Irma Keeps Some Caribbean Scientists Home from IPCC Discussion on Loss and Damage
Caribbean scientists who had planned to attend the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change panel in Montreal this week faced a searing irony, as Hurricane Irma prevented some of them from participating in an effort to focus the IPCC’s next major report on extreme weather damage.
The IPCC organized the session September 3-9 to set the outline for its next major report on the state of climate science. On Friday, small island states were planning a “push to include research on the damages caused by climate change,” Climate Home reports. “This topic, known in UN jargon as ‘loss and damage’, is politically charged, as wealthy nations fear it could open them to claims of compensation.”
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Climate Home lists IPCC delegates from St. Kitts and Nevis and Cuba who missed the Montreal gathering, along with a St. Lucia representative who had to miss a separate climate meeting in Rabat, Morocco. Bahamian representative Arthur Rolle made it to Montreal, but said he had considered staying home.
While the IPCC’s work continues, most small island developing states (SIDS) are blaming severe storms for the majority of loss and damage they’ve already experienced, Climate Analytics Senior Caribbean Research Associate Adelle Thomas reports.
“While these storms were acknowledged as resulting in loss and damage, attribution of these impacts specifically to climatic changes is a complex process,” she writes. “However, warmer sea surface temperatures and sea level rise due to climate change have been linked to more intense tropical storms and subsequent damages.”
While all the seven interviewees in a recent Climate Analytics study identified loss and damage from slow-onset events like sea level rise and ocean acidification, “respondents were unable to provide financial costs of loss and damage associated with these events, particularly when impacts are ongoing,” Thomas notes.
“We don’t have sufficient information on costs, but we are still able to see the impacts,” one interview participant said. “Specifically, historical buildings that were once on hard ground are now underwater.”
“Anytime there is a storm or major high tide, along [a main road] the sand needs to be constantly replaced,” another participant said. “Boulders need to be replaced that were put in to prevent washing out of the road…Even in the presence of a sea wall, there is breaching from time to time. These are ongoing costs.”
But the countries say they lack the data and the methods to assess and attach dollar figures to post-storm damage. “While there may be partial datasets, there are gaps due to uneven data collection, where most data are collected in urban areas or where data is not digitized or has been lost,” Thomas writes. The need for better reporting is recognized in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that many of the countries submitted in support of the Paris agreement