Caribbean on the frontline to face further devastation from climate change

The impact of climate change in the Caribbean is threatening the continued survival of some countries, and Governments must sit up and pay attention.

The Caribbean Marine Climate Change Report Card 2017, which focused on countries including Jamaica, Belize, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana and St Lucia, recently issued the warning.

The Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme-commissioned report made it clear that climate change is a clear and present danger and failure to act could result in grave consequences.

It stressed the Caribbean was “in the front line” and at greater risk for more severe impacts than many other parts of the world because most of them are small islands where people live close to and depend on the sea.

“As the seas, reefs and coasts on which all Caribbean people depend are under threat, much more needs to be done to protect these resources,” the report said, noting that the authors recommend building more resilient environments to prepare for, and protect against, climate change.

The report proposed the development of a regional network of marine protected areas designed to future-proof marine biodiversity against climate change, and stabilize shorelines to preserve natural barriers such as mangroves, salt marshes, and coral reefs.

The scientists warn that while the overall frequency of Atlantic storms may decrease, the strongest hurricanes are likely to increase.

Furthermore, they noted that the average sea level around the globe is projected to rise by a further 10-32 inches over the coming century — a devastating amount for a country as low-lying as the Cayman Islands, where it could be even worse.

“In the northern Caribbean, sea level rise could be 25 per cent higher than the global average due to other physical factors affecting land elevation,” the report states. “This projected rise in sea level and severe storms is likely to increase the risk of storm surge events for Caribbean states, which will further exacerbate risks to biodiversity, settlements and infrastructure.”

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