Over the last century significant changes in Guyana’s climate were observed. Guyana’s Initial National Communication (INC) in Response to its Commitments to the UNFCCC (2002), provides an analysis of these changes which are described below. The Second National Communication is currently being developed.
- Records suggest an increase by 1.0°C in the mean annual temperature in Georgetown within the last century (1909-1998).
- Prior to 1960, annual rainfall amounts were generally above or about the long term average. However, from 1960 and onwards, there has been a tendency for below average
- Tide gauge data in Guyana for the period 1951 to 1979 indicated a mean relative sea level rise of 10.2 mm per year. This is more than five times the global average over a similar
Guyana is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change for many reasons.
Approximately 90% of the country’s population resides on the Coastal Plain which lies approximately 0.5 to 1 metre below mean sea level (see map showing areas below sea level)
The coast is also relatively flat, which favours rapid accumulation of rainfall runoff, and which makes natural drainage into the ocean very difficult. This situation presents severe challenges to the drainage and irrigation system. Over the years, high levels of flooding were observed in the country especially along the coast and in some inland areas. Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of flooding events.
Approximately 75% of the country’s economic activities are located on the coastal area, where the major economic activities, such as agriculture, fisheries and industries are found. These sectors are extremely sensitive to extreme weather events and sea-level rise and are therefore highly vulnerable to changes in climate.
The country has already suffered greatly over the last decade from weather related disasters.
In December 2004 and January 2005, an unusual weather system produced heavy rains which led to major flooding resulting in severe physical damage and economic loss to the country, leading to the worst flooding event ever recorded in Guyana’s history (ECLAC/UNDP, 2005).
The 2005 flood was concentrated in the most heavily populated regions of the country, resulting in some 274,774 persons or 37% of the national population being severely affected by the flood waters. The flooding event claimed the lives of 34 persons. The magnitude of the damage caused by the floods was estimated to be equivalent to G$92.2 billion, or 59% of current GDP for the year 2004. Studies indicate that the rains were not associated with the usual weather systems affecting Guyana.
It is clear that climate change will pose a major challenge to developing countries like Guyana.