In July, UN Secretary General famously said, “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived. Short of a mini-Ice Age over the next days, July 2023 will shatter records across the board.”
On Friday, the Meteorological Service issued a warning that temperatures here in TT will remain high on both islands for two weeks – September 15 to 29. This follows a period where TT hit record high temperatures on consecutive days in August. At some weather stations around the island, temperatures were recorded in the 50s.
The Met Service said there was an 80 per cent chance that temperatures near or greater than 34 degrees Celsius will continue over Trinidad for this period, while warm-to-hot conditions near 32.5 °C or greater are expected to occur across Tobago. It said the hottest time of the day is between 10 am-4 pm.
The Met Service said in cities, urban and built-up areas, the maximum temperatures are expected to be near to or greater than 34 degrees Celsius, and feel-like temperatures, particularly when the winds are calm to light, will likely to range between 34-44 degrees Celsius.
The Met Service said TT is in its heat season, which runs from May to October, and generally in September the islands experience mostly hot sunny periods and warm nights.
These are exacerbated by generally weak to occasionally moderate winds coming from the east to southeast with wind speeds of 20-30 kilometres per hour.
This September, the Met Service said there are many climatic features working together to promote warmer to hotter days. The winds are calm to light, with fewer cloudy periods which enables greater incoming solar radiation, particularly during the mid-morning to afternoon periods.
One of the climatic features is a moderately strong El Nino which generally restricts cloud development. El Nino tends to influence unfavourable conditions for cloud development and rainfall over TT.
Other features are a negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) which encourages weak winds across the Caribbean, warmer than usual Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperatures east of TT; the apparent local position of the sun at TT’s latitude and a southeasterly flow of wind from the equatorial region.
The Met Office said extreme temperatures can lead to relatively excessive heat for TT during the peak of the local heat season, which can amplify existing and worsen chronic health conditions in vulnerable people.
It said increased heat may increase the need to access cooling. The TT Electricity Commission said at the end of August that it had experienced unprecedented levels of electricity demand, with 1,400.2 megawatts (MW) being used on August 28, owing to the unusually high temperatures.
TTEC general manager Curvis Francois said the weather could have caused increased usage of air-conditioning units, which typically account for the highest percentage of household electricity consumption.
Francois said the impact on demand was not unexpected as there was traditionally an increase in consumption in July and August.
TTEC said while it had more than enough installed capacity – 2,037MW – to meet this surge of demand for electricity, this meant natural gas usage would increase. It called on consumers to conserve energy.
Some energy conservation measures suggested by the company included: raising the temperatures of air conditioning units by a few degrees to minimise the load; using fans; closing window coverings – blinds and curtains – so the air conditioning unit does not work harder; lowering the temperature on tank water heaters or turning it off for one-two days and avoiding using hot water for laundry and doing dishes; unplugging appliances – ceiling fans, gaming consoles, stereo systems, personal computers and desktop printers and TVs – ensuring they are in energy-saving mode and switching to energy-efficient LEDs, which consume significantly less electricity and generate less heat.
The Met Service said hot days and spells can cause heat stress in livestock and wilting in newly transplanted and younger crops.
Speaking to Newsday on Friday, Cunupia-based farmer Isaac Abraham said they are now facing a manpower conundrum.
“We have to irrigate more but we can’t work whole day in this heat so somewhere along the line it will affect productivity and it’s also hard to get workers to work in this sun.”
He said the heat will also affect the size and quality of crops.
“The lifespan of all the crops will be less because heat damages them.”
The Met Service said the daily rainfall totals are forecast to range between 0.0mm to 9.0mm across different farmlands across the islands, especially along the eastern and western coastal areas of Trinidad, and Tobago. The fifteen-day rainfall totals ranging between 25.0mm and 40.0mm in Trinidad, and 40.0mm in Tobago.
The Met Service said September has a 65 per cent chance of near-normal to below-normal rainfall across most of TT. On Friday, it said low rainfall amounts are expected during the next 15 days.
In a statement, it said low rainfall amounts are expected for the second 15 days of September, as relatively wet days with less than nine mm are expected on September 18, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29 and 30 while relatively dry days with less than one mm are expected on September 16, 17, 19, 20, 21 24, 25 and 26.
Higher temperatures across the world have been of concern globally for decades, with 196 countries signing onto the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, in 2015, with the treaty coming into force in 2016.
Its overarching goal is to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius °C above pre-industrial levels.”
World leaders have stressed the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that crossing the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold risks unleashing far more severe climate change impacts, including more frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall. To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43 per cent by 2030.
TT deposited its instrument of ratification to the Paris Agreement on climate change on February 22, 2018 in New York at the United Nations’ headquarters. This meant TT confirmed its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and the formal commitment of this nation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement.
The Planning and Development Ministry, the National Focal Point for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, said the commitment meant that TT will have to reduce cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent from industry, power generation and the transport sector by 2030 from a business-as-usual baseline.
The UN Secretary-General is convening a Climate Ambition Summit at UN headquarters in New York on September 20 to accelerate action by governments, business, finance, local authorities and civil society, and hear from “first movers and doers.”
The UN said the damage from the climate crisis is already extensive, and global greenhouse gas emissions remain at record levels.
It said populations that are the least responsible for the climate crisis are already suffering from its impacts and need immediate help to adapt and recover from loss and damage. It said this is an issue of equity and climate justice which requires immediate attention from governments and international financial institutions.
The UN has long advocated that larger countries which have larger carbon footprints financially assist smaller countries, including small-island developing states (SIDS) like TT, in meeting their nationally determined contributions. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development in 2022, “SIDS’ geographical conditions make them highly vulnerable to natural disasters, particularly those caused by climate change. In the Caribbean alone, the damage caused by climate-related and Earth-related hazards is estimated at US$12.6 billion per year.”
Speaking at the UN General Assembly in 2022, Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne called for full implementation of the Paris Agreement and a dedicated loss and damages facility under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s financial mechanism.
At the launch of the Caribbean Climate Investment Programme on September 5, it was announced that US$6 million in grants will be made available for small and micro-enterprises willing to aid in the shift to renewable energy across the region.
Speaking at the event at the Trinidad Hilton, US Ambassador Candace Bond said, "Our world is in peril. The climate crisis is accelerating while our response remains too slow. As the Earth overheats towards that critical 1.5-degree C threshold, immediate action is needed more than ever."
The programme is a collaboration between USAID and the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce and aims to mobilise private-sector financing for solutions that advance climate change mitigation and adaptation goals across the Caribbean.