As we told you last night, The Belmopan based Caribbean Community Climate Change Center took center stage in Bridgetown Barbados on Monday night – when
it led the presentation of the fifth intergovernmental panel in climate change. The report looks primarily at what are called small island developing
states – and how rising sea levels and changes in rainfall patterns will affect them. Barbados was a fitting location because, at only a few hundred
square feet, it is one of those small island states – one that depends heavily on its gorgeous beaches for foreign exchange earnings through tourism.
How can climate change affect them? We asked their minister of Environment and drainage:..
In Barbados, the fiery cirrus streaks of dawn can be a horseman. Tourists gather every morning to see this daily spectacle on Browne’s Beach. Nothing
to it really, but in just a snapshot it shows how easily intertwined daily life and tourism are on this island where overnight tourist arrivals in 2013
outnumbered Belize by a rate of more than two to one, 508,000 to 223,000. And just as easily as (most of) these horses have learnt to take to the azure
waters, that’s how easily tourism comes for Barbados. But now climate change is putting all of it as risk – rising sea levels threaten this beach, one
of the most celebrated in the world:
Hon. Denis S. Lowe, M.P. - B’dos Minister of Environment & Drainage.
"With the prospect of sea level rise, it means that we have to put systems in place that will allow us to not just adapt. In some cases mitigate
against the impact against climate change."
And adaptive behavior – not the kind these wave running sandpipers practice is what the IPCC report is about. But there are many barriers to adaptation
– not least of all is the native instinct to stay with what has always worked – which the experts say won’t work this time:
Dr. Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director – CCCCC Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre
"Climate change will know no boundaries. Poor and developing countries, particularly the LDC (less developed countries) and SIDS (small island
developing states), will be among those most advisedly affected and least able to cope.”
And Barbados has a level of social order that makes credible his statement. It was a rich colony, the Caribbean jewel in the crown of the British
Empire – its Parliament building, imperious and resplendent is 150 years old – was built to house one of the oldest parliamentary systems in the world.
But all that vaunted sense of order which gives rise to lowest murder rate in the Caribbean – and one of the lowest in the America’s - could all be put
at risk if climate change threatens dislocation:
Hon. Denis S. Lowe
"I don't think it is very difficult as some may think, to really reorder people's behaviour and the expectations. I think people's behaviour and
behavioural change is link to people's notion of survival. If we help people to understand the context of their survival, chances are you will happen
to adjust the suit of survival."
And those habitats will have to be on dry, high ground – hard to find on an island which is 1/50th the size of Belize, because unlike the Sandpiper
islanders can’t spend their lives running from waves.
Hon. Denis S. Lowe
"If we do not manage our strategy to combat climate change, it will have an impact on our social stability because they will be a lot of social
dislocation. Not only in terms of employment but in terms of habit.”
Barbados has a population of three hundred thousand citizens. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the science behind climate change and the driving force behind
it, greenhouse gas emissions.