And as Central America reaches the busiest part of the hurricane season, scientists are warning about the effects of climate change. That's why the Green Climate Fund has launched a program called "Enhancing adaptation planning and increasing climate resilience in the coastal zone and fisheries sector of Belize."

This readiness project aims to prepare the country and its citizen for a more large-scale action to increase climate resilience in the fisheries and coastal zone sectors of Belize. For this project, the coastal communities being studied are Belize City, Dangriga, and San Pedro Town.

This initiative continued today at the Biltmore, where stakeholders from those communities gathered to listen to a report by an FAO consultant, Dr. Asha Singh. For the past few weeks, Dr. Singh has been reviewing climatological data on Belize that has been compiled by agencies such as the National Meteorological Service for the past three decades. Today, she discussed her preliminary findings and noted that Belize's data follows global trends.

This morning, we spoke with Dr. Singh about her report, and here's her outline of the critical takeaways:

Dr. Asha Singh - International Consultant, FAO
"When we talk about climate change, the first thing that comes to mind is Belize is affected by climate change. And as part of this study, what I tried to do is actually put a bit of evidence based on the data that is available. And overwhelmingly, yes, climate change is affecting Belize. Climate change is affecting Belize City. Climate change is affecting Dangriga Town. I cannot say much about San Pedro because the data that I would require for rainfall, etc., there isn't a data station. But, if we can speculate, based on the information for these two population centers, yes, San Pedro is being affected by climate change. In looking at these vulnerability assessments, one of the things that we looked at is the exposure; how much we're exposed to these impacts that I've just mentioned? What is the sensitivity? How sensitive are we, and how are we adapting? And in all aspects, I can say that these are very high for these communities. More so, some of them are even higher, depending on the community. The fisheries sector is very vulnerable. Why is it vulnerable? [That's] because it occupies a set of stakeholders - or I would say it employs a set of Belizeans that really rely on those resources, who pretty much don't have much more of an occupation, but know fisheries for 30+ years or even more. And when you have issues like climate change that the fish move further away because the water is warming. When you put that to a fisherman who just has a canoe, who would just go out there to fish, it really comes down to his livelihood and his ability to feed his family. So, it becomes very critical when we look at these sectors. For the coastal sector, all of you know that Belize City is below sea level at any time. Climate change is bringing that added burden. And why is it an added burden because you have a coastal area that is very highly developed? It is the economic hub of Belize, and you have rising sea levels, erosion, and many other activities that are actually causing their own burden on the infrastructure. So, it makes Belize City extremely vulnerable, not to take away from anything of the other communities because they're all vulnerable. But, if we're to rank in terms of economic vulnerability, I would say that Belize City is very vulnerable to climate change."

And while those are a few broad strokes, we take you now to a few excerpts of her extended presentation on the report in which she focused on specific areas for analysis. Here's what she had to say about how the temperature in Belize has been trending up in the last 30 years:

Dr. Asha Singh - International Consultant, FAO
"Now, we have mapped the 30 years of data: 1991 to 2021. Now one may ask, why is it that you're using that dataset? Because that dataset, according to information from the Met Office, is a cycle that they're currently looking at to establish climate change. So, we have tried to use that dataset as much as possible, where it's available, not only for temperature but all the parameters, so that we have some level of consistency in the delivery of the evidence. What are we seeing? Generally, you're seeing a fluctuating trend, but there is a steady trend of temperature that we are seeing here in Belize Within, you know, over the thirty years, and then you have some areas, some sun drops with the La Nina, which is between 1998 and 2000 - 2010, 2011. And these years are established data from Belize and global data that show when a La Nina event or El Nino event happened. Then you have some spikes in the temperature for El Nino. So, you have the La Nina and the El Nino periods all impacting. Dangriga, we are kind of seeing the same trend, you know, some fluctuation, but that this trend line here that you're seeing in the dotted line is actually to just smoothen the data. So, we get an idea. You're seeing that subtle change. And this change actually does correspond with what the global models are saying, that the temperature is increasing. So, you know, here in Dangriga, in Belize City, we can come down to local and say, you know, we are also seeing this trend that is aligning to the global models and to what the global narrative is saying with regard to temperature."

Land Use Pressures Make Climate Difficulties More Severe

Dr. Singh also pointed out that while Belize remains one of the countries in the region that is the most vulnerable to climate change, there are several man-made pressures that are compounding the negative impacts and making things worse.

She pointed out that improper land use planning in coastal communities has caused haphazard development, which has increased their vulnerability to climate change. She explained that this is a problem that she has encountered in other countries where she has conducted similar assessments:

Dr. Asha Singh - International Consultant, FAO
"I put in this little box here for you not to run away and said, look, climate change is flooding, you know, climate change. It is a contributor to our flooding situation. But, we cannot forget the ad hoc development that we have that is operating in all our cities, the land planning or poor enforcement of land planning. And this is not a judgment on Belize. This is a global issue. This is a small island issue. This is an African issue. This is an Asia issue. This is a Pacific issue. And, you know, there are so many countries that I've worked, that you go, and you see this evidence here, not only Belize. But the awareness and the importance of action are very, very critical. And that, for me, is what supports our resilience-building. The stormwater drains, for example, here in Belize, [it's] time to ask ourselves, are these stormwater drains really engineered to take off this water? You know, what do we do? What are we doing about that? How can we try to deal with those things? How do we future engineer? And for me, what I am seeing is not in Belize; this is a general observation. As a professional, I see many times that we we move away from the engineering and the planning, so far in our thirst for development that we don't recognize how important it is, you know. And, it really does come to bite us back in - you know where - we're many times, you know. It's very, very critical that while we preach that we are vulnerable to climate change, we need advocacy as well to ensure that proper land use planning is taken into consideration."

Dr. Singh's report is in its final stages. When it is completed, she will submit it to the relevant Government agencies, the FAO, and the Green Climate Fund. She and her team conducted interviews with over 120 Belizeans for this study.

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