THE IPCC, the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, has just released its findings and recommendations on climate change and land, and three academics from The University of the West Indies (The UWI) are contributors to the global report.
Entitled Climate Change and Land: An IPCC Special Report, the Summary for Policymakers was approved earlier this month in Geneva, Switzerland by representatives of the world’s governments. This Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCLL) is the second of three special reports that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is preparing during its current Sixth Assessment Report cycle. The first special report, Global Warming of 1.5°C, was approved and released in September 2018—UWI staff also played a significant role in authoring it. The third report, examining Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, is expected to be released in September 2019.
Of particular concern, is the devastating impact that global warming is having on the Caribbean. This includes coastal erosion resulting from sea level rise and tropical hurricanes, which greatly threaten lives and livelihoods in the region. Small island nations are also facing the degradation of ecosystems, both marine and land, which may harm industries on which we rely, such as fishing and farming. Overall, the Caribbean is particularly vulnerable to greater health, environmental and economic challenges because of these climate and land changes.
Dr. Adrian Spence (International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences, The UWI Mona) was a lead author on Chapter One of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land, “Framing and Context”; Dr. Donovan Campbell (Geography and Geology, The UWI Mona) was a lead author on Chapter Six, “Interlinkages between desertification, land degradation, food security and greenhouse gas fluxes”; and Professor Noureddine Benkeblia (Life Sciences, The UWI Mona) was a review editor for Chapter Five, “Food Security”.
As explained by Dr. Spence, “Land is a critical resource for human livelihood and development, providing food, fresh water and other ecosystem services. However, land is under growing pressure and climate change is exacerbating this pressure. Notwithstanding that, land may offer some solutions to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, but we must act now.” Other critical themes addressed in the report include: land as a resource; desertification and land degradation; food security; and land and climate change responses.
The UWI is also proud that it has nine academics currently contributing to the IPCC. They are members of three international working groups mandated to produce a three-volume global assessment report, known as “the sixth report” and “three special reports”. The academics are Professor Michelle Mycoo (coordinating lead author on a chapter on small islands); Dr. Tannecia Stephenson; Dr. Donovan Campbell; Dr. Adrian Spence; Professor Michael Taylor; Professor Noureddine Benkeblia; Dr. Michael Sutherland; Dr. Aidan Farrell; and Professor John Agard.
In addition to this achievement, The UWI has made significant impact in the global effort to reduce climate change in several other ways. Earlier this year, the International Association of Universities (IAU) selected The UWI as its global leader in the mobilisation of research and advocacy for the achievement of a climate-smart world. The UWI was designated the lead institution for a Global University Consortium on SDG 13 (Climate Action). This designation recognised the significant contributions the University has made to the issue through decades of research and advocacy.
In July 2019 when policy makers and academics around the world met at the United Nations’ High-Level Political Forum 2019 (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, The UWI was centre stage in these discussions. It included The UWI co-hosting a symposium themed, Research and Innovation 4 Climate Action, which showcased research initiatives of members of the Global University Consortium on SDG 13 and highlighted the synergies between SDGs 4, 13 and 17.
Later in July, The UWI also hosted the first-ever meeting of universities across the Commonwealth to collaborate on climate challenges and resilience in their countries. This involved collaboration between representatives from approximately 500 institutions in 50 countries.
The UWI’s participation in the battle against climate change is part of its efforts to aid in developing a culture of resilience and resilience planning in the Caribbean, reflected in its Triple A Strategy (Strategic Plan 2017–2022).