From The Frying Pan Into The Fire

The reality of climate change and how it affects lives,
and humanity’s goings-on. 

The blistering and scorching sensation of the noonday sun in any tropical island, traditionally invokes the imagery of cocktails on the beach, swimwear and even festivities associated with any island paradise whether in the Caribbean or any other region for that matter. For individuals stuck in frigid conditions, this may seem like a welcomed change of scenery or more realistically temperature, however for us here in the tropics another school of thought is developing, given the progressively increasing heat indicators and what the thermometers tell us on a daily basis. 

Climate change is here, and it has confirmed its presence to all of human-kind and civilization as we know it. The grand entrance and announcement of this natural phenomena that we describe as climate change, should not be shocking in the least bit considering that world leaders for the past decade or more have been citing this as the next big occurrence, outside of chemical warfare, or global pandemics to severely dent human-kind’s ability to survive and continue as a species. 

Intrinsically, humans can at times be reactive in nature, and the argument exists that climate change and all the previous fuss about it was simply based on a need to find the next available fad or craze to get on board with. Large corporate entities, businesses, multinational corporations, governments and even creatives across the globe jumped at the opportunity and onto the bandwagon of climate action, and all things related to climate change in general.
Even self proclaimed ‘green-minded’ or ‘green-thinking’ activists cashed in quite handsomely on creating content, and generating material based on information that saw an uptick in circulation during recent times. 

The burning question would provoke all and sundry to wonder if humankind is just window dressing or perhaps ‘greenwashing’, just to make a dollar, at the expense of our own existence, without even understanding the reality of the impending calamity that is befalling us right before our very eyes. This generation perhaps would see the most intense changes as it relates to climate change, more so than those that have gone before. The real challenge and harsh reality however is if they would live long enough to tell the tale. 

As an obvious observation, for this period of the annual calendar of meteorological events and what would traditionally be observed as the ‘wet’ or ‘rainy’ season in tropical or subtropical regions, it is by far one of the hottest and driest in decades. It is difficult to think of a mid-September evening locally without envisaging a light drizzle, calm and cool breeze or even a chilly front developing somewhere over the hills and valleys depending on the region you are in. 

Extreme Weather, Heatwaves, Drastic Rise in Temperature & Climate Change:

Globally, the occurrence of unbearably hot days are happening with quite an alarming frequency, while experiencing fewer cold days. In July 2023, earth broke or tied its record for the hottest day on record for over four (4) days in a row. Over the past decade, daily record high temperatures have occurred twice as often as record lows across the globe, up from a near 1:1 ratio in the 1950s.

Planet Earth’s lower atmosphere is rapidly becoming warmer by the year and increasingly moist as a result of greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activities and industry. This increases potential energy for storms and certain extreme weather events. Consistent with theoretical expectations, events such as heatwaves and extremely hot days are becoming exceedingly and astonishingly frequent. 

This consistently and rapidly warming climate contributes to the overall intensity of heatwaves by increasing the chances of very hot days and nights. Climate warming also increases the likelihood of evaporation on land, which can result in worsened droughts and create conditions more prone to wildfires, which by extension degenerates forests and other natural ecosystems. 

A warming atmosphere is also associated with heavier precipitation, which increases the atmosphere’s capacity to hold moisture. Natural but climate change induced phenomena such as
“El Niño” favours drought in many tropical and subtropical land areas, while “La Niña” events promote wetter conditions in many places. Such short term and regional variations are expected to become more extreme in a warming climate. 

Extreme heat, and the spin-off effects of such threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people globally. It kills people en masse, damages infrastructure, and exacerbates an already horrific crisis known as food insecurity. Developing nations and communities therein frequently bear the brunt of extreme heat’s impacts, and unfortunately lack adequate resources to cope. 

In short, extreme heat has become increasingly common and it will become even more intense in the years to come.

Social, Economic, Political Impacts & Challenges:

The direct impacts of climate change are devastating by themselves, but they also worsen existing inequalities and conflicts. For example: hotter temperatures and droughts will make corn, wheat, and other staple crop supplies less stable, leading to hikes in global prices, which inevitably would lead to food shortages. What’s obvious but also most unfortunate is that the world’s most vulnerable societies and those living in poverty will be most adversely affected by this. 

Climate change would render some areas or regions uninhabitable and would leave many displaced, or seeking refuge elsewhere, in which case a large social crisis would ensue, causing aggressive migratory patterns, thus leading to overpopulation in other areas experiencing as such.
These migrations, as well as fighting over increasingly scarce resources, will exacerbate existing political, social and economic tensions, therefore significantly increasing the risk of conflict and war.

