The DE team has direct exposure to the real implications of climatic change and variability in our work in the Caribbean and the resulting problems we see are wide-ranging and in many cases extremely disruptive.
Over the past six months we have been working with IICA (Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture) conducting workshops on how to create ARM’s (Agricultural Risk Maps) for droughts, floods, landslides, saline intrusions, and pest infestations. We have worked with the governments of Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname. Each country presents a unique context but there are common elements throughout.
Each of these countries is now presented with a new climatic reality that includes more acute storm disturbances, increased climatic variability, and a structurally changed climate. The storm season used to be active only for a particular set of months each year, however, now we are seeing high-energy storms occurring throughout the year. These changes present daunting management challenges for government agencies, the private sector, and for society at large.
The impacts on these countries can be seen throughout the economy, society, and environment. Floods have displaced people from their homes and destroyed whole industrial sectors. Droughts have profoundly reduced agricultural output. Landslides have laid waste to critical transportation infrastructure. The hazards that environmental change is presenting are highly non-linear and asymmetrical which have cascading effects. With such an unpredictable and dynamic environment to work with, we need to have models or heuristics that can guide efforts for adaptation.
We have opted to use open source tools and open data solutions. We are proponents of the ‘Open Data Movement’ and feel that access to tools should not be a barrier to sustainable development. QGIS is the software we are training people on and we also use CKAN and GeoNode as supporting platforms for web-based data management.
In the countries we work in the two guiding principles for adaptation are resilience and adaptive capacity. Resilience is the capability for a society to absorb a shock and then persist without a shift in states (eg. A healthy, stable society to a disrupted and disordered society). The adaptive capacity of a society would be the capability of the people in the society to adapt to a disturbance like a flood. The two concepts are directly related, yet distinct. In our work in Guyana and Suriname we are creating agricultural risk maps to help minimize the impacts of hazards by informing those responsible for planning decisions. The end goal is the building of resilience.
Crisis situations may resultfrom climate-induced hazards, but the flipside of crisis is opportunity. The opportunity here is for innovation in infrastructure development, data acquisition and management, agricultural production, and social planning, to name a few.
We need to think of climate resilient ways of moving forward and DE is at the forefront of these efforts.
In the news:
 Pulwarty, R.S.; Nurse, L.A.; Trotz, U.O. Caribbean Islands in a changing climate. Environ. Sci. Policy Sustain. Dev. 2010, 52, 16–27
 Stokols, D., Perez, R. and Hipp, J. 2013. Enhancing the resilience of human-environment systems: a socio-ecological perspective. Ecology and Society 18(1): 7