Thursday, December 01, 2011

World Bank report: Caribbean at risk with global sea level rise

From: Guardian Media  by Arthur Snell

The launch of this interesting report (available online at the CEPAL Web site http://www.eclac.org/publicaciones/xml/8/39188/LCARL.250.pdf)  helps us understand the risks and opportunities that climate change will have on key economic sectors in the Caribbean.

We know these are likely to be considerable: The World Bank has listed small island developing states as most at risk from sea level rise and recent modelling indicates that the northern Caribbean may exceed global average sea level rise by up to 25 per cent.  Studies have already shown that inaction or failing to adapt could cost an average of five per cent of GDP across the region by 2025, more in some countries, and worsening with time. The time for action is now. We want this report to help decision-makers target their preventative and mitigating efforts. 

Crucially, we also have here a collation of the main findings to share with the public, helping drive regional awareness and resilience-building among ordinary citizens.   This programme was locally driven, because its findings matter locally. It brought together a high level group, involving key policy-makers from across the region to provide advice and momentum. 

The technical group that undertook the assessments and helped build local knowledge in use of the methodology was also from the region.  This is vital local expertise to nurture and continue to build.  

There are some key points to highlight:  Negative impacts are not inevitable: There is a great deal that can be done to prepare and reduce the impacts of climate, as long as we act quickly and decisively. 

In some cases, the impacts of climate change may be positive. We need to prepare to take advantage of them. With a high regional dependency on imported oil products for power generation and some of the world’s highest electricity costs, win-win outcomes are possible, for example, with renewable energy and energy efficiency measures that would actually result in lower energy costs to the ordinary consumer.

We know that any action taken will have a cost. Measures which are premature, or not cost effective, risk a trade-off with growth by diverting resources from more productive uses. It is important to include cost benefit analysis—a critical part of this report—and consider the uncertainties before decisions are made. 

The best solution will be to build in flexibility, keeping options open, for example, new seed varieties that do well now and will continue to do well whether rains are good or not. Adaptation and resilience-building is a process, and we must continue to learn as we progress.  

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