KNMI scientists visit Saba to discuss climate change

Climate scientists Iris Keizer and Nadia Bloemendaal of the Royal Netherlands Meteorologi­cal Institute KNMI visited Saba last week to share their knowledge on climate change with various stakeholders and the general public.

Their visit was in relation to the climate scenarios report that KNMI published in Oc­tober 2023. For the first time, the Caribbean Netherlands was included in this report, which forecasts possible fu­ture climate scenarios for the islands in relation to climate change.

In its report, KNMI focuses on the implications of chang­es in temperature, precipita­tion, wind and sea-level for the BES islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. It also looks into how hurricanes will change in the future.

Climate scientists Iris Keizer and Nadia Bloemendaal of the Royal Netherlands Meteoro­logical Institute KNMI visited Saba last week to share their knowledge on climate change.

KNMI has developed four climate scenarios based on the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, because CO2 is one of the main driv­ers of global warming and climate change. In the high-and low-emission scenarios, KNMI distinguished a wet and dry scenario, showing the results of extremes in de­velopment of precipitation.

In all four scenarios, the temperature and wind speed on Saba increase, while pre­cipitation decreases. Accord­ing to the models, the future climate of Saba will be more similar to that under El Nino conditions with less pre­cipitation and higher wind speeds. This means that in the future it is possible that Saba residents will experi­ence warmer temperatures with the occurrence of more intense heatwaves, longer dry periods and stronger wind in general.

However, while the mod­els show an El Niño trend, climate observations also show that the current cli­mate is more similar to La Nina conditions, which bring more rain but are also more favourable for the develop­ment of hurricanes.

The report also shows that hurricanes may become stronger in the future as ocean temperatures rise. Simulation models reveal that the most severe hur­ricanes in the future will have higher maximum wind speeds and higher maximum precipitation intensities, al­though it is not clear whether hurricanes will occur more frequently.

This means Saba residents may experience hurricanes with stronger wind speeds and more rainfall. Hur­ricanes may also intensify more rapidly in the future, jumping from a category 1 to a category 4 and higher in a short period of time. This is caused by warmer ocean temperatures, which act as a super fuel to feed hurri­canes.

According to KNMI, Saba will also experience sea-level rise. While this may not have an immediate effect on the island (with the exception of the harbour), it may im­pact surrounding islands and the United States mainland from which Saba imports its food and other supplies.

The scientists met with various stakeholders dur­ing their visit. One of their meetings was with various government department heads, policy advisors and stakeholders in public safety and order, nature conserva­tion and energy, because, as part of their research, it is important for Keizer and Bloemendaal to understand how climate change impacts the various government de­partments and sectors on the island.

A town hall meeting was also held so that the scien­tists could share their knowl­edge with the general public and hear the experiences of residents who have been im­pacted by climate change.

Keizer and Bloemendaal also met with and present­ed their climate research to the Executive Council. The goal of this meeting was to inform the island decision makers on what can be ex­pected in the future. This information is critical for deciding how to further develop Saba with climate change in mind.

While Saba contributes little to climate change (on a global scale), it and other islands in the region will feel the impacts of the climate change the most. The sever­ity of the impacts of climate change is determined by the level of global CO2 emis­sions and whether large, industrialised nations com­mit to policies and (interna­tional) agreements aimed at reducing emissions. This is something over which Saba does not have control. How­ever, Saba does have control over how it can prepare and adapt to climate change.

A climate agenda was de­veloped earlier this year with the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Cli­mate Policy, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the Ministry of Home Affairs and King­dom Relations and the gov­ernments of the six islands in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom.

The agenda has eight pri­orities, which include in­creasing renewable energy, developing climate-resilient infrastructure and spatial planning, improving water and waste management, stimulating circular econo­mies, intensifying ecosystem protection, financing and economic incentives, col­laborative partnerships and knowledge-sharing, and
monitoring and evaluation.

From this agenda, the pub­lic entity Saba will create a climate plan with actions to prepare Saba for the future.

Governor Jonathan John­son said during his speech at the town hall on climate change, “Amidst these chal­lenges lies an opportunity for us to chart a course towards a more resilient and sustain­able future.” The aim is to complete the plan by the end of this year.

The Daily Herald.

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