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Climate Change on the front burner of national development

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Tue, Feb 14. 2012

Editor: Thank you for publishing previous letters submitted by this author during the past months. It is believed that such a gesture has demonstrated your commitment to national development, especially in the areas of natural resource management and environmental health. This week’s letter is intended to add to the public discussion on climate issues and associated impacts on lives and livelihood.{{more}}

One must congratulate the organizer(s) of the RBTT young leaders program for boldly putting climate change issue on the front burner of national development during this current period of economic challenges. Of course, the students of the various secondary schools must also be commended for the courageous step taken in advancing community-based solutions to confront global climate change challenges. After all, we need young spirited and selfless leaders to advance the causes of our country, and region by extension, beyond the next half century, when more tangible, negative impacts of our changing climate will most likely be realized.

In confronting the challenges associated with climate change, one must be conscious of climate variability or short-term variation in climate, driven by pseudo-routine phenomena, e.g. El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Tropical Atlantic Variability (TAV) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which routinely affect the region’s climate. The current and potential extremes of weather as a result of climate change superimposed on climate variability have added significant implications for lives and livelihood in Small Island Developing State (SIDS). As a result of this, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) needs not only to adopt appropriate responsive strategies, but also to go further by integrating climate issues into developmental processes. However, whether on a global, regional or national level, the strategy towards responding to climate challenge can be mitigation and/or adaptation. For SIDS such as SVG, response should focus more on adaptation rather than mitigation.

In the grand scheme of things, the contribution of green-house (GHG) gases by SVG and other SIDS is insignificant. In fact, we are often more sequesters than emitters of (GHG). Furthermore, this country has made significant strides in banishing CFC’s generating devices. Hence, the mitigation approach should not be our first line of defence. As the full impacts of climate change and variability are felt by SIDS such as SVG, current economic, social and political gains will be challenged and existing vulnerabilities most likely will be exacerbated and new ones may develop as well. Additionally, climate-related problems such as floods, hurricanes and drought will most likely increase in intensity and severity. Not only will these conditions test the quality of our physical infrastructures, but they will also test the coping skills of residents and the resilience of the country on the whole. This raises question about prudent utilization of scarce resources and the level of self-dependence of certain sectors, such as agriculture. Also, these likely situations will no doubt require a nation to have a high level of security in areas such as energy and food. For example, in the area of energy, the focus on sustainable energy should not only be to reduce the use of fossil fuel, but to ensure energy security, in the event of any climate-related disaster.

The current and projected impacts of climate change and variability can be harsh on SIDS. In some cases, an entire island state can be literally devastated. Remember Hurricane Ivan and Grenada?

(This topic will be further discussed in the next letter).

Neri James

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