The Caribbean’s Urgent Climate Call

Hurricane Irma, Jose and Maria barrelled through the Caribbean during the month of September. We saw four hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean in three weeks, more than ever recorded in history.  One of these being Irma the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean with wind speeds of over 185mph for the longest sustained period.

Satellite image of Hurricane Irma and Jose
Satellite image of Hurricane Irma and Jose during the 2017 Hurricane Season

With climate change experts advocating that though hurricanes are unpredictable natural disasters they are made even worse due to the rising temperatures of our planet.  The level of destruction seen these few weeks in Houston after Harvey, in Barbuda, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Maarten, BVI, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Bahamas and the state of Florida after Irma, Jose and Maria is unprecedented. Our hearts go out to these countries who are trying to pick up the pieces and are beginning to rebuild their lives from scratch after such a horrific tragedy.

Climate Change
Post hurricane devastation

Ronald Sanders, an Ambassador to the USA for Antigua and Barbuda when recounting the devastation in Barbuda said, “We believe climate change is here to stay — it’s a reality, despite all of the naysayers,” he says. “We know that these things have occurred because of the profligacy of the countries that are rich and have abused the system. We, unfortunately, who contribute less than naught point naught percent of pollution of the world’s atmosphere, are the world’s greatest victims.” This is just one of many examples over the past few weeks where those who have witnessed these devastating hurricanes have brought up the contributing factor of Climate Change.

Climate Change Crash course

Climate change is the phenomenon that the temperature of the earth is increasing, more than it naturally would (based on historical trends). This increase in temperature is attributed to the drastic increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (seen in the graph below from Nasa showing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere).

Human Impact on Extreme Weather
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/human-impact-extreme-weather-charts/

These gases such as carbon dioxide trap the heat from the sun and cause the atmospheric temperatures and sea temperatures to rise. This results in the melting of the ice caps and rising sea levels and causes extreme weather conditions. This we have seen first-hand over the past few weeks with four hurricanes in three weeks in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Climate change is labeled as controversial despite 95% of climate scientists supporting the view that this phenomenon is caused by humans. Due to the industrial revolution and large shifts in societies in the USA, UK, and China for example from agricultural to manufacturing based societies have resulted in large volumes of pollution and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are about 1.5 degrees warmer above what they were from 1980-2010,” Sir Brian Hoskins from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change indicated. This posing even greater threats to the Caribbean as we know that hurricanes are weather systems that strengthen over warm seas as this allows for the weather system to absorb more moisture and cause more destruction. It seems insensitive to talk about anything other than the devastating human impact of these hurricanes. Climate change seems trivial at a time like this when many of our Caribbean neighbours do not have a roof over their heads.  But Irma was the most devastating hurricane recorded to date in the Atlantic. We must ask ourselves will there be more like this in years to come? Will they get stronger or more frequent, or both?

Keep checking the newspapers, Facebook and Twitter feed for information about donations going out to these islands. This is a great way for you to make a huge difference to the lives of those affected (and clear out that cupboard you have been meaning to get to all summer). These people have a long road ahead and as they assess the magnitude of the damage over the next few weeks, other ways in which we can help will come to light. We must do everything we can to help those affected. While being aware of the extreme effects of Climate Change and ways in which we can reduce our carbon emissions. In the meantime, establishing hurricane preparation strategies making the islands in the Caribbean more resilient and equipped for these natural disasters.

 

Sources:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/does-climate-change-affect-hurricanes/

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/human-impact-extreme-weather-charts/?

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41231288

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-14/irma-displaces-world-s-best-quant-now-he-s-on-a-climate-mission?cmpid=socialflow-twitter-business&utm_content=business&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

 

Bianca Cave

Bianca has a BSc in Biomedical Science and has just completed an MSc in Sustainable Development at the University of Sussex in the UK. The focus of her masters dissertation was on renewable energy in Barbados and would consider this one of her main areas of interest. As well as, ways we as an island can come together and empower each other to create a more resilient and sustainable community. She hopes to go back to the UK and work for a few years in both development organisations and sustainable technology companies before returning home to Barbados.

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