This 2016 photo shows erosion along the beach in Annotto Bay, St Mary, due to high waves.
A warning has been issued to governments across the Caribbean, including Jamaica, to do more to make countries resilient to climate change as there is a price to pay if nothing is done.
According to a report commissioned by the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme, the Caribbean is “in the front line” and at greater risk from more severe impacts than many other parts of the world because of its geographic location as most regional states are smaller islands where people live close to and depend on the sea.
The Caribbean Marine Climate Change Report Card 2017, which was conducted by scientists and researchers, said more intense storms, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, higher temperatures, and ocean acidification are major threats to all regional economies and pose a danger to lives as well, both directly and indirectly.
“As the seas, reefs and coasts on which all Caribbean people depend are under threat, much more needs to be done to protect these resources, and the authors recommend building more resilient environments to prepare for, and protect against, climate change,” the report noted.
It has recommended developing a regional network of marine protected areas designed to future-proof marine biodiversity against climate change and stabilise shorelines to preserve natural barriers such as mangroves, salt marshes, and coral reefs.
STRONG HURRICANES TO INCREASE
The scientists warn that while the overall frequency of Atlantic storms may decrease, the strongest hurricanes are likely to increase. Global average sea level is projected to rise by a further 10-32 inches over the coming century a devastating amount for a country as low-lying as Cayman, where it could be even worse.
“In the northern Caribbean, sea-level rise could be 25 per cent higher than the global average due to other physical factors affecting land elevation,” the report states. “This projected rise in sea level and severe storms is likely to increase the risk of storm-surge events for Caribbean states, which will further exacerbate risks to biodiversity, settlements and infrastructure.”
The report also zeroed in on some countries in the region including Jamaica, Belize, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana and St Lucia.
Where fishing is concerned, the researchers noted that if there is no action – permanent fishing camps on low lying offshore cays may be completely submerged by future sea level rise, and these are particularly vulnerable during extreme-weather events.