The Caribbean Climate Network and 350 are committed to ensuring that we transcend the norm of only educating and building awareness in the climate space. These activities are important but we (and I can attest to this personally) have been doing this for years with limited change. This has forced us to reorient towards fighting for actionable change as time is running out.
Other than a lack of care and prioritization of economic interests by fossil fuel companies, the gross lack of action by our decision makers has caught our attention, as these are the actors who can and must make the choices and have the power to implement them. This is not the easy route, but if we succeed, it will be the route that proves the most effective as the fossil fuel industry will have to comply with measures being taken on the national scale.
The Caribbean region is no stranger to natural disasters. Climate change brings these and more risks to human lives and livelihoods. In the interest of reiterating the important facts, the major climate risks that will be faced by the Caribbean region in the near future include the following:
- Sea level rise
- Increased intensity of storm surges
- Variations in air and sea surface temperature
- Variations in precipitation (localized)
- Increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions leading to changes in carbon sequestration levels and acidification of water bodies
- Extreme weather events, including intense precipitation, extreme heat and the likelihood of increase in category 4 and 5 hurricanes and change in hurricane tracks
- Increase in climate variability
These compounded by the other unsustainable activities that humans conduct, such as pollution, resource exploitation and environmental destruction, will make the financial burdens on developing countries in the Caribbean absolutely crippling. There are too many case studies on natural disasters resulting in years and even decades spent in recovery for certain countries, prolonging the suffering of people, further degrading the economy and increasing financial debt.
It is not out of reach for many countries to make the changes needed to increase adaptation and capacity in the face of climate change. Just as we were forced to make legislative and behavioral changes because of COVID-19, the response to climate change should be met with no less urgency. It is now up to governments to take the lead to prevent further loss and damage, to stop talking and start acting.
Adaptation can take a few forms as noted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2018):
- Structural / Physical
- Engineered and built environment
- Ecosystem based
- Laws and regulations
- Government policies and programs
It is up to decision makers of the Caribbean to get on board with adapting to the oncoming change in climate. Climate change is happening and we are not prepared. One of the first ways we can all help, in whatever limited capacity we have, is to lobby our governments to listen to the science and the economic sensibilities in agreeing to adapt as a priority. Whether a politician, a student or a member of the public, we all have a responsibility to add our voices to the conversation and create change by working together. The Caribbean Climate Adaptation Declaration is one such agreement. Let us, the Caribbean, make a change before we are swept away by climate change.