Inteligencia y Seguridad Frente Externo En Profundidad Economia y Finanzas Transparencia
  En Parrilla Medio Ambiente Sociedad High Tech Contacto
Medio Ambiente  
29/11/2019 | Climate Change : The Caribbean’s extreme vulnerability to climate change: A ¨life or death¨ matter

Victoria Gaytan

According to a recent report on the effects of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas, published by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAO), the total cost of the devastating hurricane that struck the Caribbean island this past September amount to $3.4 billion, equivalent to a quarter of the country’s GDP.


The assessment of Dorian’s effects, coordinated by the three multilateral bodies, draws particular attention to the exacerbated direct physical damage, revenue and income loss that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as The Bahamas suffer from during and after an extreme weather event hits their territories. But most importantly, the report sheds light on how an isolated weather event such as Dorian, will affect the island’s long-term reconstruction, recovery and the economy overall. When compared to other coastal locations across the world, the devastating cost to the economy and human well-being of the Caribbean SIDS is too hard to miss. But unfortunately, not enough attention is brought to the particular vulnerability of the Caribbean to extreme weather events as a result of climate change and rising global temperatures.

In 2017 alone, the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) recorded 367 natural disasters across the globe, including extreme weather events that affected nearly 96 million people at a total cost of $326 billion in economic loss worldwide. From the 367 disasters recorded in 2017, 101 occurred in the Americas—24 and 28 of these in the U.S. and the Caribbean respectively.

Hurricane Dorian is just the latest example of how extreme weather events taking place year after year will only become more frequent and stronger as a result of climate change. Additionally, as noted by a recently released Global Americans Working Group paper on the Caribbean’s extreme vulnerability to the climate crisis, the economic costs and human loss as a consequence of inaction toward climate change will only increase, placing an uneven and unfair burden on the Caribbean, with recovery costs exceeding the size of their own economies.

This added to the exposure to cumulative recovery costs, natural disasters take a large toll on the Caribbean’s future economic growth and development opportunities. Meaning that for SIDS that have “survived” extreme weather events—such as Puerto Rico (Hurricane Maria and Irma), Haiti (Hurricane Matthew and Irma), and more recently The Bahamas—it can take years or even decades to recover from a single natural event, straining their already limited budgets to primarily attend their affected communities, withdrawing resources from other development projects or departments.

Many Caribbean islands also have significant amounts of international debt that place them at a further disadvantage to act against climate change. As noted by the Hurricane Dorian cost assessment report, this is of particular concern for The Bahamas, a country not eligible to receive official development assistance (ODA) and where government debt, for example, doubled from 32 percent of GDP in 2007 to 65 percent of GDP in 2014.  For Caribbean SIDS, even considering incorporating protective and adaptation to climate change measures and programs in their yearly budgets is simply impossible without the cooperation of the international community.

In simple words, the Caribbean is the most vulnerable region to climate change in the Western Hemisphere, and if significant steps are not taken to address climate change today, we face a very real possibility of witnessing entire Caribbean islands, and coastal communities in the U.S. and other nations, eroding and even disappearing before our eyes.

It is a fact that we can’t prevent natural disasters from happening, but we can avoid the rippling effects of climate change and extreme weather events by placing particular attention to and taking action in our own Hemisphere’s coastal communities, starting with the Caribbean. The Caribbean region is a strategic and economically viable starting point for state, civil and private actors to mobilize against the trickle-down effects of climate change, and along the way adopt lessons applicable and scalable to other coastal communities in the Americas, so that in the long-term, we produce a more secure and prosperous hemisphere.


***To learn more about the Caribbean’s particular vulnerability to climate change and how to take urgent and collective action, read the recommendations on this and other pressing issues affecting the Americas outlined by the Global Americans’ High Level Working Group on inter-American Relations and Bipartisanship.

Global Americans (Estados Unidos)


Otras Notas del Autor

ver + notas
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House