Temperatures in Guyana are expected to rise by 1 to 4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. Sea levels are expected to rise by as much as one meter during this same period. Climate change caused by global warming may have a huge impact on Guyana, especially the low lying coastal regions. Most of Guyana’s population and economic activities are located in these low lying coastal regions. The expected impacts of global warming on Guyana include the following:
The low lying coastal region of Guyana is especially vulnerable to sea level rise caused by global warming. Parts of this region are already below sea level and are protected by sea walls. If sea levels continue to rise, this region could experience frequent and severe flooding as a result. Unfortunately, about 90% of Guyana’s people live in this coastal region.
Changing Rainfall Patterns
According to the Office of Climate Change in Guyana, “rainfall is expected to decrease by an average of 10mm per month by the first half of this century and 21mm per month by the end of the century”. This will cause a reduction in the amount of fresh water available. Reduced rainfall is also expected to have a negative impact on agriculture. Changing rainfall patterns may cause more droughts in some parts of Guyana. Other parts of the country may experience more intense rainfall events and increased flooding as a result.
Impact on Fresh Water Resources
A decrease in annual rainfall will have a direct impact on the amount of fresh water available for the people of Guyana. Also, as sea levels rise, salt water may make its way into sources of fresh water such as coastal aquifers. This will also reduce the amount of fresh water available for drinking, irrigation and other purposes.
Impact on Economic Activity
Roughly 75% of Guyana’s major economic activities are located in the low lying coastal areas. As sea levels rise, business places will have to deal with increased and more severe flooding. Almost all of Guyana’s commercial agriculture takes place near the coast. The main crops produced there are sugarcane and rice. Rising sea levels may cause salt to contaminate farmland and water sources used for irrigation. This would result in the loss of crops.
If sea levels continue to rise this will lead to the damage or destruction of coastal ecosystems in Guyana. The mangrove forests which exist along parts of Guyana’s coast are among the coastal ecosystems at risk. Changes in rainfall patterns are also likely to affect ecosystems in the interior of the country as well.
The video below was created by the Office of Climate Change in Guyana. It shows some of the effects of climate change in the country. It also highlights some of the ways in which Guyana plans to deal with the effects of climate change.
Dealing with Climate Change
In Guyana, the estimated cost of adapting to climate change is greater than 1 billion dollars (U.S.). However, the cost of doing nothing would be far greater.
One of the ways Guyana intends to deal with rising sea levels is to reinforce and also increase the height of the existing sea wall. Levees will also be reinforced. These measures will decrease the likelihood of flooding.
The government has already began to encourage residents to move away from vulnerable areas near the coast and to relocate further inland. Farmers are also being encouraged to relocate. Land in the interior has been allocated so that farmers can move their homes and farms away from the coast. The construction of new buildings in vulnerable coastal areas is discouraged.
Guyana’s Drought Mitigation and Adaptation Plan reveals that the country is also exploring the development of alternative sources of freshwater for its people. The country has been depending heavily on groundwater for domestic purposes. Now there is a greater focus on the treatment and use of water from streams and rivers for domestic use. There are also plans to increase rainwater harvesting by creating community based rainwater collection, storage and distribution systems.