Thursday, October 11, 2007

WE Life - Global Warming and the Caribbean

by Krysta Celestine

By the year 2050, the Caribbean will dry out. The beautiful coral reefs that serve as a habitat for a wide array of coral species will become non existent, and so will its inhabitants. The beautiful, warm beaches that tourists flock to escape the harsh winter months will disintegrate. All of these things are the direct result of global warming-- the environmental disaster that is rapidly destroying the Caribbean.

We hear about the effects that global warming has on North America: early snow melt, the destruction of polar bears, and ski seasons becoming more and more non-existent. But rarely, if ever do we hear about the effects that global warming has on the Caribbean region. The results are just as, if not more, devastating than that of North America.

So what is global warming? The term ‘global warming’ refers to the upward trend in the world’s average temperature. Power plants and automobiles are the main culprits, emitting thick layers of carbon dioxide, which act like a blanket, trapping heat and warming the Earth's surface.

“Over the last century, there’s been a warming of about 0.74 degrees Celsius. This is unprecedented in records. The Caribbean Region has never had this amount of temperature change. We are experiencing change in weather patterns", says Dr. Ulric Trotz, a native of Guyana, and Science Advisor for the Caribbean Climate Change Centre in Belize.

These changes in weather patterns can cause devastating floods, which have tremendous impacts on the Caribbean community. “In my own country of Guyana, for instance, we’re getting unprecedented episodes of heavy rainfall. In a very short period, you are getting rain that you would normally get in a longer period of time.” says Trotz.

Hurricane intensities have also increased, and as Trotz notes, are forming in a more southerly direction than they normally do. Not only do hurricanes have a devastating impact on the region, but also on its economy. 200 percent of the Gross Domestic Product was damaged as a result of Hurricane Ivan, which hit Grenada in 2004. Yet despite all of this rainfall, researchers anticipate a decline in rainfall by the end of the century.

Humans aren’t the only ones at risk, unfortunately. Coral reefs are drying out as a result of warming sea temperatures, and according to preliminary research conducted by the Regional Climate Change Centre, the fish may just migrate out of the Caribbean looking for cooler habitats. Of course, this also impacts the fishing industry, which are the bread and butter for many in the Caribbean.
Although we’ve got a long way to go, there’s still a glimmer of hope. The European Union (EU) has agreed to try to decrease green house emissions by 20% by 2020, and is also committed to cutting their green house emissions by 50% by the year 2050. “The Americans have just announced that they are going to improve what we call ‘green house gas intensity’- the amount of green house gas that you emit per unit of production in the country. The US is committed to decreasing it by 20%” says Trotz.

Trotz is calling on Caribbean nations to significantly cut down on green house gases. “We have to significantly cut back on the emissions in the atmosphere. We want significant changes from the ‘developed’ world. India, China, and Brazil, whose economies are expanding rapidly—we want them to cut down significantly on the green house gases. That is the key.”
For more information on Global Warming and the effects on the Caribbean region, visit the Caribbean Climate Change Centre at

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