Climate change is happening now! It is not a far-off problem that we can keep postponing and hope ‘that nature will continue to take care of us’. The present consequences of climate change on people’s lives and livelihoods and the disruption of national economies is costing us dearly today and even more so in the future. But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that can propel us to cleaner and more resilient societies and economies. See for example (http://www.un.org/climatechange/)
The changing climate impacts societies, economies and ecosystems, in a variety of ways. For example, climate change can increase and/or decrease rainfall, influence agriculture crop yields, affect human health, cause changes to forests and other ecosystems, or even impact our energy supply. Climate related impacts are occurring across Grenada and in many sectors of our economy.
How does Climate Change impact:
Weather and climate play a significant role in people's health. Changes in climate affect the average weather conditions that we are accustomed to. Warmer average temperatures will likely lead to hotter days and more frequent and longer heat waves, flash flooding and gusty winds. This could increase the number of heat-related illnesses and deaths. Increases in the frequency or severity of extreme weather events such as storms could increase the risk of dangerous flooding, high winds, and other direct threats to people and property. Warmer temperatures could increase the concentrations of unhealthy air and water pollutants. Changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, and extreme events could enhance the spread of some diseases such as dengue, Zika and chickungunya, which are known to have higher frequencies of occurrences during prolonged warm conditions.
The impacts of climate change on health will depend on many factors. These factors include the effectiveness of a community's public health and safety systems to address or prepare for the risk and the behavior, age, gender, and economic status of individuals affected.
Summary of impacts on health:
- Increased deaths due to floods, heat and cold waves, storms, fires and drought
- Change in the distribution of certain infection diseases, including malaria
- Increased cardiorespiratory diseases
- Increased disease spread from contaminated and polluted drinking water supplies
- Increased diarrheal diseases
- Increased malnutrition
Agriculture is an important sector of Grenadian economy. In addition to providing us with much of our food, the crops, livestock, and seafood that are grown, raised, and caught in the Grenada contribute significantly to the economy each year. Agriculture and fisheries are highly dependent on specific climate conditions. Trying to understand the overall effect of climate change on our food supply can be difficult. Increases in temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2) can be beneficial for some crops in some places. But to realize these benefits, nutrient levels, soil moisture, water availability, and other conditions must also be met. Changes in the frequency and severity of droughts and floods could pose challenges for farmers and ranchers. Meanwhile, warmer water temperatures are likely to cause the habitat ranges of many fish and shellfish species to shift, which could disrupt ecosystems.
Overall, climate change could make it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and same places as we have done in the past. The effects of climate change also need to be considered along with other evolving factors that affect agricultural production, such as changes in farming practices and technology.
Summary of impacts on food and agriculture
- Reduced crop yields
- Shift growing zones for crops
- Increased hunger and malnutrition
- Declining fish yields and stocks
Climate change could affect coastal areas in a variety of ways. Coasts are sensitive to sea level rise, changes in the frequency and intensity of storms, increases in precipitation, and warmer ocean temperatures. In addition, rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing the oceans to absorb more of the gas and become more acidic. This rising acidity could have significant impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems.
The impacts of climate change are likely to worsen many problems that coastal areas already face. Shoreline erosion, coastal flooding, and water pollution affect man-made infrastructure and coastal ecosystems. Confronting existing challenges is already a concern. Addressing the additional stress of climate change may require new approaches to managing land, water, waste, and ecosystems.
Summary of impact on marine and coastal habitats
- Increased coastal flooding especially in low-lying islands and heavily populated delta regions
- Increased soil erosion
- Increased intensity and strength of tropical storms
- Ocean acidification and coral reef bleaching; reef death
The threat of climate change, manifested in the increase of extreme weather conditions such as, droughts, storms or floods, has been recognized as a global priority issue. Climate change is a sustainable development challenge, with broad impacts not only on the environment but also on economic and social development. The effects of climate change will vary among regions, and between different generations, income groups and occupations as well as between women and men. Due, in part, to their lower adaptive capacities, developing countries and people living in poverty are likely to experience significant impacts.
Women form a disproportionately large share of the poor in countries all over the world. Women in rural areas in developing countries are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood, because of their responsibility to secure water, food and energy for cooking and heating. The effects of climate change, including drought, uncertain rainfall and deforestation, make it harder to secure these resources. By comparison with men in poor countries, women face historical disadvantages, which include limited access to decision-making and economic assets that compound the challenges of climate change. (http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/climate_change/).
For more on the impact of climate change on gender click here
As more scientific information about global warming accumulates, climate change is emerging as perhaps the greatest environmental challenge of the twenty-first century. What is more, a virtual Pandora's box of major global threats, such as hunger, poverty, population growth, armed conflict, displacement, air pollution, soil degradation, desertification and deforestation are intricately intertwined with and all contribute to climate change, necessitating a comprehensive approach to a solution. Rising to this challenge at the national level will entail unprecedented cooperation among all persons in Grenada and strong support from international organizations concerned such as UNDP and GIZ.
Forests have four major roles in climate change: they currently contribute about one-sixth of global carbon emissions when cleared, overused or degraded; they react sensitively to a changing climate; when managed sustainably, they produce woodfuels as a benign alternative to fossil fuels; and finally, they have the potential to absorb about one-tenth of global carbon emissions projected for the first half of this century into their biomass, soils and products and store them - in principle in perpetuity. (http://www.fao.org/forestry/climatechange/53459/en/)
Summary of impacts on forestry and terrestrial habits
- Massive extinctions of land based species
- Animal and plant migration
- Increased wildfires and drought
- Decreased forest coverage, expanding arid lands and other similar changes
- Spread of exotic, invasive plants and animals
Fresh water is crucial to human society – not just for drinking, but also for farming, washing and many other activities. It is expected to become increasingly scarce in the future, and this is partly due to climate change. Another effect of warming is to increase the amount of water that the atmosphere can hold, which in turn can lead to more and heavier rainfall when the air cools. Although more rainfall can add to fresh water resources, heavier rainfall leads to more rapid movement of water from the atmosphere back to the oceans, reducing our ability to store and use it: the overall effect is an intensification of the water cycle that causes more extreme floods and droughts globally. The most common solution to satisfy the demand is the engineered redistribution of freshwater over space and time: reservoirs to store it, pipelines to transfer it, and desalination to recover freshwater from the oceans. Efforts need to also be made to increase water saving, reuse and recycling. For this, there is a need for major investment into education and water-saving technology.
Summary of impacts on freshwater
- Decreased in freshwater supply due to increased droughts
- Disruption to freshwater supply and reduced sources due to increased heavy precipitation events and flooding
- Increased salinization of freshwater sources