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The Editor Speaks: Global warming

Colin Wilsonweb2While the rest of the world embraced mostly with enthusiasm the Paris Climate Agreement that 196 world nations have committed to, there has been little or no response to it here in the Cayman Islands.

I have been waiting for a government response as they seem to like to add their pinch of salt to whatever is the flavour of the month from our world leaders.

I have waited in vain or I have missed it.

However, as one of the world’s smallest, flat and just a few feet above sea level we are the most vulnerable to any climate change. Especially if melting ice raises the sea levels even by an inch.

In a report iNews Cayman carried on sea level rise and its impact on the Cayman Islands executed in 2009 it said:

“The Cayman Islands are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global climate change on the surrounding sea surface. The islands do not appear to be subject to significant land movement, and sea surface levels around the islands are close to the global mean according to satellite telemetry, consequently forecast changes in mean global sea surface levels are likely to be realistic for the Cayman islands. The total mean global sea surface rise by 2100 estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment at between 0.18 and 0.59 metres is likely to be exceeded according to recent research, reaching at least 1 metre. The rate of sea surface rise, presently circa 3.1mm/year, may have increased at least threefold by
2100. These changes will result in beach erosion and the widespread destruction of mangroves, thus rendering the coastline even more vulnerable to flooding than at present.

“Forecast changes in the intensity and longevity of hurricanes and tropical storms will exacerbate the effects of sea surface rise. Associated storm surges may increase in magnitude, increasing beach erosion and in particular the erosion of coral reefs. Given the observed effects of coral bleaching probably related to periods when sea temperatures are higher than the mean, reefs may be particularly affected. The combination of rises in the sea surface and increases in the intensity and longevity of storms can only result in serious coastal erosion and flooding. Tsunamis will undoubtedly occur some time in the future, and higher sea surface levels will increase their impact, but their size and frequency cannot be forecast.”

“The Cayman Islands, being low lying islands with an average height above sea level of seven feet are vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by global warming. Without resolute counteraction, climate change will overstretch many societies’ adaptive capacities within the coming decades. [2] As has been stated by the World Bank, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [3] and NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies [4] sea levels are rising due to manmade Green House Gas (GHG) emissions’. During hurricane Ivan in September 2007 over 70+% of Grand Cayman flooded to depths varying from a few inches to 10’+ feet.

“Many of the islands homes, resort hotels and condominium developments are built on the coastline and are extremely vulnerable to adverse weather and the resulting storm surge. Storm surge and wave damage will be compounded by sea level rise in years to come, making it imperative that the issue be addressed today. The two oil companies represented in the Cayman Islands, Exxon and Chevron have their oil storage installations on the Western coast of the islands, making them vulnerable to storm surge / wave action from the west, the fact that these installations are situated among residential areas makes the danger greater. Grand Cayman’s only airport, Owen Roberts International is also on the coastal flood plain, bordering as it does on the edge of the North Sound. This vital part of the countries infrastructure was flooded in hurricane Ivan. During the same incident the islands communications infrastructure was rendered unusable, due either to loss of electrical power or wind damage to masts and antennas. Caribbean Utilities, Grand Cayman’s only supplier of electricity is situated on the shores of the North Sound and within the coastal flood plain. During a severe storm or hurricane the generators are shut down as there is a strong possibility that segments of the transmission and distribution grid will be destroyed and that the plant itself will be flooded. Much of Grand Cayman’s potable water infrastructure was destroyed in hurricane Ivan as the mains supply follows, to a large degree, the coastal roads making it vulnerable to damage from wave action and storm surge.”

To read the story go to:

Therefore the Agreement in Paris should have warranted a response although I have to be cautious in my applause to it.

In our story today “What the Paris climate pact really means, according to the experts” there is plenty of ammunition to a cynic that I have become.

“The good news is that the parties have agreed to relatively short, five-yearly cycles of nationally determined contributions. They have also agreed that each successive contribution shall be a progression beyond the previous one and reflect each party’s highest possible ambition.

“The bad news is that there is no requirement that the parties must review and upgrade their existing pledges before 2030, although they may voluntarily choose to do so at any time.

“On a worst-case scenario, we could see no ratcheting up of pledges over the next 15 years, just like we have seen no shift in the Copenhagen 2020 pledges made in early 2010. This would require much more heroic efforts in subsequent cycles and make it much harder to reduce the risks of dangerous warming.”

So maybe this is why there has been little government reaction. There are no penalties whatsoever on any country that doesn’t execute its pledge.

It did make everyone feel pretty good, though, didn’t it?


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