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Top regional meteorologist speaks on climate change

Top regional meteorologist speaks on climate change
05 Nov

The outgoing Coordinating Director of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Meteorological Organization, (CMO), Tyronne Sutherland, says economic considerations may be fuelling climate change and warned that the earth is indeed getting warmer.

“You can get any small scientist to go on television and say it (climate change) is a fake, but the serious scientists will never say that because we have data that shows the earth warming from, say the industrial revolution in the last century and it has been constantly rising,” Sutherland told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

“It is clear that it is human activity that’s largely to blame,” he said, adding “if you want to cut the global warming that is occurring it is going to hit a lot of economic sectors in many countries.

“The real genuine, honest scientist is not going to say it is not occurring it is those who have an economic motive that will say it is not,” he said noting “for the foreseeable future it is going to continue to rise.

“It is not something you are going to be able to switch off quickly. I am hopeful that some of the measures that reduce the carbon footprint will slow it down, but I think it is going to take a little while before we start seeing that”.

During the 2015 Paris climate talks, Caribbean countries were among the coalition of low-lying countries that successfully pushed the international community to aim to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C (2.7F) beyond pre-industrial levels.

Through the Paris Agreement, parties also agreed to a long-term goal for adaptation – to increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that did not threaten food production. Additionally, they agreed to work towards making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders at their 2015 summit issued a Declaration for Climate Change in which they urged the international community to ensure that the outcome of COP 21 results “in an ambitious international agreement that limits global warming to as far below 1.5°C as possible, in order to ensure the survival of the Caribbean States and territories”.

They said then that climate change represents an “urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires to be urgently addressed by all Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”.

The region had been pushing for the international community to accept global warming to a level of 1.2 degrees, arguing that a global goal of limiting average temperature increase to below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is inadequate for protecting critical ecosystems in small island developing states (SIDS) like those in the Caribbean.

Sutherland said it is necessary to “set a target in which we could live with the consequences.

“People will still argue whether it is 1.2 even as high as two degrees. But if you don’t restrict it to below a certain level, such as the 1.2, the consequences are something that even I as a meteorologist cannot even tell you.

“But what we are already seeing suggests to me that it would not be nice if we don’t hold down as low as we can…”

A 2016 United Nations study has warned of the possibility of increased drought situations in the region as a result of the impact of climate change and Sutherland told CMC that while there will be periods of droughts, the Caribbean must also brace itself for increased and heavy rainfall.

“The trend is that when we have rain we are going to have a lot more rain. There are two sides. So during the drought periods they might be quite intense and during the rains, you may have lots of heavier rainfall….

“The impacts on the seasons is going to depend on the type of rainfall and it is not only going to be in the Caribbean we will see this but in the tropical areas. I think we are going to see heavier rainfall when it is raining and in the dry period very dry.”

He said the Caribbean would continue to be affected by the El Nino phenomena that while it is looking at the temperatures in the Pacific impacts upon the weather around the world.

“We have to monitor everything that’s going on around the world, not only our region,” he said, noting that the recent rains in Trinidad and Tobago had caused widespread floods never seen before in that oil-rich twin island republic.

Sutherland said he was optimistic that Caribbean countries could survive the impact of climate change, such as the intensity of hurricanes, if people adhered to the building codes among other measures.

He said hurricanes and other weather patterns are “nature’s balance” of the earth system.

“So it is part of a system. If you have a pressure cooker and you put your hand on top of it while it is cooking, you know it will blow up on you.

“It is like this, a hurricane has to have a vent, the atmosphere has to have a vent and so the hurricane is just part of that system. Unfortunately we have to learn to with hurricanes, build our homes appropriately in the right places and we can survive hurricanes if we try,” he told CMC.

“We are going through a period now whether climate change is having an impact and so forth. There is no question in my mind the earth is getting warmer. Our oceans to the east of us are getting warmer and that’s the source of the energy for hurricanes warmer oceans and other conditions in the atmosphere have to be right.

“So if we get a warmer ocean we have to look for more activity. it doesn’t mean we can say country X or country Y will get hit. That’s not what we mean. We mean we can expect greater activity,” he added.