On February 28, 2022, the United Nations body for assessing the science of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is expected to release its latest global report addressing Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability related to climate change. Five scientists from The University of the West Indies (The UWI) are among the leading authors and review experts contributing to the chapters that comprise this critical international scientific report which comes on the heels of COP 26 held in Glasgow in 2021.
The IPCC pools the top climate scientists around the globe to assess the state of the scientific literature on all aspects of climate change, its impacts, and society’s options for responding to it. Out of a total of 1037 nominated experts, only 263 authors were selected to contribute to the report.
According to the IPCC, “this upcoming Sixth Assessment Report of Working Group II (AR6-WG2) assesses the impacts and risks of climate change, looking at ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities at global and regional levels. Compared to the previous Working Group’s assessments, AR6-WG2 will include new information on different types of risks under various warming levels.”
The output of Working Group II will be made public on February 28 when the report is expected to be launched following the approval session with governments from around the world.
Chapter teams for IPCC Reports comprise Coordinating Lead Authors, Lead Authors, and Review Editors. Professor Michelle Mycoo, an urban and regional planner and Professor in the Department of Geomatics Engineering and Land Management at The UWI St Augustine, is a Coordinating Lead Author on Chapter 15 of the upcoming report. Chapter 15 focuses on the impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability of small islands. In addition to Professor Mycoo, other UWI Scientists, Dr Donovan Campbell, Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Geography and Geology at The UWI Mona Campus, served as a Lead Author of Chapter 15, and Dr Aidan Farrell, Senior Lecturer in Plant Physiology in the Department of Life Sciences at the St Augustine Campus, served as Lead Author for Chapter 5, which addresses the impacts and risks of food, fibre, and other ecosystem products.
Dr Michael Sutherland, Head of the Department of Geomatics Engineering and Land Management in the Faculty of Engineering at the St Augustine Campus served as a Review Editor to Chapter 1, which covers the point of departure and key concepts of the Report. Also from the St Augustine Campus, Professor John Agard, Executive Director of the Global Institute for Climate-Smart and Resilient Development, and Professor in the Department of Life Sciences, who currently co-chairs the UN’s 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report, added his expertise as a Review Editor for Chapter 15.
“Universities play a unique role in helping increase the scientific understanding of the changing climate and its impacts. Providing the best scientific research to tackle this challenge has long been a priority for The UWI,” said Professor Mycoo. “The UWI has prioritised climate action on its strategic agenda and its scientists and climate experts are highly sought after globally.”
The small islands of the Caribbean region face some of the most severe impacts of climate change. These include rising sea levels, increasingly intense precipitation, drought, a higher frequency of more intense storms and hurricanes, and destructive flooding.
AR6-WG2 Chapter 15 covers small island states spanning the Caribbean, the Indian, and Pacific Oceans. The peoples of these parts of the world have been impacted by devastating tropical cyclones which affect their livelihoods, health, and well-being. Fragile ecosystems such as coral reefs have suffered damage due to ocean warming and acidification. The impacts on fisheries and tourism account for a significant decline in economic revenue. Low-lying coastal settlements, including Caribbean cities, major infrastructure, and economic assets are exposed and at risk of flooding. In small island developing states, people are already taking action to cope with climate change.