Dennis Gonguez (Chief Meteorologist)

Belizeans are used to the threat of hurricanes from June to November yearly. In fact, some wait until the very last minute to make their preparations.

Those individuals may be heartened to hear that after some years of heavy activity, this season will be average as far as hurricane seasons go.

Chief Meteorologist Dennis Gonguez says the predictions call for 14 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes. But, he notes, there is no way to predict where these storms will go, how severe they will be, and what impact they may have.

It is incumbent on the population, he says, to be prepared for whatever may come.

The last major hurricane to strike Belize directly was 1961′s Hurricane Hattie, although several others have passed nearby in the years since, including Mitch in 1998.

The last hurricane strike of any kind was Richard in 2010.

Patrick Jones

A symposium and expo on the impact of climate change

An important symposium is ongoing at the Biltmore Plaza in Belize City about an issue that has significant impact on many sectors. It is about climate change and it is the focus of discussions by a wide range of stakeholders including the Belize City Council.  OCEANA and the National Climate Change Office in Belize are also active participants of the symposium. Duane Moody reports.

Duane Moody, Reporting

By definition, climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over a period of time. It includes changing in average weather conditions caused by biotic processes and global warming from variations in solar radiation. While all technical, it is very real and has far-reaching effects in the Caribbean. Today was the start of a two-day workshop with stakeholders in the various sectors—both public and private—that must be on guard to address the adverse effects of climate change.

Colin Mattis

Colin Mattis, Climate Change Officer, National Climate Change Office

“We want to make Belizeans more aware of climate change and how it will impact us. So today, the presentation is just the start of that awareness in which I try to explain what is climate change and making the distinction between weather and climate and what climate change is all about and then we went into some of the causes of climate change and that mainly deals with the emission of greenhouse gases from different industries, from the use of fossil fuels, oil, coal and many other fossil fuels and then we went into some of the evidences of climate change. Although we tell people about climate change, what it is and how it will affect us, there are a lot of skeptics out there that don’t really believe that the issue of climate change is happening and that it will really affect us. So we went into some of the evidences of climate change in terms of sea level rise, rise in temperature and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the heating of our oceans and so forth. Belize is not one of the major contributors to the whole aspect of global warming; there are many developing countries that have contributed a great amount of emissions that I was talking about in my presentation.”

The symposium works harmoniously with the action plan of the Belize City Council and its City Emergency Management Organization. Liaison officer, Wayne Usher, speaks on how it helps the various sectors to prepare in time of disasters.

Wayne Usher

Wayne Usher, Liaison Officer, CEMO

“The participants were drawn from the three sectors—the City Council has all its senior managers here because when we respond to emergencies at CEMO, we want the entire country, the entire staff and senior staff at the City Council to work with us, to feel what we are feeling and to be galvanized to help in our cause. The areas that I covered this morning were the energy sector, the tourism sector, the health sector; the food and agriculture sector. Those are paramount sectors in Belize for our own sustainable development.”

Simultaneously, a climate change expo was held, also at the Biltmore, under the theme “Building Climate Resilient Municipalities.” Present for the expo, were several environmental organizations including OCEANA Belize and Southern Environmental Alliance, SEA. Omar Sierra spoke of the efforts done to protect mangroves which will offset the effects of climate change.

Omar Sierra, Southern Environmental Alliance

Omar Sierra

“In specifically the southern area and most of the country as well, we are trying to promote protection of the mangroves and you have a lot of development in the south. Take Placencia for example which is more familiar to me, it has a lot of mangroves and we have a very healthy Placencia lagoon. It has one of the healthiest populations of manatees and apart from that it has a lot of other species. One thing about mangroves is that it holds soil together and eventually, it builds land. So if you clear all the mangroves, eventually, you will have a lot of erosion.”

Colin Mattis

“We need to realize that climate change could impact our coral reef and if it impacts our coral reef, then it affects the tourism industry. Now one of the things that I’ve heard that has been happening is that because of overfishing and unsustainable tourism activities that are being carried out, we are actually helping to destroy our own coral reef. And so what we are doing is we are speeding up the effects of climate change on our coral reef.”

Day two of the symposium will take a more comprehensive look at the impact of climate change on the cayes and districts. Duane Moody for News Five.

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