18 September, 2018
Helping our vulnerable communities prepare for extreme climate change events is a big challenge.
These challenges include understanding what Climate Science does, their work using different tools or models in analysing raw data collected and how this information can be translated into targeted messaging for different users which includes an ordinary citizen.
Through their work, Climate Scientists tell us that climate and its variability is a fundamental component of human activity. Climate Science can now foresee the future state of major climate
phenomena like cyclones, drought, floods, and are able to predict the climate drivers of various range, example the dominant interannual climate variability, El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO),
can be forecasted several seasons ahead.
However, information derived from global climate models through the National Meteorological Services (NMS) have very low resolutions and often not suitable for decision making at the provincial
and community level as presented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s (SPREP) Climatologist Philip Malsale. Speaking on regional experience shared by all
Pacific island countries, Mr. Malsale who is from Vanuatu added that the uptake of NMS forecasts can be limited in communities due to low literacy level, isolation of communities and the lack of
information being translated to sectoral actions.
“To address this, NMSs need higher resolution climate models and a clearer understanding of types of information local communities currently use, to enable them to modify their products to better meet community needs”, Mr. Malsale said.
PNG was amongst 11 Pacific countries who were recipients of a statistical climate model SCOPIC developed by SPREP within the region which was tailored to provide NMSs and our PNG National
Weather Services is currently using this model for weather forecasting. It is important to know that PNG like all other Pacific island countries is facing increased exposure to extreme climate events. Our coastal communities are vulnerable to impacts of sea level rise (Fourth International Panel on Climate Change IPCC 2007 report: 2-9 millimetre rise every year) eroding away homes, sacred grounds, toppled with saline intrusion destroying food gardens and the natural ecosystems wiping out the entire livelihood of communities once enjoyed for generations. One good example of a community displaced due to sea level rise is the Caterets Island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville where ten families were relocated to Tinputz, on the mainland of Bougainville. And there’s more recent stories coming out from Manus, Madang, Morobe Provinces to name a few. Then there’s the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), wetter conditions or increase rainfall patterns in certain regions of the country while the other regions experience drier conditions (La Nina) resulting in droughts and other extreme events which threatens our Biodiversity, Tourism, Forestry, Agriculture (food security) and an imbalance in water resources .
Climate Science also tells us that “the ocean is warming -ocean acidification (4th IPCC 3007 report: increase air temperature 1.5-3.4˚C in 2100), that there is a pool of warming ocean within the PNG waters extending across the Pacific island countries and parts of Asia now threatening our marine ecosystem – causing coral bleaching and migration of fish species”. Professor Chalapan Kaluwin – an academic, researcher from the University of Papua New Guinea told participants during a presentation at the APEC Climate Symposium last week in Port Moresby.
Meanwhile, experiences shared by other APEC economies at the Climate Symposium enlightened the PNG Government officials on the different Climate Science applications/models available to study weather forecasting and how information generated by these tools can be utilised to improve crop management for example for ordinary citizens to improve their livelihood.
Collaborating with Climate Science in PNG and understanding what is happening will further empower policy makers to make good decisions in better preparing our communities for disasters, minimise impacts and be more resilient to climate change.