as heat-related mortality.

We note the concern voiced by Dr Maggie Opondo, senior lecturer and researcher at the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi, that in places such as Africa, climate change and extreme events mean "people are going to become more vulnerable to sinking deeper into poverty".

Dr Opondo, of course, is correct, and her concern is very real for us here in the Caribbean.

In Jamaica, we are about to enter the rainy season, which traditionally results in flooding and sometimes loss of life and property. We hope that the Government is taking the necessary steps to reduce the damaging effects of nature, instead of merely lamenting, as did Minister Robert Pickersgill recently, that more effort is needed to counteract the effects of climate change.

That effort, of course, cannot be the Government's alone. All Jamaicans must accept that we have a duty to ensure that our environment can withstand the inescapable forces of nature.

Adaptation strategies, we hold, must be local, regional and national in scope if we are to limit the effects of climate change.

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