Office of the Governor  
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-- Bringing new ideas on renewable energy and energy efficiency to the Virgin Islands 
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Energy Office
4101 Estate Mars Hill
Frederiksted, VI, 00840
Telephone 340.713.8436
Fax 340.772.0063


St. Thomas Office
4605 Tutu Mall, Suite 231l
Telephone 714-8436
Fax 776-1914
 

 
 

Climate Change and Chikangunya

    

   Mosquito-borne diseases expanding their range. Hurricanes intensifying rapidly. Unprecedented amounts of seaweed washing up on our beaches and covering the sea in the channel between St. Croix and St. Thomas.
    Is Climate Change coming to the Virgin Islands early? It is sloppy thinking to connect one incident to Climate Change. The real question and the connection to be made – What are the patterns we see; do they relate to what the scientists are telling us?
    Two large concerns climatologists have are sea level rise and coral bleaching. I have not scientifically studied these areas. However, what I have observed and have heard from National Park Services rangers who have studied these areas gives no reason for comfort. Snorkelling at Tamarind Beach and diving off The Wall, I have seen dead coral. Walking Ha’Penny beach for a decade, I have found that it appears to be getting smaller and smaller.
    But let’s leave those two concerns alone now. Let’s take mosquito borne diseases. In June of this year, the Virgin Islands had its first confirmed case of chikungunya, by September there were fifty cases. Chikungunya was found in Africa in the early 1950s, moved to India and Indian Ocean islands in the 1980s; now it is in the Caribbean in full force. Of course, we can’t off handily attribute chikungunya to Climate Change. Many factors are involved. What is worth noting is that this spread fits the predictions of scientists and it fits a pattern.
    Here is what a report in the Health and Human Rights Journal said earlier this year.  “Chikungunya is a re-emerging arbovirus that causes significant morbidity and some mortality. Global climate change leading to warmer temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns allow mosquito vectors to thrive at altitudes and at locations where they previously have not, ultimately leading to a spread of mosquito-borne diseases.”
    Climate Change denialists are correct in saying we can’t prophesize the future. However, human life has thrived because humans have been able to make calculations based on observations and use those calculations to make some good guesses about what is going to happen next. It might not be politically correct or economically comfortable to see what our continued addiction to fossil fuel holds for the future, but wise people should not ignore scientific observations and predictions.
    Let’s look at seaweed. Yes, algae blooms come and go. In recent years   ugly green stuff has been growing by the boardwalk near Seaborne.    And it appears to be spreading further down toward Brew Pub. We can let that one go, too. It can be attributed to run-off of sewage in the area and not necessarily attributable to Climate Change, although scientific observations tell us algae of all sorts grows better in warm water.
    It is harder to discount the huge amounts of Sargassum seaweed that is piling up on our beaches. It is not there because of sewage run off. John Farchette, who works at the East End Marine Park and a native Crucian, says he has never seen anything like this before.  We can attribute this to changing ocean currents.     But guess what, scientists long time ago predicted that rising sea surface temperatures would cause changes in ocean currents.
    Maybe, it is time to pay attention to what those scientists are saying. According to them, we are pumping 34 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere with our use of fossil fuel and other human endeavours. Half of that is sucked up by trees and the ocean (which is becoming more acidic, but that is another potential calamity we are too busy to think about now). Each 7 billion tons of CO2 raises the parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere by one or two parts per million. The scientists then alarm us with charts showing a correlation between the C02 in the atmosphere and temperature rise. It is easy to question those charts going back hundreds of thousands of years. How do they really know that? This is the place where the science denialist makes his confusion.  Most lay people don’t understand the science behind those charts, so some one can say it is just a scam made up by the scientists to enslave people. Well, if you believe that scientists did not really land a man on the moon, you can believe this is a scam too
    However, the argument that Climate Change is a scam gets hard to justify when trends that are predicted get verified with observations -- personal observations as well as those contained in scientific papers.
The scam option also loses credibility when noted that the politicians who advocate the scam position hold their offices because of money supplied to them by those who profit from the use of fossil fuel.
    Why are we not taking bold steps to save our environment?
The analogy of the addict is appropriate. The alcoholic or the drug addict ignores the mishaps along the way. The addiction just feels too good to give up. The addict goes until he hits rock bottom. Sometimes, with drastic action, recovery is possible. Sometimes it is too late.

 

Teachers fight politics with evidence in the Global Climate Change Controversy

Watch Teachers Endure Balancing Act Over Climate Change Curriculum on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

PBS also has a Coping With Climate Change Page.

