Guyana is pushing forward on protecting its rich inland forests as a source of income but is investing too little money in helping its low-lying coastal regions prepare for and adapt to climate change, national and international experts say.
A study published last year by researchers from the University of Western Ontario in Canada says that massive adaptation investment is needed if the South American nation is to stave off flooding and salt contamination of agricultural land as a result of rising seas and more frequent storms.
“The Guyana government clearly recognizes the country’s acute vulnerability to climate change – which has been accentuated by multiple recent flood events – and focuses on the need for vast infrastructural rehabilitation and enhancement as the main adaptation priority,” the authors noted.
Ninety percent of the country’s population and the majority of its important economic activities are located in coastal zones. But the researchers said they feared the government’s investment in adaptation was unlikely to keep pace with the challenge.
“While Guyana has emerged as a champion of climate change mitigation through averted deforestation, government investment in adaptation remains relatively small, and although a limited budget is one of the reasons for this, a number of other impediments complicate the issue,” the study said.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007, that rising seas threaten countries such as Guyana and Bangladesh that have extensive low-lying coasts.
The report warned that saltwater intrusion is likely to have a strong impact on freshwater resources, agriculture and forestry, fishing, health, biodiversity, settlements and infrastructure.