The past few days have brought not the usual light April showers, but unseasonal downpours which caused street and flash flooding in several parts of the country.
The T&T Meteorological Service (TTMS) forecast is for a return to dry season conditions by this weekend. Contrary to some unfounded social media claims, this is not an early start to the rainy season. However, the intensity of the hazardous weather, which did not spare any part of Trinidad, signals the continuing effect of climate change.
It is also an indication that the severe weather that affected the country at this same time last year was no coincidence, and there is a significant change in weather patterns affecting T&T which can no longer be ignored.
Although the start of the rainy season is weeks away, in just the first two days of this week, rainfall totals of between 25 and 100 millimetres were recorded. In Sangre Grande alone, nearly eight times the average April rainfall was recorded within 12 hours.
These changing weather patterns have not come about all of a sudden. Data shows T&T has been warming almost two and a half times faster than the global average since 1985. There has been a marked increase in extreme single-day rainfall events, as well as in the percentage of rain these extremely wet days contribute to the country’s annual rainfall totals.
Since about 80 per cent of the T&T economy and 70 per cent of the population are located in coastal areas, which are particularly susceptible to the impact of climate change, the warnings served up with these latest extreme weather events should not be ignored.
It is worrying that to date, T&T has taken only a few baby steps in implementing green initiatives.
Although T&T is a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and a ratified signatory to the Paris Agreement, there is little evidence of outputs and deliverables to show the relevant national policies are in place.
Many of the climate goals this nation should be well on the way to achieving, including a reduction in cumulative emissions from power generation, transport and manufacturing by 15 per cent by 2030, are still low on our developmental agenda.
However, recent weather events are the strongest signals to date that this country does not have the luxury of time and must take immediate action before climate challenges escalate to a crisis level.
Swift implementation of an urgent and comprehensive package of adaptation and mitigation measures is needed to address the looming threat to the country’s food and water supply, physical infrastructure, public health and economy.
There are several climate initiatives simmering on the back burner for years that require immediate attention. Among them is the National Waste Recycling Policy, drafted in 2015. This country needs a system of recycling, reuse or reclamation, and must move away from disposal practices that harm the environment.
Also, the pace of the sustainable energy transition also needs to be increased. T&T has been too long in the preliminary stages of a comprehensive renewable energy roadmap.
These are just two of the many programmes that need to be accelerated now. Action must be taken on climate change before it is too late.