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SVG told to brace for challenges of global warming

SVG told to brace for challenges of global warming


St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and its Caribbean neighbours must brace for the threats that will come with global warming.

“In the Caribbean, we are acclimated to a warm and humid environment … but in the future, we are going to start experiencing temperatures that we are not accustomed to,” warns John Toohey-Morales, an award-winning meteorologist attached to NBC 6 in South Florida, Miami.

Toohey-Morales, also the founder of ClimaData, a private weather forecasting firm, spoke to SEARCHLIGHT after a seminar at the Beachcombers Hotel in Villa on Tuesday.

He was in St Vincent and the Grenadines as part of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology’s Annual Wet/Hurricane Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum, which sought to sensitize regional journalists.

Toohey-Morales predicts that soon Caribbean countries are going to suffer from challenges like heat waves.

“It is not going to cool down as much at night because the surface of the ocean is going to be warmer and that influences our minimum temperature quite a bit.

“So you can expect minimum temperatures to not dip below 27 degrees Celsius — sometimes 28 or 29 degrees Celsius — especially towards the middle and latter portion of the century,” the veteran meteorologist said.

“What this means is that the human body can’t recover from extreme heat during the day. We are used to a hot place, but when the daytime temperatures instead of reaching 32 and 33 start to reach 35 and 36, it’s a whole different story, especially when you can’t recover at night.”

He added that as the world continues to warm and these temperatures become the norm, more residents will suffer from heat-related illnesses.

The Paris Agreement, from which the United States announced yesterday it was withdrawing, attempts to address climate change challenges, including those highlighted by Toohey-Morales.

Scientists believe that with a rise in temperature by more than two degrees, the world risks dramatically higher seas, changes in weather patterns, food and water crises, and overall a more hostile world.

Toohey-Morales stresses that the Paris Agreement attempts to address some of these climate change issues, but when the discussion is about temperatures and the pre-industrial revolution, “we are talking over a century ago, but the problem is over that one century we have had almost one degree already of warming, so we only have one degree to go, according to the Paris Agreement”.

He explained that while many persons have said it shouldn’t be a threshold of two degrees Celsius, but one-and-a-half-degrees, “that means we only have room for another half a degree of warming between now and the end of the century — and that is frightening.

“Some nations have made plans of adaptation for the changing climate, based on that one-and-a-half-degree threshold,” the Florida-based meteorologist said. “But I believe that it is going to be very difficult to keep temperatures at only a degree and a half of warming. It’s very likely that we will get to the two if we keep the present pace of injecting the greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

He added: “We are talking four degrees Celsius by the end of the century, so we have a big challenge ahead of us. We need to plan for adaptation in case mitigation does not happen.”

Meanwhile, he warned that countries in the Caribbean should expect to be significantly impacted by climatic change.

“The poor populations suffer more due to climate change than developed countries do, because there are more people in harm’s way in places where excessive rainfall can cause flash floods. Usually in developing countries there are weak structures and more people living next to the river bank,” he noted.

“Another example is that if you have a stronger hurricane, which is one of the consequences of a warmer climate…, obviously developing countries are going to struggle when faced with such a big hit … versus a rich country which could probably withstand that situation a bit better.”

Toohey-Morales stressed too that a four-degree warming would result in more frequent heat waves, greater precipitation and when it doesn’t rain, the droughts are going to be more intense and more prolonged.

“We can expect sea level rise to accelerate, so that our coast is going to be threatened by salt water flooding on sunny days because the ocean will start to encroach on those areas. Those are just some of the repercussions of the changes,” he added.