Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Friday | January 11, 2013
Home : Commentary
Warm up to change
Ramesh Sajanani , Guest Columnist
Ramesh Sajanani , Guest Columnist

The year 2012 will remain a poignant memory in terms of the weather we suffered, with dark premonitions for the future. Is 2013 going to be a good year for weather? Or should we now pay closer attention to the phenomenon of global warming?

What this means is that as pollutants increase in our atmosphere, they create a shield to the sun's rays, causing the earth to warm up - the greenhouse effect - among other climate changes. This, in turn, causes the ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic regions to melt.

There is a conflict of opinion about global warming. Some meteorologists believe that a cyclical 16-year effect is at play: 16 years of warming, then 16 years of cooling. One important fact is that while the Arctic is melting, the Antarctica is gaining ice, so differences in temperature may have a wind circulation effect affecting the position of heating.

Last year was notable for climatic disasters. Between a devastating drought, raging wildfires and Hurricane Sandy, millions of persons in the United States and the Caribbean felt a heavy toll. But it's not just extreme weather events. According to data from the experts, 2013 may be the hottest year ever for the Caribbean Basin and contiguous territories, including the United States (US).

no hoax

President Obama has not been shy about acknowledging the problem. During the campaign, the president said: "Climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and hurricanes and wildfires are not a joke. They're a threat to our children's future. And we can do something about it."

On election night, Obama said: "We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."

Recently, the American Government took decisive action to cut global warming pollution from cars and trucks, setting the nation's second largest carbon polluters on a clean-up path that will rebuild the auto industry, and enhance energy security. Vehicles and old power-generating plants contribute a significant amount of pollution, spurring the greenhouse effect. This area that needs to be addressed.

Now, as the Simpson Miller administration begins its second year, it is critical to turn full attention to the biggest carbon polluters of them all - the ageing power plants that generate our electricity. Together, they churn out more millions of tons of carbon pollution every single year in Jamaica. This is why I believe that fossil fuel, coal, oil, and to a certain extent LNG, should be considered for pollution risks, so we can take the least damaging option, in case we decide to replace a power source.

strong carbon standards

The US has taken the first step by proposing strong carbon standards that will kick in when new power plants are built. But unlike our cars, which get replaced every 10 or 15 years, old power plants go on and on. So we cannot clean up the country's biggest carbon polluters unless we deal with the existing oil plants, and see what we can replace.

We need to enact clean-air legislation that encourages cooperation with our neighbours, and is easy to monitor and control. We need to take advantage of any carbon credits available (which means that low carbon-producing countries can earn funds from high-carbon producers.)

The Environmental Protection Agency can set national standards for the carbon pollution from existing power plants and vehicles, which will slow climate change and save lives, while creating jobs and growing our economy. It can be done in a way that achieves huge health and climate benefits at surprisingly low cost, and that triggers job-creating clean-energy investments that can't be outsourced.

It is said that "we did not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we simply borrowed it from our children". We need to maintain that trust for future generations.

Ramesh Sujanani is a businessman. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and rsujanani78@gmail.com.


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