Pew Trust Offers Solutions on Climate Change -- Clean Energy Strategies

The way we use energy presents serious economic, security and environmental challenges. Globally, energy use is expected to increase 35 percent over the next 25 years, driven primarily by developing countries’ expanding electricity use and vehicle fleets. Rising demand around the world is likely to make energy an ever more precious commodity—forcing prices up, increasing security vulnerabilities, and accounting for more carbon emissions. The United States cannot afford to ignore its dependency on foreign oil nor the opportunities presented by transitioning to a clean energy economy. 

Over the past decade, clean energy investments, businesses and jobs have increased dramatically around the world. These trends are helping to create whole new industries, enhance national security and reduce emissions. The Pew Environment Group is working to raise awareness about this dynamic new sector in order to accelerate policy solutions that benefit security, the economy and the environment. To read Pew's take on the clean energy race click here.

 

 

VI Government Feels the Global Heat
Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. participated in a series of table-top exercises regarding global warming and climate change at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas the second weekend of February in 2011.
    The forum was designed to provide the Chief Executive and his Cabinet with scientific data and predictions relative to the impact of climate change for the global community and the Caribbean region, in particular.During this session it became very clear that the scientific data supports global warming and the gradual warming of the earth as a result of the impact of man-made or human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels.
    The presentations provided projections based on scientific findings and encouraged a proactive regional, as well as international approach. “My Administration looks forward to partnering with other local, national, and international groups and organizations, as well as other government entities, to share information and move forward on a collaborative response to this very real global issue,” de Jongh said.
    Two well-known climatologists briefed Governor de Jongh and his Cabinet on the impacts of global warming, as well as on the collaborative community response needed to adapt to the changing climate. Dr. Leonard Nurse, Chairman of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize, outlined the long-term trend for global warming, with a special focus on the Caribbean and Virgin Islands. He referenced scientific models and other projection data regarding expectations for reduced rainfall, glacier retreat and rising sea levels in future years.
Additional focus centered on the impact of global warming on crops, changing migratory patterns of fish, and steps needed to address these and other issues.
     Dr. Ulric Trotz has been giving direction to the Caribbean region’s efforts to build capacity for climate change adaptation and was recently inducted as an Honorary Distinguished Fellow of the University of the West Indies in Barbados. His presentation focused on working towards reducing long-term costs associated with global warming and the overall importance of adapting to the climate change, specifically citing actions that should be taken by Caribbean islands in at least four areas: Water Resources, Tourism Industry, Insurance Industry, and Energy. As part of his overall message, Dr. Trotz encouraged green tourism and energy efficient designs for buildings and infrastructure in order to mitigate and counteract predictions for beach erosion, rainfall scarcity, and increases in hurricane intensity.
     Throughout the discussion, Governor de Jongh and his Cabinet were presented with scenarios and evaluated climate change projections for the Territory, greater Caribbean, and beyond in order to contemplate the overall response needed at the local and international levels to adapt to global warming.
     According to the climatologists present at the UVI forum this weekend, the Caribbean region has already felt the effects of climate change. Evidence was presented that detailed the region’s recent changes, including: intense hurricanes over a shorter period of time and other climate-related events such as flooding, mudslides, other storm surges, drier dry seasons, shorter wet seasons, rising sea levels and warmer ocean temperatures as a result of global warming.

Click below to see Al Gore's latest slide show.

 Click the Play button to see the Blue Man Group's perspective on Global Warming.

The Earth's climate has changed many times during the planet's history, with events ranging from ice ages to long periods of warmth. Historically, natural factors such as volcanic eruptions, changes in the Earth's orbit, and the amount of energy released from the Sun have affected the Earth's climate. Beginning late in the 18th century, human activities associated with the Industrial Revolution have also changed the composition of the atmosphere and therefore very likely are influencing the Earth's climate.

The EPA climate change Web site has four main sections on climate change issues and another section on "What You Can Do" to reduce your contribution. A "Frequent Questions" section is available, and EPA has provided a frequent questions database where users can search for more specific questions and answers on climate change. An eight-page brochure entitled Frequently Asked Questions About Global Warming and Climate Change: Back to Basics (PDF) (8 pp, 1.6 MB, About PDF) provides illustrated answers to frequent questions.

Science | U.S. Climate Policy | Greenhouse Gas Emissions | Health and Environmental Effects | What You Can Do
Science

For over the past 200 years, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and deforestation have caused the concentrations of heat-trapping "greenhouse gases" to increase significantly in our atmosphere. These gases prevent heat from escaping to space, somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse.

