Jun 22, 2020 News
By Kiana Wilburg
American oil giant, ExxonMobil is eager to get the blessings of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to move ahead with its third project in the Stabroek block. That project is called Payara,and is expected to come on stream by 2026 and will produce at peak, 220,000 barrels of oil per day.
But before the super major can get its go-ahead, there are a few critical factors that the EPA must consider, says US Scientist, Dr. Mark Chernaik.
According to Dr. Chernaik, one of the factors the regulatory body should consider is the extent to which Guyana’s carbon footprint would increase via the Payara project. To do this, Dr. Chernaik said that the EPA would have to be equipped with the latest report of Guyana’s climate change vulnerabilities. That report is still receiving the finishing touches by the relevant authorities. The only document available in this regard dates back to 2012 and the US scientist advised against relying on same. Should the EPA press ahead with granting the approval in the absence of the document, the scientist categorically stated that it would, without question, be making an uninformed decision that could have implications for the country’s future.
Even as the nation awaits the latest report, Dr. Chernaik said there are critical admissions made in the last document that are worthy of attention. According to the 2012 report, Guyana is particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts because of its narrow, low lying coastal zone that hosts over 90% of the population as well as the main livelihoods, economic activities and infrastructure of the country. This zone is threatened by sea level rise, increase in storm surges and changes in rainfall patterns. The document states that any impact on the coastlands will have serious consequences for the country’s economy, basically sustained in the sectors of agriculture, forestry and fishing, which are also economic activities highly sensitive to changes in climate.
The 2012 report goes on to state that the agriculture sector, especially sugarcane, is very likely be negatively affected by climate change through decreasing yields caused by greater drought like conditions mainly. It noted that rice production would be less impacted, since it relies heavily on irrigation. It stated nonetheless that impacts on the water sector, through increasing drought conditions, or salinization from sea level rise and storm surges may indirectly impact upon the agriculture sector. Further to this, the document noted that other sub-sectors of agriculture, such as livestock and fisheries may also be subject to similar types of climate and sea level risks, e.g. livestock depends on the availability of grazing pastures which are at risk of being subject to drought and flooding along the coast. In the case of fresh water fisheries and shrimp farms, saline intrusions and inundations will affect the sub-sector negatively.
The report added, “All the changes projected may translate into ecosystems disruptions, floods, landslides, storm surges and droughts, among other impacts. These threats will impose severe social and economic constraints to Guyana and will need to be addressed with adaptation policy and measures.”
The 2012 report was keen to note that effective adaptation will require a combination of enforceable regulations and economic incentives to redirect new settlement to better protected locations and to promote investments in appropriate infrastructure, all of which require political will as well as financial and human capital.
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