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Commonwealth warns of climate change threat to Caribbean states

16 August 2017

Global warming could have a devastating impact on Caribbean countries, according to experts from the Commonwealth Secretariat and across the region.

The head of climate change at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Harsen Nyambe, said the rise in temperatures could see many states facing unprecedented changes to their environments.

Mr Nyambe said, “Small islands are proving to be very sensitive to the effects of climate change, such as cyclones and other natural disasters, which are very difficult to recover from.

“Consequently, the gross domestic product has plummeted in countries like Haiti and Dominica, making it difficult to service loans and causing countries to remain in debt. The peoples of the Caribbean therefore have every reason to be concerned.”

Mr Nyambe’s comments followed concerns from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, which had earlier stated that many island states now face as much rainfall in the space of a few days as they have previously received in months.

The Centre’s deputy director, Dr Ulric Trotz, said this would leave existing infrastructure, such as drainage, struggling to cope with the extreme weather conditions.

Dr Trotz said, “For small island nations, everything comes to a stop. As a region, we are very exposed to climate risk. We have some serious concerns about the viability of Caribbean life as we know it.

“A lot of the damage now comes from extreme precipitation. So that translates into floods, landslides, loss of life, and loss of livelihoods.

“The bottom line is that we don’t have the resources. It’s not that we don’t have any idea about how we need to build resilience.”

Dr Trotz added that another factor of extreme weather that will further impact on many livelihoods is water shortages, which will result from longer and more pronounced droughts.

The region’s agricultural and fishing communities, in addition to its tourism sector, account for billions of dollars each year, and it is these industries that are likeliest to face the full impact in terms of damage and cost. 

Mr Nyambe added, “The welfare of the people in the Caribbean and their economic development is threatened by climate change. This is because the livelihood of many in the region depends heavily on tourism and fishing, which is being increasingly disrupted.

“Unfortunately, many of the developed countries who are historically responsible for much of the damage to the environment, are not willing to provide the needed finance to alleviate the problem.”

The full article in The Voice can be read here