?Professor John Agard will tell you that climate change is natural and normal. "Climate is not static," he says, in his office at the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies a few weeks ago.
The world goes through cycles–freezing glacial periods and then warming periods. About 12,000 years ago, the world entered a warming period, of course, after a long glacial one. And for the next 30,000 years or so, the earth should be going through a fairly stable period of warmth. The problem is that instead of it staying stable it started to shoot high up because something has been added to the natural cycle, what is referred to as global warming which is the human induced part," Agard said. He said it started with the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century with the advent machines and the burning of fossil fuels and combustion, etc. "We started to put a lot of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and this accelerated the warming period," he said.
"It should have levelled off, but it did not stop. But the amazing thing is that when you look at the graph, the kind of warming that would take place over 12,000 years has been happening in 100. So you would see on the news, nine of the last 12 years or so have been the warmest ever." Greenhouse gases are what seem to be increasing the temperature. The greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane. People mainly know about carbon dioxide–car, oil and gas burning and it causes an enhanced greenhouse effect where as it accumulates in the atmosphere it reduces the amount of heat that goes back into space. It acts like the roof of a greenhouse and retains the heat, Agard explained. Rising temperatures have been recorded by meteorological services throughout the world. Agard said there are now heat waves in Europe where thousands of people die.
Sea Level rise
The ice caps and the poles are melting faster than normal. That has been observed by satellites. More water was now going into the oceans and also the increasing temperatures causing the water to expand. Agard said in Trinidad there were two sea-level monitors, one in the Port-of-Spain harbour and the other in Pointe-a-Pierre. He said, "Sea level is rising between 1.4 and four millimetres per annum. This seems small, but this has been happening for probably the last hundred years without anyone really noticing." Agard said seal-level monitors in all the Caribbean islands were showing about the same rate of rise. "If this was happening very slowly between 10,000 to 12,000 years, then there is time to adapt. But, if it is happening during one person's lifetime, you are seeing things that should not be happening," he said. It's now snowing in the desert in Baghdad. Colorado and other places with ski resorts, are in trouble with their business, because the ski resorts have no snow. Agard said, "It seems as though human activity has destabilised the climate mechanism and is doing strange things."
Some places were projected to get more rain that other places.
"In the Caribbean we are not too sure. In the Greater Antilles–Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominica Republic–the measurements are saying that it is already drier in the wet season," Agard said. "In the Lesser Antilles we are not too sure. The Prime Minister (Patrick Manning) says we are going to build more desalination plants, and I am saying on what basis this is going to be decided. Sometimes we have a wet dry season and dry rainy season, but it's unpredictable. It's odd."
Last year, Haiti got three or four Category Five hurricanes in a row.
"Unprecedented, this has never happened on the planet before in recorded history. Category Five Hurricanes are very rare, they are monster hurricanes," Agard said. Since hurricanes feed off heat, then increasing temperatures are going to make them bigger and last longer.
Tomorrow–The impact on the Caribbean