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Resilience in relation to climate change in Haiti
Richener NOËL

Climate change has already had incredibly damaging consequences in Haiti due to major environmental vulnerability and a poorly organized risk and disaster management system. Natural disasters (flooding, drought, cyclones), which have been more frequent in recent years, linked to this global phenomenon, will continue to increase in number and intensity in the coming years and decades.
This article summarises the research report commissioned by Oxfam (2013) which describes the issues that climate change raises for Haiti by looking at the sectors which need to be reinforced as part of a resilience building strategy. It also quotes other research and evaluation reports in addition to the Oxfam report, notably with regard to the issues of the environment and climate change.

 Climate change: a phenomenon which has completely changed the situation in Haiti

From the first pages, the report, “Climate Change Resilience : the case of Haiti” [1], shows that this phenomenon has already had negative repercussions for Haiti, and, according to forecasts, will be a real danger in the coming years and decades. Between 1973 and 2003, an increase of 1° C in the average temperature of the atmosphere has been recorded at the local level [2]. During this period, this rise in temperature has manifested itself in the form of: unusual rainfall with late rainy seasons, longer dry seasons, rainfall shortages during certain periods and abundant rain in others. There has been an increase in the number and intensity of cyclones and a massive increase in flooding linked to this unusual rainfall, and after cyclones have taken place: in recent years Haiti has been affected by a large number of floods which have caused enormous material damage and loss of human life (notably in 2004 and 2008 following the passage of several cyclones). The report commissioned by Oxfam quotes the fourth evaluation report by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which underlines that in the 1990s, 35% of cyclones were in categories 4 and 5, compared to 20% in the 1970s [3]. Haiti is situated in the most common trajectory of cyclones in the Atlantic which generally arrive on the American continent via the Caribbean basin. Climate change has other damaging direct consequences such as the rising sea level which threatens to cover and salinise low-altitude land near the sea.

In terms of forecasts, “It is predicted that there will be a temperature rise of up to 1 degree by 2030 and 1.7 degrees by 2060 with higher peaks in June for 2030 and in June-July for 2060” [4]. A clear reduction in rainfall is also forecast according to a variety of scenarios: forecasts predict a fall in rainfall of 20% in 2030, and of 39% in 2060.

 

Forecasts of changes in annual average temperatures (oC) and rainfall (%) in the Atlantic ocean and the Caribbean sea
Source: Murari Lal, Hideo Harasawa and Kiyoshi Takahashi, Future Climate Change and its Impacts Over Small Island States, in Climate Research 19 (2002): 179-192, quoted in Oxfam’s report.

[1] Brawan Singh & Marc J. Cohen, Climate Change Resielience: The case of Haiti, University of Montréal/Oxfam América, March 2014. http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/rr-climate-change-resilience-haiti-260314-fr.pdf

[2] These figures are from the Haitian Ministry for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development.

[3] R.K. Pachauri, R.K. and A. Reisinger, eds. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Geneva: IPCC, 2007. http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_ipcc_fourth_assessment_report_synthesis_report.htm

[4] This data has also been published by Joseph Ronald Toussaint (2012): “Évaluation environnementale et des changements climatiques en Haïti”, for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). http://operations.ifad.org/documents/654016/0/Haiti+-+Environment+and+climate+change+assessment/24f0c1b5-9117-4fcd-960e-e32c1b6ecf7b