Greenhouse gases are necessary to life as we know it, because they keep the planet's surface warmer than it otherwise would be. But, as the concentrations of these gases continue to increase in the atmosphere, the Earth's temperature is climbing above past levels. According to NOAA and NASA data, the Earth's average surface temperature has increased by about 1.2 to 1.4ºF in the last 100 years. The eight warmest years on record (since 1850) have all occurred since 1998, with the warmest year being 2005. Most of the warming in recent decades is very likely the result of human activities. Other aspects of the climate are also changing such as rainfall patterns, snow and ice cover, and sea level.

If greenhouse gases continue to increase, climate models predict that the average temperature at the Earth's surface could increase from 3.2 to 7.2ºF above 1990 levels by the end of this century. Scientists are certain that human activities are changing the composition of the atmosphere, and that increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases will change the planet's climate. But they are not sure by how much it will change, at what rate it will change, or what the exact effects will be. See the Science and Health and Environmental Effects sections of this site for more detail, or review the answers to some frequent science questions.

The Earth's climate has changed many times during the planet's history, with events ranging from ice ages to long periods of warmth. Historically, natural factors such as volcanic eruptions, changes in the Earth's orbit, and the amount of energy released from the Sun have affected the Earth's climate. Beginning late in the 18th century, human activities associated with the Industrial Revolution have also changed the composition of the atmosphere and therefore very likely are influencing the Earth's climate.

The EPA climate change Web site has four main sections on climate change issues and another section on "What You Can Do" to reduce your contribution. A "Frequent Questions" section is available, and EPA has provided a frequent questions database where users can search for more specific questions and answers on climate change. An eight-page brochure entitled Frequently Asked Questions About Global Warming and Climate Change: Back to Basics (PDF) (8 pp, 1.6 MB, About PDF) provides illustrated answers to frequent questions.

Science | U.S. Climate Policy | Greenhouse Gas Emissions | Health and Environmental Effects | What You Can Do
Science

For over the past 200 years, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and deforestation have caused the concentrations of heat-trapping "greenhouse gases" to increase significantly in our atmosphere. These gases prevent heat from escaping to space, somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse.

Greenhouse gases are necessary to life as we know it, because they keep the planet's surface warmer than it otherwise would be. But, as the concentrations of these gases continue to increase in the atmosphere, the Earth's temperature is climbing above past levels. According to NOAA and NASA data, the Earth's average surface temperature has increased by about 1.2 to 1.4ºF in the last 100 years. The eight warmest years on record (since 1850) have all occurred since 1998, with the warmest year being 2005. Most of the warming in recent decades is very likely the result of human activities. Other aspects of the climate are also changing such as rainfall patterns, snow and ice cover, and sea level.

If greenhouse gases continue to increase, climate models predict that the average temperature at the Earth's surface could increase from 3.2 to 7.2ºF above 1990 levels by the end of this century. Scientists are certain that human activities are changing the composition of the atmosphere, and that increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases will change the planet's climate. But they are not sure by how much it will change, at what rate it will change, or what the exact effects will be. See the Science and Health and Environmental Effects sections of this site for more detail, or review the answers to some frequent science questions.

Climate Bill Passes US House

Reaction was mixed in the Virgin Islands as the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on June 26 to slash pollution that is blamed for global warming. Like elsewhere some Virgin Islanders think the bill is trying to do too much while others think it does not do enough.Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen applauded the bill’s passage. “The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 is about the future,” she said in a press release.  “All the decisions that we know must be made, that we have put off for far too long on energy independence, climate change and retooling our economy for the industries of the future must be made now.
       Paul Chakroff, executive director of the St. Croix Environmental Association was not as enthusiastic. He said, “It is great they passed a bill, but they seemed to have weakened the Clean Air Act and that has me concerned.” He also said he had some hesitancy about the Cap and Trade portion of the bill. He said he believed that a carbon tax would have been the direct route to go.
       The Cap and Trade element of the bill will be of  special concern to Virgin Islanders because of its continual dependency on fossil fuel. This dependency and the consequent release of Greenhhouse gases in the atmosphere will become more costly.
       According to the New York Times, “The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the average American household would pay an additional $175 a year in energy costs by 2020 as a result of the provision (for Cap and Trade).”  The bill also makes allowances for rebates for the poorest households. However, with utility bills in the Virgin Islands being on three times what average stateside utility bills are, it is hard to say just how costly the implementation of the bill would be for residents.
       The House barely passed the bill,  by a vote of 219-212. Climate change legislation still must get through the Senate. Senators were expected to try to write their own version but prospects for this year were uncertain. After the House vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hoped the Senate can pass a bill "this fall."