Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Climate Change Is Jamaica,s Challenge Too

All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it's here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.  - President Barack Obama
We should all remember the sheer destruction and subsequent displacement and suffering of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos resulting from super- typhoon Haiyan and the impact of climate change of our environment. These images should serve as the catalyst for us to move with a sense of urgency to find lasting and meaningful solutions. The massive typhoon which hit the Philippines was one of the most powerful ever on record, with winds exceeding 200 kilometers per hour. Some estimates have placed some 10,000 deaths in one village alone, with the figure expected to increase as government officials’ access difficult terrain.
Extreme, unusual and irregular weather patterns have been attributed to global warming and the Caribbean as a region is not immune to such occurrences.  It has been unusually hot in Jamaica since 2013 resulting in a drought in many parts of the country. This has led many to ponder the cause and impact of such an intense heat.  
As part of a global effort to mobilize action and ambition on climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited Heads of State and Government along with business, finance, civil society and local leaders to a Climate Summit.
The United Nations has a target of limiting global average warming to two degree Celsius over pre-industrial Revolution levels and this can be achieved by curbing emissions of invisible, heat trapping gases from burning fossils fuels which sadly is the backbone of the world’s energy supply. However, as emerging world powers seeks cheaper and less sufficient energy sources such as coal in order to bolster their economy it is clear than an collaborative is required from both industrialized societies as well as small and emerging economies.
Jamaica is currently midway through implementing phase 2 of a US$25 million Strategic Programme for Climate Resilience (SPCR). This initiative seeks to boost government led efforts to strength Jamaica’s ability to withstand the damaging effort of climate-related occurrences such as a hurricane. Successive governments have not always paid sufficient attention to matters of the environment and as a consequence the devastating effects have been felt by many who have lost loved ones as well as property due to government lax building codes and their inability or refusal to monitor greedy developers who in the past have been allowed to construct homes in well- known river beds and sell these to unsuspecting and desperate clients. The heart rending images which appeared on television and other social media after the aftermath of super typhoon should serve as a reminder of the cost of governments’ inaction on climate change. Many lives have been uprooted by this act of nature; adults and children alike are hungry and homeless. One can clearly see a sense of hopelessness and despair on the faces of the survivors as they search for food and meaning in the rubbles around them. We all need to be reminded that any disturbance to nature and the environment will have catastrophic consequences and that the popular and unwise decisions we take today usually come back to negatively haunt the next generation. 
Jamaica has suffered from the devastating impact of hurricanes. In 2004 Hurricane Ivan killed 17 Jamaicans and left damages totaling some US$360 Million. Four years later in 2008 Hurricane Gustav impacted Jamaica with a recovery bill of some US$210 Million. Yet some of our people continue to destroy the environment by cutting down trees and building their homes on the banks of gullies. We must continue our public relations campaign to inform those among us who do not know any better of the seriousness as well as the long lasting implications of tampering with nature and the environment. There can be no sustainable development without first protecting the environment to think or do otherwise is retrograde.  
The New York Climate Summit came one year before countries aim to conclude a global climate agreement in 2015 through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Although the 2014 Climate Summit is not part of the negotiating process, countries have recognized the value of the Summit, including by welcoming the Secretary-General’s efforts in a Decision of the Doha climate conference in 2012.
By catalyzing action on climate change prior to the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in 2015, the Secretary-General intends to build a solid foundation on which to anchor successful negotiations and sustained progress on the road to reducing emissions and strengthening adaptation strategies.
While some of us might still be in doubt as to whether or not climate change caused the super cyclone in the Philippines let us err on the side of caution and learn from others and do what we can do to safeguard ourselves in this ever changing world. The Jamaican focus on climate change should include coastal towns, for example, Portmore in St.Catherine, as well as, areas of St. Thomas should we experience a storm surge. The time is now for us to move swiftly and decisively in order to seriously address the issues of climate change and global warming even amidst our economic constraints.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.