A newly released Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study uses San Salvador as a baseline for the impact of climate change on The Bahamas’ ecosystem and tourism-based economy, outlining why sustainable development far surpasses other types of development over the course of the next 30 years.
The study, entitled “The Economic of Climate Change Adaptation and Ecosystem Services in The Bahamas: Lessons from San Salvador Island”, provides a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on the economy and ecosystems, to provide the government and stakeholders with updated inputs for improved decision-making.
The study found that under a sustainable development scenario, the number of tourists to the island could increase by 127.12 percent compared to just 63 percent under the business as usual scenario.
And while under an intense development scenario visitors would increase by 158.98 percent, tourism expenditure per visitor to the island would increase the most under sustainable development scenarios, by roughly five percent per visitor to average $1,966.28 each.
“In all scenarios, tourism services provided by coral reefs would be reduced in 2050. The intense development scenario assumes the destruction of the coral for the horizon year due to the intense use of the island’s natural resources and the prioritization of other assets and activities over the conservation of ecosystems,” researchers found.
“In the business as usual and sustainable development scenarios, although the conservation of the coral reef is foreseen (with different degradation rates due to climate change), the increase in the number of visitors and their pressure on the ecosystem would increase its degradation and reduce the expected incomes.”
IDB Country Representative for The Bahamas Daniela Carrera-Marquis said it is hoped that the data found in the report will contribute to continued national dialogue on the future of San Salvador and other islands in the country that have faced development challenges.
“Hurricane Joaquin (2015) destroyed large parts of the southern islands, including San Salvador, which suffered approximately US$19 million in damage to its productive assets. This was exacerbated by the impact of Hurricane Dorian (2019) in the country. As a result, the tourism-based island economy is constantly under threat of climate change impacts such as submergence of coral reefs, flooding of coastal lowlands, loss of marine and terrestrial biodiversity, and destruction of cultural heritage sites,” she said.
“As one of the most researched and recognized historical islands in the country, and given the vulnerability of coastal infrastructure to climate-related risks, and the interdependency of social, economic, and environmental ecosystems, the government of The Bahamas requested the bank’s support in adopting a multi-dimensional approach to planning and development. Future development plans will require careful consideration and protection of the coastal habitat which provides critical goods and services (ecosystem services) to the local economy, while considering the historical and ecological importance of San Salvador.
“Equally important will be the coordination of health, climate, and disaster risk management frameworks to manage the future development scenarios for climate-resilient tourism development in San Salvador.”