Global Warming - How does it affect Belize?

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 29            July 26, 2007

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People have to understand that most of Belize exists at or slightly above sea level, and therefore, highly prone to sea level rise and flooding.

Part of the work that WWF is doing includes a 10 minute video with witnesses commenting on weather changes within Belize.

Imagine a pot full of water. It is receiving direct heat and the temperature rises by the minute. Once the water has reached its boiling point, it begins to bubble over and spill. Now, imagine the world as the pot full of water. Direct heat is being added to it and what will happen once the world reaches its boiling point? That was the topic of discussion presented by the World Wildlife Fund at a presentation held at the San Pedro Lions Club last Wednesday. Meteorologist Ann Gordon was the first one to take to the podium and started by explaining the meaning of climate change. Warming continues across the world and there has been a cumulative loss of Glacier mass in many regions. During the 20th century glaciers and ice caps have experienced widespread mass losses which have contributed to sea level rise.

    Many believe that Global Warming is “made up” or that it does not exist. However, scientists argue that there are consistent patterns of warming which include: the increase of surface and tropospheric temperatures, as well as the increase in atmospheric water vapor, glaciers losing ice mass, the Arctic Sea ice extent has decreased, more intense and longer droughts, widespread changes in extreme temperatures and tropical cyclone intensity increasing among others.

    “People believe that all of this is happening on the other side of the world. However, they don’t realize that the changes will impact the Caribbean and Belize,” commented Gordon. Expected climate change impacts on the Caribbean includes: Sea level rise, including saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers and coastal flooding and erosion; increased temperatures, which will lead to heat stress, coral bleaching, biodiversity loss, increased emergence of vector borne disease and changes in rainfall patterns, resulting in droughts and floods, as well as a decrease freshwater availability.

    One of the biggest impacts that global warming will have in the Caribbean is that hurricanes and tropical storms are likely to increase in intensity, this will result in increased mechanical damages and run-offs (sediments, nutrients and other pollutants) to the sea. The Caribbean may also see elevated sea surface temperature and increased coral bleaching incidences, with the possibility that the reef may die off. With the reef gone, livelihoods will be hurt due to the lack of tourism and fishing. “People have to understand that most of Belize exists at or slightly above sea level. Belize is highly prone to sea level rise and flooding,” commented Nadia Bood, Mesoamerican Reef scientist. “There are many developments that fail to realize that the changes that they make to the environment now will impact Belize greatly, among those changes made are the cutting down of the mangroves and the dredging in our waters.”

    What is WWF doing to enable adaptation?

    *Sponsored training of coastal resource managers and conservationists to better track biological ecosystems’ health over time. *Conducted comprehensive assessments of Belize’s reef systems and advocating for protection of healthy reef ecosystems. *Social networks for adaptation (climate witness surveys and other socioeconomic studies to identify key considerations for climate change adaptation).

    *Work at the local, national, and regional levels to identify climate change adaptation measures.

    By the end of 2009, WWF expects to identify climate change adaptation strategies that will foster maintenance of the biological diversity with the Mesoamerican Reef and sustain current socio-cultural factors and livelihood aspects that are dependent on it.
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