JIS News

Protecting Jamaica’s coastline from a possible one metre rise in the sea level, could cost some US$426 million, or approximately 9% of Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This was disclosed by Director of the Coastal Zone Management Branch at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Anthony McKenzie, at a Lunch and Learn Panel Discussion on Thursday (September 25) at the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ) to mark Maritime Awareness Week.
Over the past century, the earth has been experiencing record increases in sea level. This is due, largely, to the thermal expansion of water and the addition of water to the oceans from the melting of continental ice sheets.
Mr. McKenzie pointed out that NEPA is working assiduously to mitigate the effects of sea level rise, as “continuous rise in sea levels will compound beach erosion and permanently inundate areas along Jamaica’s coast.”
Jamaica is already paying for the effects of climate change, Mr. McKenzie noted. This is amplified by its vulnerability to natural hazards, such as hurricanes and floods.
Highlighting the effects to the economy, he said that estimates of the damage to Jamaica by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 have been put at $22.4 billion.
A recent Vulnerability Assessment of Jamaica’s beaches, by NEPA, showed that 95% of the beaches are vulnerable to natural hazards. In a storm, high wave energy often results in severe erosion of the beach and/or shoreline.
“Between 1999 and 2007, Jamaica has been impacted by six of the largest hurricanes the country has ever witnessed, and we all are aware that the tourism industry depends largely on our beaches; so this is really an issue of major concern,” he stated.
Citing the example of Long Bay Beach, Negril Westmoreland, Mr.McKenzie quoted a recent study which showed that the Long Bay Beach, though badly damaged, survived the impact of hurricane and tropical storm damage between Hurricane Michelle in 2001 and Ivan in 2004.
Noting the inability of the same beach to withstand the impact of subsequent disasters, he stated that between Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Wilma in 2005 and Dean in 2007, the beach experienced over five metres of loss.
“Waves were said to drag in mounds of algae on to the beach, causing many properties along the West End and along Long Bay Beach Park to experience immense flooding and related property damage,” he explained.
“Jamaica is largely dependent on its coastline and key infrastructure, such as the air and seaports, and many of our industries are located along our coastlines,” he noted.
“The tourism industry, which plays a key role in the coastal zone and contributes upwards of 20% to the country’s GDP, is one sector that is likely to be affected by climate change,” he added.
He also pointed to the impact of climate change on coral reefs, noting that significant temperature changes in the late 1980s led to the destruction of a significant number of reefs.
Mr. McKenzie affirmed the determination of NEPA to carry out its responsibility in mainstreaming climate change considerations into its policies, standards, regulations and guidelines.
“The protection of our country’s resources is critical at this time and, therefore, our main focus should be to ensure that we mitigate and adapt to the potential impact to our environment and our wider economy,” he said.
Other presenters at the Panel Discussion included Manager, Climate Branch of the Meteorological Service, Jeffery Spooner; Director of Legal Affairs at the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, Bertrand Smith; and Lecturer, University of the West Indies Climate Change Department, Dr. Michael Taylor.

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