Editorial

We ignore climate change at our certain peril

Tuesday, May 13, 2014    

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EXPECT the usual chorus of ridicule at the just-released United States study on the impact of climate change on that country.

For global warming sceptics have continuously advanced myriad arguments to support their disbelief that our planet is being affected by climate change. Those views range from incorrect assertions that there is no consensus on global warming being caused by humans, that the earth hasn't warmed since 1998, that Antarctica is gaining ice, and that we are heading into an ice age, to name just a few.

We can't share those views, for the evidence that disproves those arguments is not only staring us in the face, we are experiencing it, especially here in the Caribbean.

Think back to unseasonal heavy rains that devastated islands in the Eastern Caribbean last December. Add to that increasingly active hurricane seasons over the past few years, resulting in death, heavy flooding, loss of property and crops and you get a sense as to why we agree with the majority of the world's scientists that climate change is real.

The United States report, we are told, contains research by hundreds of that country's best climate scientists and technical experts in the public and private sectors.

They have warned of "drought in the state of California, prairie fires in Oklahoma, and rising ocean levels on the East Coast, particularly in Florida, most of them caused by humans", an Agence France Press report told us last week.

The American scientists have also noted that in the south-east and Caribbean regions — home to more than 80 million people and some of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas — "sea level rise combines with other climate-related impacts and existing pressures such as land subsidence, causing significant economic and ecological implications".

They pointed out, as well, that Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the USA and, as such, "Arctic summer sea ice is receding faster than previously projected and is expected to virtually disappear before mid-century".

That will affect marine ecosystems and increase communities' vulnerability to coastal erosion.

Overall, the picture painted by the scientists is not pretty. Their warnings, therefore, should not be ignored by legislators and the general public.

That, of course, includes us here in Jamaica and the Caribbean. For the predicted alterations in ecological systems are likely to affect us.

Last month, in this space, we expressed hope that the Government is taking the necessary steps to reduce the damaging effects of nature, instead of merely lamenting, as Climate Change Minister Robert Pickersgill did recently, that more effort is needed to counteract the effects of climate change.

We also pointed out that that effort cannot be the Government's alone as all Jamaicans need to do what is necessary to ensure that our environment can withstand the inescapable forces of nature.

The sceptics will remain just that — sceptics. However, we can't ignore the warning issued by Mr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a few months ago that "nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change".

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