Climate Change has dominated the news recently with activists like Greta Thunberg and others making impassioned pleas to world leaders to make substantive changes to how we fulfill our energy needs. The general consensus is that we need to move to alternative, sustainable energy sources like solar, or wind.
Climate Change or more precisely anthropogenic Climate Change is defined as the man-made result of releasing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is due primarily to burning fossil fuels, converting forestland to pastures, and monoculture cropland.
Though Climate Change is often used interchangeably with Global Warming, Climate Change is the umbrella term, while Global Warming is an aspect of Climate Change. One of the biggest indicators that Climate Change is man-made is that it has rapidly increased since the Industrial Revolution at the turn of the 20th century.
Climate Change has some unique applications for the Caribbean, and if left unchecked can have dire consequences for life here in the islands. In this article, we will delve into some of the major consequences of Climate Change.
Rising Sea Levels
Sea levels have been rising continuously since the early 1900s. There are three main reasons that sea levels are rising due to warming: oceans are expanding, ice sheets are losing ice, and glaciers are melting. Since 1900, there has been approximately 17-21 cm, but alarmingly 7.5 cm has come since 1993.
The Caribbean, because it is made up of islands, is particularly at risk of rising sea levels. Sea level rise in the Caribbean can have a disastrous effect on our beaches and, if left unchecked, can change life as we know it. With a rise comes the increased likelihood of coastal flooding from storm surges and pollution of precious groundwater.
Severe Hurricane Seasons
The 2020 hurricane season will mark the 5th consecutive year that we will experience an above-average hurricane season here in the Caribbean. Scientists have attributed this to global warming. The average temperature of the ocean and the layer of air just above the sea surface has risen and is contributing to more powerful storms and hurricanes. As a result, the average direct hits to Jamaica has just above tripled over the last decade.
Rise in Temperatures
Global warming means just that – it’s going to get hotter. The direct consequence is that our personal comfort is going to be affected. Sun protection products like Habitat Screens and rollshutters can help. Environmental controls like central air or air conditioning units can also help to mitigate the effects of a hotter world.
In the Caribbean, we have just two seasons – the dry season and the wet season. Currently, they are pretty regular, but with climate change, we can look forward to a shorter rainy season and a longer dry season. The rainy season will be more severe and will result in increased flash flooding and sediment reaching the groundwater supply. The change in seasonal duration will also result in disruptions to agriculture and ultimately our food sources. Even if we counter this with increased imports, it is a loss for our local farmers and a more expensive option to feed the public.
Loss of Natural Beauty
Over time, climate change will result in the degradation of our beaches and natural scenery, which will have negative effects on our tourism product. Some scientists also predict that there will be loss of flora and fauna that are indigenous to the Caribbean.
It is critical that we take action now to curb the effects of climate change in the Caribbean. Only through energy transformation and responsible governance as a global community can we hope to stave off this grim future and leave a healthy world for our kids and grandkids.