Environment

From the ground floor to the sea floor

BY AINSWORTH MORRIS Environment Watch writer

Wednesday, December 04, 2013    

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CHAIRMAN of the National Climate Change Advisory Committee Dr Conrad Douglas has reiterated that Jamaicans, especially those who live in and eke out a living from coastal zones, need to take the issues of climate change and global warming more seriously in order to mitigate major impacts from them.

Douglas was speaking last week at the Kiwanis Club of North St Andrew's monthly meeting at the Police Officers' Club in St Andrew. Hs presentation was titled: 'Climate Change: The Epochal Issue of Our Time'.

"We are at the beginning of a new era in the history of planet Earth and a new era in the history of mankind. We have departed from our situation that existed previously in the Holocene era which started some 12,000 years ago. During that time, matters concerning weather, climate and disasters of extreme events were extremely predictable," Dr Douglas said.

The world has now entered the Anthropocene era, he said, where catastrophic events are not predictable and Jamaicans need to become more aware of this.

"Now we are entering into a period filled with catastrophic events. The plants are blooming out of season because the are confused. The entire planet is imbalanced. It is seeing change. The polar caps are melting. We are going to have sea level rise with an increase in temperature. The increase in temperature will cause our polar caps and snow caps to melt which will contribute to an increase in the amount of water in our ocean," Dr Douglas said.

He added that the rise in sea level due to the melting of the polar and snow caps expected over the next 20 years will bring more unpredictable events and disasters and that the country will lose many of its treasured coasts, tourist dollars and experience hotter days.

"This is inescapable. This is serious what we are talking about. In Jamaica, we are going to have sea level rise with an increase in temperature. As the temperature increases, we will have an increase in the volume of the sea," Dr Douglas said.

"What is the ground floor" of buildings located near the Waterfront in downtown Kingston, such as the Bank of Jamaica, Scotiabank, the Jamaica Conference Centre and Digicel's new green headquarters, may, in decades to come, become "the ocean floor or sea floor", he added.

Those who depend on tourism will also be negatively affected as many beaches used as tourist attractions will be eroded and submerged as the polar caps melt and the sea level rises.

He said, already, the Caribbean sea, which immediately surrounds Jamaica, is showing effects of global warming.

"Some of our own properties in Jamaica, which are in the coastal zones, are affected. In the Pedro Cays, for example, one particular cay known as the South Cay, which was once a staging frond for fishermen in years gone by, is now fully submerged. It is gone forever. We will never see it again," he said.

"You have to go scuba diving, swim out there and go under the ocean to see it," he continued.

"We have been having a difference in the frequency in the amount of rainfall that we've had. We will begin to experience more protracted and dry periods of drought and it is going to get worse. This will have serious implications for our agricultural produce also," he said.

Douglas, who is also chairman of the National Irrigation Commission, recently came under fire from environmentalists regarding the Environmental Management Scoping Study of the Portland Bright Protected Area which his firm Conrad Douglas and Associates authored on behalf of the Government of Jamaica. When questioned on the subject last week, he declined to comment, but he had previously indicated that he would soon be making a full reply.

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