78.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Friday, May 24, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsFEMA Holds Seminar on Climate Change and Resilience

FEMA Holds Seminar on Climate Change and Resilience

On June 15, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) held a seminar in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to discuss climate change and disaster preparedness issues in the USVI and Puerto Rico. The conference centered around sharing information about climate impacts that both territories may expect as time moves forward, discussing plans for responding to extreme weather events, and how the islands are preparing and becoming more resilient. 

A seminar in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was held to discuss climate change in the USVI and Puerto Rico. (FEMA official logo by Federal Emergency Management Agency website)

During the day-long event, numerous speakers from multiple organizations highlighted the unique risks the Caribbean region faces due to a changing climate. A common theme among the presenters involved the importance of participation at the community level, and how the awareness and participation of all individuals in both territories will impact the results of adjusting to climate change. 

Expected Impacts of Climate Change to the USVI and Puerto Rico  

Ada Monzón, WAPA TV Chief Meteorologist in Puerto Rico, provided a compelling presentation outlining some of the challenges the region is expected to experience in the coming years. Monzón discussed global temperature rise and warned that vulnerable populations across Puerto Rico will be adversely affected by issues such as sea level rise, increasing heat, and more extended periods of drought. 

During her speech, Monzoìn displayed images from “Climate Central,” a non-profit group devoted to studying and communicating the effects of climate change. Monzón presented segments from the organization’s website, which reveal the potential consequences of rising seas in areas across San Juan.  

A graphic from non-profit organization, “Climate Central” depicting future potential sea-level rise in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photo courtesy of Climate Central official website.)

Monzoìn noted that climate education is vital, and she encouraged community members to get involved, explaining that everyone plays a role in helping to raise awareness and assist the community. 

“We are resilient, but challenges are increasing,” Monzón warned. 

Ernesto Morales, a Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan, PR, followed Monzón’s presentation. Morales commented on preparation for hurricanes and stressed that sea level rise is extremely important to address. 

In a recent Source interview, Morales offered insight regarding climate change impacts. 

“We know that the effects of climate change over the Caribbean area are higher temperatures, sea level rises, and more extreme [weather] events,” Morales said.  

In addition to severe weather, economics was also mentioned during the seminar. For example, the cost of removal of sargassum seaweed has been increasing dramatically at resorts on St. Thomas over the past few years, and climate change could be partly to blame. 

In a recent interview with the Source, Yuyuan Xie, Ph.D., a research scientist at the University of South Florida, highlights the subject of climate change related to the sargassum proliferation. 

“There is no scientific consensus on exactly what caused the sargassum increases in the past decade in the Atlantic Ocean, but climate change may be part of the reason, as it affects precipitation, ocean circulation, and dust events, among others. This is still a research topic,” Xie stated. 

Planning for the Future 

The FEMA seminar provided a plethora of information, and it is clear that many individuals are working tirelessly to help protect the islands and prepare for the future. Pioneers ranging from the community level to the U.S. Government are prioritizing the issue. 

Kristen Lepore, from the Department of Health and Human Services Region 2, spoke about some of the work the White House has done to pave the way for more resiliency in the U.S. Caribbean. 

Graphic showing possible effects of climate change in the Caribbean. (Photo courtesy of the National Climate Assessment Website (US Caribbean Chapter)

“Much planning and devotion have been made toward assisting individuals that will be facing hardships due to climate change down the pipeline. This is major work, and it’s not a theoretical issue,” Lepore explained.  

In closing remarks, Russell Fox, the FEMA Region 2 Federal Preparedness Coordinator, commended the work being done across all sectors.  

“We know it’s going to get worse, but this is a great first step,” Fox noted. 

Read more about FEMA’s work on the agency’s website here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.