'There is business in climate changeWednesday, March 20, 2013
ADAPTING to a changing climate ought to be viewed as a business opportunity.
This is the argument put forward by environmental consultant Dr Kwame Emmanuel who is involved in the Developing Design Concepts for Climate Change Resilient Buildings project being implemented by the Institute of Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies and funded jointly by the university and the Inter-American Development Bank.
He argues that, while the threat posed by climate change — through droughts, hurricanes, heat waves and other severe weather events — seem overwhelming, it presents unique opportunities for innovation and job creation.
To reduce the economic and social impact of climate change in small islands, the focus has to be on adaptation, that is, what changes are necessary to thrive in changing climatic conditions, he said in an exclusive submission to the Jamaica Observer.
"Climate-smart initiatives include reforestation, renewable energy use, recycled water for agriculture, rainwater harvesting, water use efficiency, and improved environmental planning and enforcement. Adaptation requires urgent funding and implementation and should be promoted as a business opportunity to market innovations and generate employment," Dr Emmanuel urged.
To make his case, he outlined the cost of natural disasters to Jamaica in the past few years.
"In Jamaica, between May and September 2002, flooding caused damage valued at $6 billion. In 2008, Tropical Storm Gustav caused $15.6 billion, and in 2010, Tropical Storm Nicole, $20.6 billion in damage. There was also Hurricane Sandy in 2012 with damage amounting to $9.7 billion. These events triggered disruptions in water supply, dislocation due to flooding, and contraction of the economy. Recent drought conditions have also impacted agricultural production and caused an increase in food prices," he added.
His suggestion is that investment in sustainable or alternative environmental practices will not only address the challenges presented by the climate change crisis, but will also help the economy, which is currently hobbled by high rates of unemployment and a growing debt-to-GDP ratio.
Quoting from world-renowned environmentalist Vandana Shiva, and referencing the November 2012 World Bank publication Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided, Dr Emmanuel said the effects of the climate crisis may be more severe than those being expected, and that they will manifest as a water crisis in the form of droughts, floods, hurricanes, and heat waves with negative implications for developing and under-developed territories.
"(The study) reports that the global mean temperature will rise by 4°C by 2060 if there is no immediate and aggressive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "The findings forecast a doomsday scenario for our grandchildren, as there will be devastating and unprecedented consequences affecting small-island economies in the tropics. Even more worrying is that tropical islands may become uninhabitable in a 4°C warmer climate. International cooperation is therefore necessary to minimise the warming effect to a level that is manageable for vulnerable countries.
"According to the World Bank report, the global mean temperature has already risen by 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels. This warming has resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in the area of ice covering the Arctic Ocean in the summer, and an exceptional number of heat waves around the world, including in Russia where, in 2010, resultant economic losses amounted to US$15 billion," said Emmanuel.
Developing Design Concepts for Climate Change Resilient Buildings will seek to address the development of approaches and policies that will help reduce loss of life and property and enable effective recovery in the aftermath of climate-related disasters in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Proposals are being developed for a planning framework with no-build zones and design criteria for climate-proof buildings, including water-use efficiency. Policy recommendations will also encourage water cooperation — the theme for World Water Day 2013 — by promoting integrated spatial planning and encouraging water managers and users to work together to secure access to water as a productive resource as well as to protect against the destructive properties of water, which are associated with storms and floods.
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