Caribbean leaders’ commitment to being at the forefront of addressing climate change is now a matter of their region’s survival. As extreme polarizing weather continues, the Caribbean becomes more vulnerable to future natural crisis and the environmental issues that they already face.
In Bucharest, Romania, earlier this year, CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque said in an address to the International Conference on Building Resilience to Natural Disasters: “There can be no question that for us in the Caribbean, climate change is an existential threat. It has been recorded that between 2000 and 2017, member states of our community suffered at least seven major disasters in which damage ranged from 33% to 226% of the affected country’s GDP.”
He continues to detail that “estimated cost of reconstruction after the 2017 devastation by Hurricanes Irma and Maria has been put at $5 billion region-wide.”
The countries that suffer the most, according to reports by Inga Rhonda King, President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), are smaller island countries with weak infrastructure, remote locations and limited resources to make them resilient against climate. Islands such as Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Haiti and the Grenadines are several of over a dozen that work against the inevitability of natural disasters. Due to the exposure to global environmental challenges, the external economic shocks are already felt.
In the past, numerous summit seek solutions. Lorna Innis, a biologist born in Barbados, but working in Jamaica asked at a conference UN Environment conference, Forum of Ministers of Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean, on the Caribbean and climate change in Buenos Aires, “On an island like Barbados, that is 14 miles wide at its widest point and 21 miles long at its longest point, how much adaptation can you do?”
Innis points out that a lot of islands like that of Barbados rely so heavily on tourism rather than making radical changes to protect the ecological system for natural disasters. She surmised. “You may have a beach that was a hundred-feet wide. And you wake up the next morning and it’s ten feet wide. And that’s a major impact, because there are some islands that do well in terms of agriculture, there are some islands that have some oil and gas or some other things, but none of them come close to the level of economic activity that the countries get from tourism.”
At the moment, the Caribbean still works through the tough task of deciding on how to effectively tackle and prepare for global climate change and still feed a tourist industry that is part of the problem.
Currently, here are a few issues the Caribbean must confront.
In the Bahamas, conch is dying in spite of efforts to harvest the celebrated sea species and culinary delicacy of the region. Twenty years ago, Bahamas built protected marine parks to grow queen conch. While the older conch survive, the numbers of younger ones are increasingly low.
Since 2011, a massive influx of seaweed has significantly reduced the catch for Caribbean fisherfolk in Barbados. Known for its flying fish, the island-nation, which is already in debt, reports increasingly tonnes of seaweed in their fishing lines and trap, as well as dolphins. This is also a problem for Guyana, a Caribbean country off the coast of South America that is known for its shrimp trade.
Soil erosion on the isle of Mayreau, a part of St. Vincent and Grenadines, must deal with the quickening reality that the sea will split it into two.
Annual hurricanes disrupt agriculture in the Caribbean which increase food insecurity. While Puerto Rico estimates that it lost 80 percent of its crop from Hurricane Maria and Irma, islands such as Dominica and British Virgin Islands report that their agriculture was totally decimated in the storms.
Ark Republic is an independent media company that provides a platform for free-thinking folk to tell stories as complex and colorful as possible. We need your help to keep the wheels churning and the stories flowing. Please become and member or donate to an organization dedicated to giving you stories that keep you informed.