Cultural implications, belief systems and even social norms have all contributed to how the world treats climate change and any actions to be taken to combat the climate crisis in general. Evolving attitudes, norms and approaches have seen many discussions sparked globally and this in turn has prompted governments of both small, developing and economically vulnerable and the larger and more advanced nations to ponder, discuss and then pontificate what their ideologies are for one and all to hear. Arguably, with all of this talk, it is left to be seen if enough is being done to curb the effects of that which is already out of control. 

One simple fact that is quite apparent in all discussions locally, regionally and globally is that something which was previously a scientific issue, became one that impacted powerful political and economic interests.

Realities & Solutions: 

Extreme heat and events related to such, impact people,ecosystems and economies across the globe. Such frequent and intense conditions and heat waves in particular will in fact continue in a warming climate. Responses to heat stress will undoubtedly require methods and practices that supersede sectors and geographic boundaries.

Research over time has documented technologies or options that can be deployed to manage extreme heat and examples of how individuals, communities, governments and other stakeholder groups can adapt effectively to heat. While research and methodologies may have been compiled and discussed, a comprehensive understanding of the current state of implemented heat adaptations, as to where, why, how and to what extent they are occurring has not been established.

From a leadership and governance standpoint, several simple but effective steps can be taken to help communities, infrastructure, and systems to reduce their vulnerability to heat, both in response to an extreme heat event and as part of a long term plan with a view of reducing future risks. 

In our quest to safeguard against the acute effects of extreme heat on our population’s health in the short term, local early warning systems and centralized urban cooling centers can be looked at. Raising awareness about risks and symptoms of heat related illnesses, and when and how to  treat with this medically is a step in the right direction.

Additionally methodologies can be utilized to protect or modify roads and other infrastructure by using more resilient materials, as well as the implementation of energy efficiency measures to reduce disruptions or stress on electrical supplies or systems during heat waves.

To reduce the heat and its associated risks over the longer term, communities can use strategies such as increasing tree and vegetative cover, creating green roofs across communities. Installing cool and reflective roofs, which detract heat and sunlight away from the top of respective homes within communities is a step in the right direction.

Resilience building is something that requires more than the usual public education and awareness campaign or public relations gimmickry, but real, practical and scientific solutions that can be quite simply put, made affordable and accessible for our nation’s population adequate and sufficient emphasis is placed on this. 

The Trees - As a Solution: 

It is about time that we get serious about climate change adaptation methodologies and by no means does this imply putting trees in the ground for a photo opportunity, but understanding and appreciating genuinely the real reason behind green space development, and the value of trees. 

Trees provide us with a plethora of environmental, social, medical and economic benefits, and can be seen as a quite important foundation for liveable and sustainable communities.
It is therefore largely beneficial for society to introduce more green spaces for this generation to benefit and the ones to come thereafter, should mankind continue existing on this earth. 

Trees serve to reduce the ambient temperatures in communities, by providing a source of shade. They are also known to improve air and water quality by absorbing pollutants, intercepting particulates, releasing oxygen, reducing ozone levels and actively reducing soil erosion.

One of the major causes of the global climate crisis and climate change in general is the significant increase in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. The long term results of this are devastating, and the resulting weather changes such as harshly warm temperatures, rising sea levels and more extreme weather events can only prompt us into urgent action. 

Trees reduce greenhouse gasses when they take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it as wood. This process, known as carbon sequestration, is an essential tool in our long term fight against climate change and its impact on our country, region and by extension our world. 

Trees act quite effectively in enhancing community well being. Trees serve to bring people together whereby a cooler area is available for recreational and outdoor activities. Trees encourage greater usage of public green spaces, where the communities can come together to bond and enjoy the great outdoors. This reduces social isolation and improves interaction among people within their respective localities. 

Trees also improve our overall well-being. Green spaces generally improve the attention levels and cognitive functions of young children in particular who are students or just in everyday functionality. For office workers, a green view from a window provides brief opportunities for respite from the rigors of a daily routine, which has been shown by research to contribute to greater effectiveness and satisfaction at work.

As humanity battles with, and strives to adapt to the realities of climate change, we must understand that each effort, however miniscule, contributes little by little to chipping away at developing a better space and world for the generations that are to come. Will humankind be able to survive and sustain itself? That is left to be seen but what we do know is that mother earth will continuously purge, reinvent and cleanse herself if necessary. It is up to us to decide if we, as ‘civilized’ as we call ourselves, are willing to accept that we are but a microcosm of a larger design and framework that is called planet earth.