Coping With Climate Change
Climate change is addressed through two approaches: Mitigation, through which greenhouse gas emissions are reduced; and, Adaptation, through which measures are implemented to reduce the negative impact of climate change.
Climate mitigation and adaptation are complementary approaches for reducing risks of climate change impacts, but over different timescales. Mitigation measures, if implemented in the near-term and through the century, can substantially reduce climate change impacts in the latter decades of the 21st century and beyond. Benefits from adaptation can be gained immediately by addressing existing risks, but can also be realized in the future by addressing emerging risks.
Mitigation and adaptation will require changes at all levels in society – new legislation, new rules for the private sector and changes in individual lifestyles.
Individually, making a few small behavioural changes, whether at home, at school or work, can reduce greenhouse gases. Possible mitigation strategies include the following:
Countries throughout the Caribbean can implement various mitigation strategies across various sectors, including water, agriculture, waste and energy.
Climate change adaptation strategies available to Small Island Developing States come in three main categories: retreat, accommodation, and protection and enhancement.
Retreat refers to abandoning vulnerable areas and relocating (e.g., moving away from coastal areas to higher ground).
Accommodation is where alteration is made to the use of the area, but people continue their activities in the same place.
Protection and enhancement can be in terms of hard structure (i.e., seawalls, dikes, groynes, and breakwaters) or soft structures, such as the maintenance of healthy and vibrant ecosystems (i.e., coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangrove forests, and wetlands).
Hard and Soft adaptation measures can be described as providing robustness, resilience or flexibility when combatting the effects of climate change. A robust system can perform well under a range of conditions; a resilient system rapidly regains function after a stress is applied; and a flexible system is one that can be modified as changes occur. The effectiveness of each adaptation measure, regardless of the type or level of performance, must be balanced with the cost, whether social, economic or environmental.
Examples of Adaptation Strategies
Protecting and conserving water resources
Improving water use efficiency by building additional water storage capacity; using rainwater harvesting, sewage treatment and recycling; low-water use appliances; and protecting ecosystems that support the water cycle – forests, mangroves etc.
Planning for sea level rise
Barbadians and visitors to the island enjoy the recreational benefits of the Richard Haynes Boardwalk in Christ Church. But in addition to the human health benefits that are derived from the boardwalk, it serves the primary objective of protecting the coastal businesses and homes from the impacts of storms and hurricanes.
Enforcing the building codes
Building next to the coastline means that we must also obey the setback rules that have been put in place by the Coastal Zone Management Unit and the Town and Country Planning Development Planning Office which are intended to ensure that our coastal homes and businesses do not contribute to flooding and erosion and are also protected in the event of storms and hurricanes.
Changing agricultural practices
There are many practices that can be used in agriculture to increase adaptation to the effects of climate change – some of these have been used historically with much success:
- Use terracing on sloping lands to reduce the risk of landslide and soil erosion.
- Reduce chemical use to avoid pollution of rivers and coastal waters.
- Plant ‘hedgerows’ to reduce erosion.
- Plant crops that are more drought and pest resistant.
- Devise measures to protect livestock from heat stress, lack of water and flooding.
- Increase self-sufficiency by growing vegetables and fruit trees.
- Composting can be practised to reduce chemical use as well as the energy utilised in transporting waste to the landfill.
- Working together as a region to increase regional food security.
Securing human safety and health
Establishing early warning systems and emergency response plans to be ready for more extreme weather events. Having effective insurance coverage to facilitate recovery after storms and hurricanes is also very important.