Editorial

Mr Holness puts forward a case worth discussing

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

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Two reports issued by scientists last week have drawn more attention to the dangers posed to Earth by climate change.

The first was the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) annual greenhouse gas bulletin which told us that last year, global temperatures reached a new high due to concentrations of key gases in the atmosphere.

According to the WMO, carbon dioxide levels reached 405 parts per million in 2017, a level not seen in at least three million years.

Of equal concern is that the scientists say they see no sign of reversal in this rising trend.

Mr Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary general, is reported as saying that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago when the temperature was 2C to 3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now.

The WMO researchers also reported a resurgence of CFC-11, a gas that was supposed to be phased out of production in keeping with the 1987 Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer.

The second report, released by the United States Government, states that climate change will cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars annually by the end of this century unless drastic action is taken to cut carbon emissions.

“With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century — more than the current gross domestic product of many US states,” said the National Climate Assessment, compiled by more than 300 scientists.

The scientists argued that “without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure plus property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century”.

The effects, we are told, will spill over into global trade, affecting import and export prices and US businesses with overseas operations and supply chains.

Some of the impacts of climate change, the researchers noted, are already being felt in the United States. Indeed, they pointed to recent extreme weather and climate-related events that can now be attributed, “with increasingly higher confidence, to human-caused warming”.

US President Donald Trump, of course, has dismissed the report, saying that while he “read some of it” he didn't believe it. That's not surprising, given Mr Trump's unwavering belief that climate change is a hoax.

Small island developing states (SIDS), however, cannot treat this, or any other research on climate change, lightly, as we are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

That very point was made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in Washington, DC, on Monday at a conference to discuss the building of resilience to disasters and climate change in the Caribbean.

Ponting to the extreme damage that hurricanes inflicted on some Caribbean countries last year, Mr Holness urged the region to lead the way in crafting and implementing leading and innovative resilience-building instruments.

He also made an appeal to the international community and development partners to work with the Caribbean, as a special grouping, to discuss alternatives to using income levels to determine access to finance.

“The shocking scale and impact of climate change on SIDS described in the recently published 1.5-degree report demands that what is facing us requires an urgent change in the climate finance landscape and how we, as SIDS, access and utilise such,” Mr Holness said.

His suggestion is worth serious consideration.

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