10 urgent takeaways for the Caribbean from IPCC's latest global climate assessment report

The scientific report reflects significant implications for the region, with UWI climate scientists raising a clarion call in the Caribbean for greater attention to be given to the report.

On August 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis Full Report, Summary for Policymakers (SPM) and the Technical Summary.

This Working Group I report is the first instalment of the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) — series of global assessments of climate change and its impacts—which will be completed in 2022. It covers the latest scientific knowledge, painting a stark picture of climate change to date and what is to come.

A team of global science experts drafted the SPM of the Working Group I contribution to AR6. Among these experts was Professor Tannecia Stephenson, from the Climate Studies Group, Mona (CSGM) at The UWI, Mona; the only Caribbean small island scientist in the team. So far, the scientific report reflects significant implications for the region, with UWI climate scientists raising a clarion call in the Caribbean for greater attention to be given to the report.

“The science could not be any clearer. The present and future threat posed by climate change is even greater than we imagined. We no longer have the luxury of delaying or deferring action. The Caribbean must act now to enable a secure tomorrow,” according to Professor Michael Taylor, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology and Professor with specialisation in Environmental Physics, Caribbean Climate Variability, Climatology, Climate Change, who leads the Climate Studies Group at Mona.

A consortium member of The UWI's Global Institute of Climate Smart and Resilient Development (GICSRD), the Climate Studies Group, Mona harnesses UWI expertise in climate change, resilience, sustainable development and disaster risk reduction across all UWI campuses.

Compiled by CSGM, here are 10 urgent takeaways for the Caribbean from the new global report.

1. Global warming hasn't slowed

Global surface temperature has increased significantly over the past decade, with larger increases over land than in the ocean. Life in the Caribbean will teeter on the edge of viability if global temperatures reach 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial periods—we're now at 1.1. The pace of warming is outstripping the pace of the region's response!

2. In excess of 1.5 degrees within the next 20 years.

The Caribbean has lobbied that for its survival, global warming shouldn't exceed 1.5 degrees (over pre-industrial levels) before the end of the current century. At the current pace of warming and without drastic action, we'll see that 1.5 degrees before 2040. If there ever was a time to step up the “1.5 to stay alive” campaign, it's now!

3. Limiting global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees is possible.

Reduce greenhouse gases! The Caribbean must collectively lobby for greater global greenhouse gas reductions by the whole world. However, we must also reduce our own emissions by increasing our use of renewable energy, preserving our blue and green forests, and reducing emissions from waste and transport.

4. Global warming causes extreme weather phenomena

Human-induced climate change has led to many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. It was previously said that we cannot take one extreme event and attribute it to climate change. Scientific evidence has however shifted that notion. Climate change is making our weather worse and affecting the intensity of heatwaves, droughts, floods and hurricanes, particularly in the Caribbean.

5. Heat extremes are part of the new normal

Small Islands, including the Caribbean, have been experiencing extreme warming that can be attributed to human influence. In the Caribbean, this impacts energy usage, water demands, agricultural productivity, health, and thermal comfort, among others. We take being hot for granted, but we now have to plan for more hot extremes.

6. Declining Rainfall

Caribbean rainfall for June–July–August has been declining since the 1950s and will continue to decline. The evidence is clear that one of the most significant challenges for the Caribbean due to climate change will continue to be water availability. Major decisions, plans and projects need to be conceptualised and implemented to enable a water-secure Caribbean future.

7. Sea levels rising at alarming rates

An increase in global average sea level rates has been noted since 1971. Sea levels will continue to rise in Small Island regions including the Caribbean and will result in increased coastal flooding. Sea level rise will also cause shorelines to retreat for most small islands. Protecting coastal assets using hard and soft measures must be a priority in development planning.

8. It's not just land areas that are impacted, it's also our oceans!

In our region, we rely heavily on Caribbean waters and its biodiversity for supporting livelihoods and future economic development. However, the marine environment is already under threat due to global warming, and that threat will only increase.

9. Multiple threats for the Caribbean

With further global warming, every region is projected to increasingly experience concurrent and multiple changes in climatic impact-drivers. However, the Caribbean is projected to experience an increase in frequency and/or severity of agricultural and ecological droughts. It will not be one climate threat or the other; it will be concurrent multiple threats.

10. How bad it becomes depends on us

With every increment of global warming, changes in extremes continue to become larger. The world, and the Caribbean have a say in how bad climate change eventually becomes and also how bad the impacts will eventually be. Here in the Caribbean we have to intensify efforts to get limits on global warming. Everyone has to be part of the solution!

Learn more on The UWI's Climate Advocacy and Action https://uwi.edu/climateaction/

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua & Barbuda
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • Montserrat
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turks and Caicos