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The UWI calls for Caribbean action based on UN IPCC report

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Regional Headquarters, Jamaica. October 11, 2018: “Caribbean scientists have long held the position that (global temperature rise of) 1.5°C may be the limit of global warming that vulnerable regions such as ours can tolerate.” Professor Michael Taylor, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Mona Campus is commenting on the IPCC 1.5 Report released on Monday October, 8. Professor Taylor is one of the coordinating, lead authors of the report; and specifically the summary for policy makers. 

The report is the latest in a series from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessing scientific, technical, and socio-economic information regarding climate change. It reveals that the planet will reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, with particularly the Small Island States (SIDS) in the Caribbean region. 

Speaking on The UWI’s contributions to the report, Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles conveyed his pride in the work that the University’s scientists have contributed to the global effort. “This kind of work reaffirms the relevance of The UWI to the region as an activist university. The climate change discourse will reveal the need for this region to address the fundamental issues: economic growth, technological advancements, inequality, democracy and social justice. All of those big issues come into the fore of the climate change issue.”

Jeremy Collymore, Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Development, and Resilience Consultant to the Office of the Vice-Chancellor said the report will be used by The UWI to organise internal briefings with its research, teaching and administrative staff. “This global assent provides a platform for advancing our sustainable development agenda informed by considerations based on 1.5°C scenarios in the first instance. The UWI will also be supporting efforts to brief regional policy makers, technocrats, private sector and civil society on the 1.5 to Stay Alive agenda and the options for enhancing resilience. The science is not in question but the commitment to action may be.”

Professor Leonard Nurse of the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) at The UWI Cave Hill, thanked colleague Professor Michael Taylor, who spearheaded the regional input to this seminal report. 

Professor Nurse continued, “The conclusions are clear—while the application of various mitigation and adaptation technologies will be helpful, there is absolutely no substitute for deep emission cuts at source, particularly in high emitting countries. The report also corroborates previous IPCC findings that small island and low-lying states such as ours in the Caribbean are among the countries at highest risk. In practical terms, this means that in spite of all the mitigation and adaptation measures we implement, our fate still lies in the hands of the developed, Industrialized North and other high emitters, some of which are still classified as developing countries. The report identifies pathways for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to a level that might achieve a target less than 2°C, even if the more desirable 1.5°C target is elusive. What the report also suggests, if only by implication, is that global politics and policy now need to catch up with the reality of the science. The message is clear that while the world community should strive to keep global average temperatures below 1.5°C relative to the Pre-Industrial level, small island states still face a grim future.”

Professor Taylor concludes, “Even 1.5°C pose significant risks to the most vulnerable.  Global action on climate change is not optional but is a must. I am hoping we can spur a region-wide movement in response to this report, its findings and the significance for the region. Every half degree of warming counts. The global target of 1.5°C comes with significant risk. These risks pale compared to 2°C, which has long been viewed as the realistic target. 

“To keep warming at 1.5°C requires significant global transformation in energy, transport etc. In the Caribbean, we must undertake those measures geared at adaptation and mitigation. We must also by example, or influence, persuasion or advocacy, model the social order that living within 1.5°C demands.” 

In addition to Professor Taylor’s contribution to the IPCC 1.5 Report, many UWI scientists have served—and continue to serve—as contributing authors to the IPCC reports on climate change. In 2007, UWI Professors, Anthony Chen, Leonard Nurse and John Agard shared in the glory of the Nobel Peace Prize given jointly to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore Jr.