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The nature behind policy making

Species extinction, increased disease, coastal flooding and crop devastation all result from fluctuations in climate, and according to Monday’s seminar conducted by leading Caribbean ecologist Dr. Neville Trotz, environmental policy can directly impact these fluctuations.

Trotz earned his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in chemistry from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Toronto, and works as project manager for the Mainstreaming Adaptation for Climate Change in Belize.

During the seminar, Trotz associated rising temperatures in the Caribbean with an increase in hurricanes, more frequent and severe storms, dead fish, coral bleaching and prolonged wet/dry seasons.

Most of the blame for these debilitating outcomes corresponds to global emissions of greenhouse gasses from developed countries like the United States, he said.

“One has to bring into consideration what future temperature increases will be like,” Trotz said while covering the present state of the Caribbean with a PowerPoint presentation in front of 15 attendees.

“The role of the Caribbean closely resembles the role of the mine canary,” he said, meaning that this area acts as the first major indication of danger for the rest of the globe.

The Caribbean is responsible for less than 1 percent of these emissions, Trotz said, but gases from other countries affect this area significantly.

According to Trotz, devastation in Haiti and the Dominican Republic provides evidence of the growing trend in climate variations.

“The deaths in Haiti from last year’s tropical storm were caused mainly from heavy rainfall,” he said.

In working with MACC, some of Trotz’s goals have been to preserve the water sector, agriculture and tourism trade of the Caribbean.

MACC is a five-year global environmental project for the region of the Caribbean, and is the successor to the Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change Project, which monitored sea levels and other climatic indicators nationally and regionally.

“By the end of the year we should have a much better feel for the climate in the region,” he said.

The reason the climate is so important to this region has to do with the size and vulnerability of the area.

During Hurricane Ivan’s reign of terror, Grenada was devastated and lost nearly 200 percent of its annual GDP, Trotz said.

With research, Trotz hopes to create an early warning system for agriculture that will help farmers in the advent of severe flooding or drought.

Trotz expanded on this idea as he compared two drives that he took through the same area of South Africa. On his second trip one year later, he noticed cultivated green fields that had not been there before. This new development, he later found, was a product of the native’s understanding of wet/dry periods. During an El Nino year, their planting takes place early to avoid drought.

“In the Caribbean we don’t have this,” Trotz said.

In hope of preventing this increase in severe weather conditions, Trotz emphasized a method of adaptation in present government policies.

According to Trotz, research was conducted that recommended a 50 to 62 percent reduction in the amount of greenhouse emission levels from a preconceived level in 1990. Implementation of this reduction would help to stabilize the earth’s overall climate.

Last month’s ratification of the Kyoto protocol was “basically a step in the right direction,” Trotz said.

According to an article from the BBC news Web site, 141 countries responsible for 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions have ratified the treaty.

By 2012, these countries aim to cut down emissions by 5.5 percent.

As one of the world’s leading producers of harmful emissions, the United States has refrained from ratifying the treaty due to the effects the treaty could have on the economy.

In addition, Trotz emphasized the importance for the United States to accede to the protocol and join global efforts in reducing greenhouse gases.