THE unprecedented rainfall and ensuing disaster which has plagued this country for the past several weeks, is a wakeup call for the authorities to take decisive action against climate change.
Environmental consultant Sascha Jattansingh said critical decisions will have to be made in the next decade which will dictate whether or not TT survives and thrive in the 21st century as climate change poses a most existential threat to the future.
She said cities like San Fernando are major contributors to climate change and the recent flooding disaster is a sign that TT is running out of time.
Jattansingh was speaking at the 16th Annual Distinguished Lecture hosted by the Public Health department of the San Fernando City Corporation on Wednesday evening. The lecture is one of several events commemorating City Day which is celebrated on November 18.
“We are now living in a remarkable period in time,” she said, reflecting on the October floods which devastated communities in the eastern and south eastern districts. Communities have not yet recovered from the losses but were again distressed by prolonged rainfall over the past days.
Jattansingh said instead of conjuring up images of polar bears and melting ice caps in reference to climate change, one should focus on cities which have the power to change the world.
“Currently more than 50 per cent of the world’s population live in cities and that is expected to increase by over 70 per cent by 2050. Cities have historically been the centres of commerce and trade, learning, culture and innovation as well as the birthplace of mankind’s greatest ideas and discoveries.
“However, cities are major contributors to climate change although they cover less than two per cent of the Earth’s surface. Cities consume over 80 per cent of the world’s energy and emit over 75 per cent of global carbon dioxide and significant amounts of other greenhouse gases.”
She said cities are also vulnerable to climate change as more than two-thirds of world’s cities are located in low-lying or coastal areas and its 1.5 billion occupants are most likely to be affected by rising sea levels, increased precipitation, floods, more frequent and stronger hurricanes and periods of more extreme heat and cold.
“When cities are hit by floods, storms, drought, heatwaves and other extreme climatic events, this is where we see the greatest loss of human life, greatest economic losses and greatest infrastructure damage.”
She emphasised that such unexpected expenditures from storms, flooding and drought can lead to major disruptions in business operations and the annual budget as more money, other than the budgetary allocation, will have to be found for climate disasters.
“We need urgent, decisive and quite ambitious climate actions around the world to slash GHG emissions and meet the ambitious targets of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.” TT is a signatory to the Paris Agreement.
“This requires rapid and unprecedented changes in all areas of society, particularly in key sectors such as land, energy, industry, buildings and transport. There is no one option to limit global warming, but instead we need a robust mix of technologies, policy and lifestyle changes to successfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and fast.”