Guyanese more vulnerable to effects of climate change -- study
- more than 50% live within 10 metres of average sea level

Kaieteur News
March 29, 2007

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A recent research conducted by the United Kingdom-based International Institute for Environment and Development has found that 55 percent of Guyanese are living within 10 metres of average sea level, making them more vulnerable to the damning effects of climate change.

Guyana is among a group of ten countries with the largest share of their population living within ten metres of the average sea level.

The other countries are the Bahamas (88 percent), Suriname (76 percent), the Netherlands (74 percent), Vietnam (55 percent), Bangladesh (46 percent), Djibouti (41 percent), Belize (40 percent), Egypt (38 percent) and the Gambia (38 percent).

The study was done by Gordon McGranahan, of the International Institute for Environment and Development, and his colleagues, Deborah Balk and Bridget Anderson, at the City University of New York and Columbia University .

The research shows that 634 million people — one-tenth of the global population — live in coastal areas that lie within just ten metres above sea level.

It calls for action to limit the effects of climate change, to help people migrate away from risk, and to modify urban settlements to reduce their vulnerability. But it warns that this will require enforceable regulations and economic incentives, both of which depend on political will, funding, and human capital.

The study will be published on April14, along with papers that focus on specific cities, including Cotonou , ( Benin ), Dhaka ( Bangladesh ), Mumbai ( India ) and Shanghai ( China ).

Last month, the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that sea levels could rise by tens of centimetres this century, making coastal populations more vulnerable to flooding and storm surges. It also predicted more intense tropical cyclones, including typhoons and hurricanes.

The new study highlights the importance of “the three Ms”: mitigation, migration and modification.

The researchers are adamant that climate change is not a natural disaster but has largely been caused by wealthy countries emitting greenhouse gases during their industrialisation, but the poorest countries that have contributed least to the problem are most vulnerable to its effects.

According to McGranahan, it is therefore incumbent on rich nations to help poorer ones to adapt to the changes ahead.

The study was done by analysing the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP) databases of fine-scale information on population and urban extent along with elevation data derived from NASA's Satellite Radar Topography Mission, and World Bank data on national income.

Carefully combining spatial data layers allowed the team to calculate the distribution of each country's population and urban settlements by elevation along a narrow coastal strip of land in most places.

Locally, the National Assembly, through the Natural Resources Sectoral Committee, is to examine the establishment of a National Commission on Climate Change, following the adoption of an amended Motion last night.

People's National Congress Reform/One Guyana (PNCR-1G) Member of Parliament James McAllister, last month, submitted a motion to the National Assembly calling for the establishment of a National Commission on Climate Change and National Mitigation Measures.

With climate change receiving global recognition, especially its effect on the environment, Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud has reactivated the National Climate Committee (NCC) with a wider membership to respond to the potential impact of climate change on Guyana .

The committee, which was first set up in 1995 with the primary responsibility to decide on policies and projects related to climate change, went dormant after two years. During its brief existence, the committee became an important component in assisting with the adaptation measures during the 1997 El Nino and La Nina phenomena.

The NCC revised terms of reference are to examine national conditions relating to climate change and to make recommendations to the Adviser to the President on Science, Technology, Energy and Environment, and relevant ministries on appropriate national measures to address the conditions.

It will advise on developments and the need for policies and regulations in relation to activities responding to climate change and promoting technical, scientific, technological and financial cooperation among organisations/agencies dealing with climate change issues.

Monitoring the implementation of national policies, programmes and action plans related to climate change and making recommendations for appropriate changes and revisions are some of the other functions of the NCC.