NEWS this week that we will likely have to endure higher-than-normal night-time temperatures for the next three months is most worrying, especially for the elderly who are struggling — moreso than most of us — to deal with the current searing summer heat.
The forecast, which comes after the Meteorological Service's earlier prediction of at least 15 to 20 heatwave days through to the end of August, has caused us to examine the State's announcement that it is treating the enhanced heat and drought as a national emergency.
Readers will recall we were told that Local Government Minister Mr Desmond McKenzie, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, and minister with responsibility for climate affairs Senator Matthew Samuda were part of a Cabinet team working across the Government to see how it can respond in a way that will offer relief and support to Jamaicans who need help.
Outside of the health ministry, which has issued public advisories on how best to reduce exposure to excessive heat and limit the serious effects it can have on human health, we can't recall any measures implemented by the authorities to protect the elderly and children, in particular.
We note that on Monday, as some children returned to school at the start of the new academic year, we received reports of students and teachers being affected by oppressive heat in classrooms.
At Falmouth All-Age in Trelawny, Principal Mr Kirk Spencer said parents have offered to donate fans to the school. A most commendable gesture. But that is just one school. How will the thousands of other students across the country cope throughout this ordeal?
We confess that we have no answer to that, outside of the protective measures publicised by the authorities which, we believe, need to be constantly communicated because the current heatwaves affecting Earth will not simply subside given the fact that the effects of global warming are steadily placing our planet at great risk.
Scientists have been pointing to this danger for a long time, even as they have been ridiculed by sceptics. However, the signs of this phenomenon are evident. Global temperatures hit new records this summer, with July at 16.95 degrees Celsius being the hottest month ever recorded. Additionally, we see where sea levels are rising at a faster rate in this region than globally, a phenomenon that will continue to affect coastal livelihoods, tourism, health, food, energy, and water security, particularly in small islands and Central American countries.
The sad reality, though, is that small countries like Jamaica will suffer even though they are not major contributors to global warming, and governments, particularly in developed nations, continue to waffle on implementing the Paris Agreement which set the goal of limiting end-of-century warming to two degrees Celsius, and preferably not beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.
What can we do? It seems to us that we should continue our strong advocacy of mitigation measures, uniting our voice with others in the international community who do care about human survival. Just as important, citizens of all countries need to do all that they can to mitigate or, better, eliminate the effects of global warming. Our existence depends on it.