It's probably a bit too simplistic to say that a single picture can describe a week’s worth of experiences in Portmore, Jamaica. After all, our hosts at the Portmore Municipal Council fully embedded us in the local culture. And while sampling the local cuisine (and beverages) and throwing the occasional "ya mon" into conversation were great, perhaps the most rewarding experience was a trip to the Hellshire beach, pictured below. Our visit there illustrated the challenges Portmore faces and how this partnership, supported by UCCRN's scientific expertise, can help the community respond to the threat of a changing climate.
Sea level rise, storm surge, and coastal flooding are the greatest risk to Jamaica's shoreline, including the Portmore area. On our trip to Hellshire, we saw firsthand just how close the sea is to the waterfront restaurants. Taking into account UCCRN’s climate projections for sea level by mid-century, our lunch table would likely be partially submerged in the future. This site, along with many more homes and businesses in Portmore, all face future inundation from sea level rise. On the ground observations confirm what the data tells us. Hearing firsthand from the fisherman (as well as many others throughout our visit) about the changes they have already seen and their current risks, it was quite apparent that there is an abundance of local knowledge about how climate change will impact Portmore in the future.
The challenge moving forward is that while the problem has been identified, the capacity to respond remains limited. The Citylinks partnership with Portmore will help address this gap by mainstreaming climate change into the local climate adaptation plan. UCCRN's role in the partnership—providing local science expertise— will serve as a building block for these efforts.
While my everyday responsibilities as a climate scientist are often consumed by number crunching and data analysis, a trip like this provides important context to the science. Being able to walk along the beach with the current tide, and think about how it will change in the future, makes 2 feet of sea level rise much more tangible and threatening. However, I'm optimistic that through this partnership, Portmore will have the climate information they'll need to prepare for a more sustainable and resilient future.
Hellshire Beach, Half Moon Bay Fishing Village
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