Climate change: an existential threat to The Bahamas

That climate change is an existential threat to The Bahamas was made clear by the force of Hurricane Dorian in 2019. That was not a first warning shot. The Bahamas has been experiencing more frequent and stronger hurricanes for almost three decades beginning with Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

This year, heat waves, droughts, flooding and extreme storms are being experienced far beyond the tropics. Multiple hurricanes have made landfall on the continental United States. Most recently, hurricane-force winds threatened much of its northeast while swarths of the west of the country continue to fight wildfires followed by flooding rains and high wind events.

Historic floods destroyed entire towns and killed tens of individuals in Germany in July; flood mitigation infrastructure was overwhelmed in China’s Henan Province in August and historic flooding wrecked parts of West Bengal State in India in September.

All the science points to global warming and climate change as the chief instigator of these extreme weather events.

Climate change is, therefore, a global problem. It recognizes no national borders.

When 190 countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, governments pledged to reduce their greenhouse emissions with a goal of keeping global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius but with a target of not more than 1.5 degrees.

Recently, the watchdog, Climate Action Tracker (CAT), reported that they have found that all major economies including all G20 countries – emitters of 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases; the principal cause of climate change – were off-track to contain global warming. Their finding is reaffirmed by the weakness of climate commitments in the communique coming from this past weekend’s G20 meeting in Rome.

Overshadowed by efforts to cut emissions in the industrialized world has been the plight of vulnerably developing countries like The Bahamas, which are amongst those most threatened by extreme climate events.

The reality is that climate plans in the developed economies and of some industrialized developing countries are woefully insufficient.

As early as 2010, in Cancún, governments of developing countries including The Bahamas called upon the developed world to help fund the adaptation that would be required for the survival of vulnerable states. Adequate funding has not materialized.

Such appeals have been made repeatedly by Bahamian leaders and representatives at international climate conferences, most recently by Prime Minister Philip Davis in his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

When the prime minister meets with his colleague heads of government and of state at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, he must reiterate this call.

He must also make clear the position of his government on renewable sources of energy, bring clarity to plans to reduce our national dependence on fossil fuels, and, at the same time, he may address the still unsettled question of fossil fuel exploitation in our waters.

The prime minister should commit to incentivizing the adoption of alternative sources of energy including solar and wind energy-generating systems and to promoting the expansion of the use of electric and hybrid-powered vehicles.

As importantly, we believe that he should commit his government to giving more than lip service to unfriendly environmental practices that increase our vulnerabilities to powerful storms including the continued cutting of hills and construction in low-lying areas and along the coastline. The experience of Hurricane Dorian demonstrated the folly of such practices.

Climate economists suggest that areas requiring adaptation and mitigation actions internationally include climate-smart agriculture, reducing food waste, vertical farming, adapting coastal ecosystems, increasing the share of renewable sources in energy generation, improving energy efficiency, carbon dioxide capture and storage, fuel switch and fuel price reforms in the transportation sector, and better waste management.

We support calls for the developed economies and primary greenhouse gas emitters to help fund necessary adaptive and mitigating activities in climate-vulnerable states like The Bahamas.

And we call for the adoption of responsible climate policies in our country.

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