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Climatologists Teach Global Warming Survival Skills

Internationally recognized researchers in the field of global climate change presented their findings and gave advice to Virgin Islands policymakers Friday at a one-day conference on UVI's St. Thomas campus.

The conference's keynote speakers were Dr. Leonard Nurse, a University of the West Indies climatologist who was part of the United Nations scientific team that enabled former Vice President Al Gore to be awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for climate-related efforts, and Dr. Ulric "Neville" Trotz, the senior advisor of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center in Belize.

"There is no argument whatsoever as to whether the climate is getting warmer," Nurse said in his remarks. While some may debate the cause, Drs. Nurse and Trotz both said the impact of global warming will continue to be felt locally. Caribbean temperature trends over the years have yielded drier dry seasons, shorter wet seasons, and have contributed to rising sea levels and ocean temperatures.

In recent years the Caribbean region has also experienced more intense hurricanes over a shorter period of time than in the past, Dr. Trotz said. According to both presenters, historical data predicted it. In addition to hurricane intensity, researchers have documented other climate-related events such as flooding and mudslides, which have resulted in loss of life and economic hardship.

UVI Vice Provost for Research and Public Service Dr. Henry Smith said the conference had more to do with planning than predicting doom."Planning can be expensive in the short term but imagine what our society might face in the future if we fail to plan," he said.

Forecasting weather events, developing early warning systems, mainstreaming climate issues and adopting changes in land use planning are a few tools that researchers offered the local policymakers who attended. In addition to UVI researchers from the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, conference attendees included individuals from the Office of the Governor, the Economic Development Authority, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, Tourism, the Housing Finance Authority and the 28th Legislature.

In the afternoon, hypothetical scenarios designed by the researchers caused local policy makers to huddle as they looked for solutions. The implications of rising sea levels on historic downtown districts, for example, forced the participants to think comprehensively about the future.

Dr. Lawrence Lewis, special assistant to UVI's Vice Provost, said the scenarios gave policymakers a chance to become part of the process. "It's done to reinforce the learning at the conference, and there has been much to be learned at this conference." he said.