The recent Climate Change Risk and Resilience Public Perception Study opens the doors for Puerto Rico to generate a broad and constructive conversation on what is considered, at the international level, to be the greatest challenge the planet, and in particular, islands like ours are facing.
The report, commissioned by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to the firm Estudios Técnicos, shows that climate change is among the ten most worrisome issues for Puerto Ricans, at the same proportion of the fiscal crisis. It reveals that people, at different levels, know that climate change has present and potential negative effects on the island.
However, the low level of citizen preparedness reflected in the report is a cause for concern. This points shows that people lack information about the measures and actions they can take to better prepare themselves. The results seem to validate the government recent report that proposes, among other measures, to make a big effort to provide guidance on this issue.
The report also sheds light on ways in which economic inequality makes people more vulnerable. For example, among the obstacles mentioned by citizens interviewed for the study, nearly half – 49 percent - said that lack of economic resources limited their ability to carry out activities or actions aimed at addressing the impacts of climate change. An almost equal percentage – 48 percent - identified the lack of public policies on the issue as a barrier.
Also, the level of information and concern is related to citizens educational level, most with a degree or some years at university. More than half had a job or were retired.
Among the conclusions, the report states that hurricanes Irma and María impacted on the answers, and warns that this familiarity with climate challenges makes this a good time to guide and prepare.
On the other hand, the study recommends more research when allocating resources to meet the needs of communities in an integrated manner or designing public policies, programs and measures for adaptation and education. It also recommends including citizens experiences and that of their communities for the development of adaptation measures and support.
It rightly concludes that it is necessary for people to know the risks they are exposed to.
Many Puerto Ricans are already taking action, but they cannot always do it on their own. It is also necessary to ensure that the most vulnerable populations have the resources to save lives and property.
The study is clear: a comprehensive public policy for adaptation is needed. The effect of climate change runs through both on citizens health and safety. It requires domestic, government and business actions. It calls for the development of new visions to build infrastructures - for water storage and disposal, energy and sanitation - capable of providing stability and development. It involves responsible consumption, the use and disposal of resources at home, in workplaces, organizations and the government.
The reconstruction of Puerto Rico, after the devastation caused by the 2017 extreme events, is a great scenario to set the actions that make living conditions on the island ,viable, safe and fair. The scientific community has said that it is necessary to speed up the steps to take the necessary decisions to overcome climate challenges.
Some projects for Puerto Rico to be in optimal condition will take years, but they must be decided in the immediate future while advancing those projects that will enable people and communities to be better prepared .