This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and we’ve got your 2050 climate forecast for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. If you’re in these regions, you know how important it is for your household and your community to be able to rely on your own resources. Anyone who remembers the mainland response to Hurricane Maria- What a genuine shame and disgrace. And what incredible hope, hard work, and vitality has it taken for the communities of the US Carribean to rebuild, to hope, to thrive, and to become even more resilient.
I do not have an encouraging 2050 forecast for the US Caribbean. But there is a lot that can be done to prepare for what’s coming, so I want to give it to you straight. There are several major challenges ahead. The first is securing fresh water. The second is changes to the sea. The third is increasing temperatures.
Let’s go through these challenges one at a time. 2050 projections for Puerto Rico show significantly decreased rainfall. We’re talking about maybe a 20 percent decrease in rainfall, with the west side of the island likely dryer than the east side. Because of this, it’s looking likely there will be less water flowing into streams and lakes. For example, since 1975 there’s been a trend towards less water availability in Lago La Plata and Lago Loíza. That’s gotten a little better in the last ten years, but that trend is projected to reverse. By 2050 more water is likely to leave the lakes than enter the lakes. We don’t have as detailed forecast information for any islands smaller than Puerto Rico, we just don’t have the ability to model regions that small yet, but all other islands in the US Caribbean are also likely to get less rain. Across the region, aggressive water management, sharing and caring for water at a community level, is going to be crucial.
Now let’s talk a little about the changes to the sea. The sea is getting hotter faster than the land, so you can expect increased coral bleaching and changes in the plants and animals that can live in the sea. There are ways to manage and mitigate that threat. There have been some real successes in coral farming. In Hawaii there are some promising and really very hopeful efforts to breed heat-resistant coral. So there are things that can be done to preserve habitats, to preserve these places that are so culturally and spiritually and economically significant, but it’s going to be rough. And with the sea, there is also sea level rise to consider. This is quite serious. We are probably looking at around three feet of sea level rise by 2100, could be around a foot and a half to two feet by 2050. A foot of rise is probable by 2040. This is going to fundamentally change a lot of coastal areas, a lot of the beaches, and it’s not that far away. I mean, think about it. That’s less than 19 years away, that’s not even a full generation.
Last, the heat issue. Right now, today, there are a lot more days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit than there used to be in this region. The trend since the seventies has been that every two years there’s another hot day added on to the average year. Those hot days, those are days where a healthy person gets hot enough they will have long-term impacts on their health if they can’t cool down. By the end of the century, your hot days in this region are likely to double. We’ve got the modeling for Puerto Rico, it shows the greatest impact on the southern coast and in San Juan. To build resilience for increased heat, you need resilient power, independent sources of power. This is a good region for solar, and if you are looking for solar for your home or your community in Puerto Rico, I am going to recommend Mercados Solar. You can find them at https://mercadossolar.com/. This is not a paid promotion. I am just recommending a local company that does good work. Supporting local resiliency businesses is so important. Building independent infrastructure, being able to take care of power for your community, water for your community, building connections between communities in the islands- these will all be completely critical. Everyone in this region needs to work together if they want their communities to make it to 2100.
Times are going to be tough. There will be a need to share and coordinate resources even in good years. But in bad years, in years where there are hurricanes, and there will be more of these very intense hurricanes. As the ocean gets warmer, more hurricanes will intensify to Cat 4 and Cat 5. When these hurricanes hit, the US Caribbean has seen the type of federal response you can expect. Without strong local power and water infrastructure, decentralized and repairable power and water infrastructure, you cannot have the disaster preparedness you will need in this region.
There is a lot of resilience that can be built in this region. The people of this region, you all have shown your resilience. I want to help you understand what is coming, I want to do everything I can to help you prepare. If you are in this region, I strongly suggest you read the full 2018 government report for your region. It’s about 70 pages, there’s a link to it on my website, and if there is interest I will do a longer teaching on this topic.
This is Dr. Schoerning with AR, signing out. Please help get the message out there. There is hope. We can prepare for what’s coming. Let’s get ready.