Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 31st 2014 Contents JULY 2014 • WEEK FIVE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG21
Today, most people consider climate
change to be a reality and not a myth.
A result of this phenomenon, natural
hazards have been identified as having
crippling effects on many countries,
particularly those already vulnerable;
Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
However, the disasters created in these countries as
a result of natural hazards are only one aspect of the
detrimental effects of climate change.
The gradual changes in the environment, on the
other hand, such as increased rainfall, extreme drought
and rising sea level heighten the problems faced by
those countries already vulnerable to climate change
as these significant changes impact on agriculture
and tourism, both of which are important to the
Greater Caribbean and Sustainable Development.
While agriculture is the major economic land-use
activity in the Caribbean, it accounts for a small
portion of most islands GDP. Notwithstanding this.
however, it still holds great importance. The Caribbean
Community Secretariat states that in 2005 agriculture
accounted for 35 per cent of total GDP in Guyana, 18
per cent in Guyana, 15 per cent in Belize and 8.0 per
cent in Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
In Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St Kitts and
Nevis and St Lucia, the agriculture sector s contribution
to GDP varied between 3.0 per cent and 6.0 per cent.
In addition to its contribution to GDP, this sector also
plays an increasingly important role in food security
in a region typically characterised by increasing impor-
tation of food. Agriculture, therefore, becomes vul-
nerable to climate change as changes in weather
pattern will affect the sector and, by extension, those
who rely on it.
While the links between climate change and rainfall
occurrence are still being debated, the reality is that
most countries, particularly those in the hurricane
belt, are seeing an increased number of storms, which
themselves have increased intensity. The effect of this
on countries which dedicate large areas of land to
agricultural production for export can be particularly
Recent storms have wiped out the entire sugar cane
production of Cuba, banana plantations in Jamaica,
St Lucia and Dominica, and decimated nutmeg exports
from Grenada. This coupled with the fact that the
devastation wreaked on infrastructure curtails the
country s ability to respond. In fact, the effects of
storms in the region on some island economies have
resulted in damages exceeding 200 per cent of country
GDP in some cases.
The impact of climate change is also seen in the
extreme drought experienced by countries in and out
of the traditional dry seasons. The decrease in rainfall
has reduced the water available for farming and in
some cases has caused the destruction of entire food
crops. Rural farming which in some cases is charac-
terised as subsistence farming stand to be affected,
causing further hardships on groups already considered
In rural Jamaica, 25 per cent of the population live
in poverty and this is where agriculture is the main
source of livelihood. Despite the 7.0 per cent contri-
bution made to GDP by agriculture in Jamaica, it
employs over 220,000 of the 1,239,000 people
employed. Thus, those already vulnerable to changes
in the agriculture sector are even more at a disadvantage
with the changes brought on by climate change.
SIDS in the Greater Caribbean region also stands
to face challenges in the traditional tourism sector as
a result of climate change.
Traditional tourism (sun, sand and sea tourism)
relies on the natural assets of the region; beaches,
coral reefs and favourable weather conditions and is
a key contributor to regional GDP. Rise in sea level
and ocean acidification present real threats to these
types of economies. While a lot of attention has been
placed on sea level rise, ocean acidification may present
even a greater risk to island economies when placed
in the context of decreased agricultural production
and increased storm intensity.
Most Caribbean islands have expansive reef systems
which support both the fisheries industry as well as
tourism. Oceans absorb a key climate change gas,
carbon dioxide and, as a result, become more acidic
on a relative scale, because some of the carbon reacts
within the water to form carbonic acid. This reduces
the amount of dissolved carbonate available for calcium
carbonate shell and skeleton formation; important to
corals, plankton and shellfish.
Corals reefs, already under threat in the region, are
likely to have a tough time. The invertebrate species
secretes calcium carbonate to make the rocky coastal
reefs that form the basis of some of the most productive
ecosystems in the oceans. Coupled with bleaching
due to warming of the waters it is believed that the
reefs could die as corals could become virtually extinct
by the end of the century.
Most Caribbean tourism is coastal, with hotels dot-
ting sandy beaches in most countries. Unfortunately
the reefs, which are now at risk, provide significant
protection from the immense power due to hydro
meteorological events such as hurricanes. Without
the protection of the reef, the forces caused by the
storms damage beaches, thereby reducing the viability
of tourism investments.
The Inter-American Development Bank states that
almost one-third of Caribbean tourism resorts are at
flooding risks from sea level rise and increased sea
surface temperatures are expected to result in severe
bleaching stress to the reefs of the Caribbean as early
as the 2030s, surpassing the ability of many areas to
With the impact of climate change on agriculture
and tourism being so severe, it is a constant threat
to the reduction of poverty in already economically
fragile areas. Adaptation strategies need to be employed
in order to mitigate the effects and assure the sus-
tainable development of the region. It is thus important
that the link between climate change and disaster risk
reduction be strengthened.
The Association of Caribbean States, through its
initiative SHOCS---Strengthening Hydro-Meteoro-
logical Operations and Services in the Caribbean---is
helping Caribbean countries to be better prepared for
such changes arising out of climate change.
George Nicholson is the director of Disaster Risk
Reduction and Orissa Thomas is the Unit Assistant
to the Communications Officer. Any feedback or
correspondence should be sent to feedback@acs-
Another hurdle for
It is important that the link
between climate change and
disaster risk reduction be
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