Tech helps Caribbean communities take on climate change

  • By Sophie Hares
  • 31/03/2017

Children play in the water at sunset in the harbor of St. George's, Grenada, November 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

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When powerful storms tear through the islands of the Caribbean, it’s often fishing families and famers in coastal villages who bear the brunt of flooding and damage - and it’s those same people who can help lead climate change adaptation, say experts.

Across the region, decision makers are realising a top-down approach isn’t always the way forward, and often those who live and work in high-risk areas - whether they grow coffee, run small businesses or work as tour guides - best understand the particular issues they face, and have ideas about how to tackle them.

Those local insights can positively shape policy at a national level in the climate-vulnerable tropical island nations, a discussion hosted by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) heard this week.

“It’s saying ‘this is a two-way street, a two-way conversation’,” said Will Bugler, a senior consultant at Acclimatise, who gave a rundown of Caribbean climate change adaptation tools and research.

But local efforts alone are not enough, and communities need strong links with regional and national governments so they can draw on their expertise, influence and spending power.

The problem is that linking up groups with different levels of understanding - and sometimes competing interests - can make hammering out climate resilience strategies a long and frustrating process, according to a report published by CDKN.

Today, a raft of sophisticated new technologies harnessing high-quality data on climate and weather patterns are being used to develop community vulnerability assessments and help companies, governments and development banks inject climate change resilience into their plans.

Sharon Lindo, policy advisor at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), said Grenada was one country now consulting CCORAL, an online tool highlighting climate change vulnerabilities, before making policy decisions. Some regional banks are using it as part of their risk assessment processes, she added.

“What that showed us was that just a small incremental cost makes the investment climate-resilient,” Lindo told the webinar.

DATA GAPS

While these tools can be used to track multiple scenarios - such as the chance of storm damage, drought or even dengue outbreaks - there are still gaps in the data, as some of the tiny islands scattered across the Caribbean lack comprehensive monitoring.

A planned project to install additional monitoring stations could start to fill in the picture, said Ulric Trotz, CCCCC’s deputy director, who highlighted the need for well-documented environmental data to go with meteorological information.

“If we want to really target agriculture… and watershed management appropriately, we need to also have stations within areas on these smaller islands to really capture that data that can feed into the model and give a more robust analysis,” said Trotz.

And in climate-vulnerable countries, it seems you’re never too young to learn about the impact climate change may have on your future. A pilot project in Belize is trying to integrate climate change into the curriculum for schoolchildren, said Trotz.

“Individual countries could start initiatives in schools. We’re particularly keen on... introducing a system of school gardening right across the region,” he said.

With this, students could find out about new techniques like drip irrigation, greenhouse cultivation and aquaponics, he added.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is reporting on resilience as part of its work on zilient.org, an online platform building a global network of people interested in resilience, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation.

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Braced or its partners.

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