Small Is­land De­vel­op­ing States in Cri­sis

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Stephen Fevrier

Ex­treme weather events threaten the fu­ture of the Caribbean. In re­sponse to a se­ries of cat­a­strophic hur­ri­canes, Caribbean lead­ers at the 72nd ses­sion of the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly again brought to the world’s at­ten­tion the grow­ing ex­is­ten­tial threat posed by cli­mate change. Ap­peals to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity fol­lowed the dev­as­ta­tion left be­hind by hur­ri­canes Irma and Maria. These weather events, un­prece­dented in scale, in­ten­sity and tim­ing should re­move any lin­ger­ing doubt that weather pat­terns are chang­ing due to hu­manin­duced cli­mate change. Ex­treme weather events and the re­sult­ing eco­nomic and hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ters make the de­vel­op­ment model re­lied upon by Caribbean coun­tries un­vi­able in the face of cli­mate change-re­lated risks.

Such ex­treme weather events chal­lenge the abil­ity of Caribbean is­lands to im­ple­ment de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes given the in­creased fre­quency and cat­a­strophic re­sults of these ‘un­nat­u­ral’ phe­nom­ena. While as­sess­ments of the im­pact of re­cent storms are still on-go­ing, the ef­fects of hur­ri­canes Irma on Bar­buda and Maria on Do­minica can be placed in an his­tor­i­cal con­text. In 2015 Trop­i­cal Storm Erika hit Do­minica claim­ing 30 lives and in­flict­ing dam­age es­ti­mated at over USD480 mil­lion, or 90 per­cent of Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct (GDP). Hurricane Ivan tore through Gre­nada over a decade ago as a cat­e­gory 3 sys­tem, claim­ing 39 lives and leav­ing be­hind dam­age val­ued at over 200 per­cent of GDP. These two storms, while de­struc­tive, were far weaker than those re­cently ob­served. Hurricane Irma de­scended on Bar­buda as a cat­e­gory 5 sys­tem pack­ing winds of over 220 miles per hour. Her heavy winds ripped through the is­land ren­der­ing what was a ver­dant land­scape a vast waste­land. Days later, hurricane Maria tore through Do­minica de­stroy­ing most of the is­land’s veg­e­ta­tion and in­fras­truc­ture. While no of­fi­cial count has been re­leased, it is likely that up to 70 res­i­dents may have per­ished.

This year marked the first since records have been kept that the At­lantic Ocean has hosted two cat­e­gory 5 storms at the same time. Since 1851, only 33 storms have reached cat­e­gory 5 strength; in a pe­riod of 10 days, two such storms rav­aged the Caribbean. This is to say noth­ing of the threats posed by hur­ri­canes Har­vey and Jose. For the Caribbean, the threat of in­tense weather events is likely to be­come the new nor­mal. A re­cent study by the Com­mon­wealth Ma­rine Economies Pro­gramme pro­jected an in­crease in the fre­quency of high in­ten­sity cat­e­gory 4 and 5 storms over the next cen­tury. These find­ings are di­rectly re­lated to in­creased an­thro­pogenic (hu­man-in­duced) green­house gas emis­sions and the warm­ing ef­fect of those emis­sions on Min­is­ter Gas­ton Browne of An­tigua and Bar­buda ar­gued that all 14 mem­bers of the Caribbean Com­mu­nity to­gether con­trib­ute less than 0.1 per­cent of global emis­sions but dis­pro­por­tion­ately bear the con­se­quences of the ir­re­spon­si­ble choices of oth­ers. He chal­lenged the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to do more for small states that face chal­lenges that threaten their very vi­a­bil­ity, if not sur­vival.

To ad­dress the cat­a­strophic dam­age al­ready caused, and strengthen eco­nomic, in­fras­truc­tural and so­cial re­silience, Small Is­land De­vel­op­ing States should pur­sue joint ef­forts through rel­e­vant mul­ti­lat­eral fora such as the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (UNFCCC), the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WTO) and the World Bank and In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF). These ef­forts should be

As it re­lates to global emis­sions, An­tigua and Bar­buda’s Prime Min­is­ter Gas­ton Brown has ar­gued that the Caribbean com­mu­nity is dis­pro­por­tion­ately bear­ing the con­se­quences of bad choices across the board by larger states.

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