Earth Today | Barrelling Beryl hits hard

Earth Today | Barrelling Beryl hits hard

FROM ‘MUNRO Mangled’ to ‘Adelphi struggles with post-hurricane recovery’, the news headlines after Hurricane Beryl barrelled across the Caribbean last week are dismal. They shed light on the devastation that has been, but also foretells of what is to come, given climate-change realities.

This is precisely what Indi Mclymont Lafayette, a long-time climate justice advocate, gender specialist, and consultant in poverty reduction was afraid of and to which she has committed years of her professional life helping to address – through communication and advocacy.

“I saw a comment yesterday (last Monday, July 1) on social media regarding climate-change to say this is one of the things you don’t want to be right about, in terms of the climate-change impacts that are being experienced. That Beryl got to be a category-5 storm so early in the season is unusual. It is really going through the region,” she said.

McLymont Lafayette was speaking with The Gleaner last Tuesday as she and thousands of other Jamaicans prepared for the anticipated pummelling Jamaica would receive from a system that packed winds of up to some 145 miles per hour and brought rainfall totals of some four to eight inches.

“It is scary … and it is a new reality – the reality we have been talking about as climate advocates for the last 20 years,” she added.

Mclymont Lafayette was at one time head of the regional communication NGO, Panos Caribbean, which has been at the forefront of lobby efforts to get world leaders, and in particular those of the developed world to live up to their responsibility for the prevailing climate challenges, given their heavy consumption of fossil fuels that fire the warming of the planet and trigger a cascade of impacts.

It is precisely events like Hurricane Beryl that climate-change – ‘attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods’ – brings.

Such events, as well as extreme droughts, are on top of other manifestations of climate-change, including increasing global temperatures that present a range of human health challenges; increased sea surface temperatures that impact marine life; and coastal erosion, among others – of which have implications for lives and livelihoods loss.

These threats have for years prompted advocates, such as Mclymont Lafayette and scientists, such as Professor Michael Taylor of The University of the West Indies to press for a no more than 1.5 degrees increase in global temperatures when compared to pre-industrial levels and which require a complete course correction on human consumption of fossil fuels, such as oil and gas that fuel greenhouse gas emissions that, in turn, cause the planet to warm.

The advocates have found favour with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the premier scientific body on climate-change research and which Taylor himself has served. The IPCC has championed – through their work, and, in particular, their series of assessment and special reports on the status of changing-climate – significantly scaled-up mitigation and adaptation actions.


For Caribbean and other small island developing states (SIDS), the call has been for developed countries to lead from the front, cutting their emissions while also opening their coffers to make available the promised billions to enable adaptation and overall resilience in SIDS and other parts of the developing world who are least responsible for the emissions that have brought the world to the current climate crisis. However, progress to date has been slow, with SIDS insisting that continued inaction might well be the death of them.

“My activism and my realism are fighting. I am praying for the best, but preparing for the worse,” said Lafayette.

“The reality I am looking at now is that Beryl has pushed back at least three or four of the islands – Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and others. Regional entities working on poverty reduction have also been set back,” she said.

“A lot of livelihoods would have been impacted by the islands hit and recovery will take sometime. That will impact GDP and if we have even two more of these for the season, it is going to be trouble. So we talk, but for those who are living it, it is another thing. There has to be a continued call for climate action,” Lafayette said.

“I think realistically and as a practical person, let us, as SIDS, look at the survival skills we can develop because help might not come from countries that are responsible,” said the woman who has some 19 years of climate advocacy under her belt, including participation at the annual global climate-change negotiators.

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