Global climate changing Cayman

Residents of the Cayman Islands should be ashamed of themselves.

Or so says Pablo Suarez, technical advisor for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Centre for Disaster Preparedness.

Cayman Islands Red Cross board member John Harvey discusses his concerns about climate change

Cayman Islands Red Cross board member John Harvey discusses his concerns about climate change with Governors Office representative Simon Tonge, left, Climate Change expert Pablo Suarez of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Centre on Climate Change and Disaster Preparedness, and British Red Cross Overseas Territories Branch Officer Jill St. John at the Cayman Islands Red Cross headquarters Monday. Photo: Basia Pioro

He’s leading a series of workshops through 29 July through the Cayman Islands Red Cross to help the country better equip itself to reduce the effects of disasters by making it a part of the information gathering, analysis and disaster preparedness planning process.

And he’s focusing on global warming.

He said global warming and development have a combined effect on the Cayman Islands.

‘I see that gas prices are an issue and that is something that will never go away due to the rising need to tax damaging fossil fuels. The international community will ensure that in the very near future, the cost of the damage gasoline will do over time is going to be included in the price,’ he said.

‘Coral reefs are dying, so the tourism industry will be affected and have to adapt. Increased hurricanes will cause more damage and the less fortunate on the Islands will be affected the most. All these factors and many more need to be addressed,’ he said.

With regard to energy use in general, Mr. Suarez had harsher words.

‘You guys are so wasteful. You should be ashamed. It is really unbelievable what you do here,’ he admonished.

He said that if Cayman is to tackle the global warming issue effectively, it needs to engage itself in being proactive and flexible.

His message: ‘Learn, share information, and expect the unexpected. Pay more attention to predictions; plan thoroughly for disaster preparedness, and support the process of transformation.’

Mr. Suarez explained the basics of the science surrounding global warming are unchallenged within the scientific community.

In short, scientists know that carbon dioxide levels are increasing in the earth’s atmosphere, causing the earth to warm at a faster rate than it ever has in history. Carbon dioxide is released by animals and humans in small quantities, but since the time of the Industrial Revolution, has been released in increasingly large amounts when fossil fuels like oil, gasoline, diesel, coal and wood are burned.

The increase in carbon dioxide is trapping more of the earth’s heat within the envelope the atmosphere forms around the earth, which is slowly raising temperatures on the earth’s surface and in the oceans.

Mr. Suarez acknowledged that scepticism still remains, supported by a small minority of scientists, that humans do not play a role, but rather, larger forces following the earth’s natural cycles are affecting the earth’s temperature.

He disagrees.

‘We use objective data in our conclusions. Ninety-five percent of scientists across the globe are convinced that while some factors affecting global warming may certainly be explained by natural phenomena and cycles, it is human activity, which is playing the most significant role,’ he said.

He explained that over that past 20 years, the explosive pace of technological development, buttressed by advances in computers, satellites and laboratory techniques, have led to dramatic advancements in research in the climate field.

Researchers can now drill core samples of Antarctic ice, which reveal the earth’s climate history for the past half a million years. By analyzing the air bubbles trapped in that ice, they are able to determine carbon dioxide and temperature levels from any given time period.

‘Researchers can now far better understand the physical processes that affect weather than they ever have, and the international community is in agreement that the climate is changing,’ he said.

Mr. Suarez also explained that certain differences in scientific opinion are also affected by choices scientist make in deciding what factors – for example, winds, tides, cloud cover, or desertification – are most relevant in their research.

Cayman Islands Chief Meteorologist Fred Sambula agreed, saying that every new fact uncovered by objective climate researchers supports the global warming theory, and that the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat has emerged as the global authority on the phenomenon.

‘While not predicting doom and gloom, we must at the same time understand what is possible, and be prepared for that eventuality,’ said Mr. Sambula.

Mr. Suarez explained that global warming is having immediate effects that while small, have a profound impact and are increasingly unpredictable.

Changing temperatures may cause an ocean current to move farther away from shore, drawing a prevailing wind along with it. If that prevailing wind’s rain was sustaining agriculture in a certain area, that area would experience drought and along with it, a multitude of changes in the society experiencing that drought.

The most noticeable effect of climate change in the Cayman Islands is expected to be rising sea levels caused by the melting of the earth’s ice caps.

The North Atlantic is the most rapidly changing ocean on the planet due to its susceptibility to melting arctic ice and Greenland glaciers, he said.

The effects of its warming are influencing weather patterns, and Mr. Suarez noted small changes in weather can have profound impacts on water and sanitation, health and disease, agriculture, fisheries and coral reefs, urban development and migration, and national economies, which are all interlinked in myriad ways.

‘Climate change, aside from being an environmental problem, is a humanitarian problem as well,’ Mr. Suarez said. ‘But it is not a dead end, just a change that we must address through both mitigation and adaptation.’