The Impact of Climate Change in The Bahamas Could Be Devastating

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With less than five months to go before the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, the clock is ticking for world leaders to secure a deal that will limit the worst effects of global warming. Although advances were made at the recent G7 meeting in Cornwall, progress has stalled on honouring past commitments to find $100bn a year to support developing countries invest in green technologies. This has prompted the head of climate change at the UN to warn this week that, ‘We’re still very far away from being fully confident of having a full success at Cop26’.

From the failure of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017, climate change accords have a chequered history. But will past failings be repeated in Glasgow this Autumn?

Many believe Cop26 is the world’s ‘last best chance’ to avert global catastrophe. This means, ultimately, there is no choice. To prevent rising sea levels, extreme weather patterns and destruction of coral reefs, we need to act now.

From the perspective of The Bahamas, climate action is particularly important, for the country is especially exposed to the worst effects of global heating.

As a low-lying, sea encircled archipelago, the geographical features of The Bahamas increase its vulnerability. Indeed, if the projected sea-level rise is reached by 2050, between 10-12% of territory will be lost.

As the Founder of The Bahamas Climate Campaign, Trevor Johnson Jr., affirms, ‘I want to make this abundantly clear: The Bahamas is perhaps one of the most vulnerable countries to sea-level rise’. It is anticipated that areas most affected will be coastal zones where the main tourism assets are located. Therefore, the impact of climate change is expected to have serious consequences for the local economy, threatening jobs and livelihoods by undermining The Bahamas’ tourism industry that accounts for 60% of the country’s GDP.

Global warming is also anticipated to worsen the hurricanes that The Bahamas has long been victim to. According to one 2020 study, if temperatures rise by two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, extreme hurricane rainfall will increase by four to five times in The Bahamas. This is because hurricanes are the earth’s mechanism for transporting excess heat from the Equator toward the poles. With the surface temperature of the world’s oceans rising, there is now significantly more heat in the tropics. Subsequently, it is expected that hurricanes will begin to intensify as global warming continues, thereby placing the lives of those in their path at even greater risk. With fears of hurricanes set to grow stronger in The Bahamas, we need to set in place adequate disaster relief plans.

As the founder of The Fox Foundation Bahamas, which seeks to empower the people of The Bahamas, I have long championed the importance of disaster relief planning. For example, in 2019, as Hurricane Dorian hit, my Foundation took private vessels to Abaco to assist with evacuation efforts and partnered with the Buddy Hield Foundation to distribute food, water, and generators to the citizens affected. Only with fast action could The Bahamas be brought back onto its feet. Additionally, long-term disaster relief efforts are essential to return the affected country to normality. This is why in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, The Fox Foundation worked to supply vital equipment and technology to schools across The Bahamas, ensuring children could continue to have access to high-quality teaching. With Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as The Bahamas, now on the front lines of the climate crisis, we need to not only put pressure on world leaders to commit to carbon neutrality by 2030, but we also need to invest in adequate disaster relief infrastructure to mitigate the future impacts of climate change. Only then will The Bahamas be able to prosper in the face of climate-related crisis.

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