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President Ragster Joins Caribbean Experts Addressing Impact of Global Warming

As U.S. and world leaders address global warming, experts from the Caribbean are working together on responses to climate change in their region. Last week saw movement on several fronts.

At a conference in Trinidad that ended Sept. 26, the Climate Change and Biodiversity in the Caribbean Project (CCBIC) developed priorities for a research agenda that will be presented to the MacArthur Foundation for further funding consideration and distribution throughout the region. The two-year project is being implemented by the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI).

Dr. LaVerne E. Ragster, president of the University of the Virgin Islands and former chair of CANARI's board, is playing a key role in the CCBIC as a member of the project's Steering Committee.

"The important thing that we accomplished was identification of areas that need to be assessed in order to respond to climate change," Dr. Ragster said. For example, an area that project participants are looking at is greater use of high resolution modeling in assessing climate change, she said.

The project's importance has been underscored recently with both U.S. presidential candidates agreeing in their first debate Sept. 26 that addressing climate change is an important task for the next president. In addition, the Clinton Global Initiative of former Pres. Bill Clinton highlighted global warming at its annual meeting, which also concluded Sept. 26. Organizers of that event chose global warming as one of the four areas to focus on, calling it a "crisis."

The CCBIC conference drew professionals from various Caribbean institutions to the Normandie Hotel in Port of Spain. The CCBIC project focuses on increasing understanding of what is known - and, perhaps more importantly, what is not known - about the predicted climate change trends and their impact on the biodiversity in Caribbean small-island developing states.

"It's aim is to develop a regional research agenda and capacity needs assessment to address identified gaps and to consider how protected area management, biodiversity protection, and conservation policy can best address climate change in the region," Dr. Ragster said.

The conference "was a stimulating and enjoyable effort," she added. "I consider it an honor and a pleasure to be able to contribute to this very important regional project. UVI will benefit from the new information and the linkages that were strengthened at these meetings."

Final versions of the reports of three working groups formed for the project will be disseminated in November.

"The University of the Virgin Islands is working with U.S. Virgin Islands Governor John deJongh to schedule a special meeting on climate change and the questions that our local government and society need to address before it is too late," Dr. Ragster concluded.

For more information about the Climate Change and Biodiversity in the Caribbean Project, visit www.canari.org.