Barbados and other Caribbean countries have been given a stark warning that they stand to suffer greater economic loss if they do not take steps to become more resilient to changing global weather patterns.
The caution came from the principal of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, Dr David Farrell, at last Thursday’s launch of the Weather and Climate Ready Nation programme for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, which aims to improve early warning and forecasting systems.
“We have seen in various parts of the Caribbean that we have lost significant amounts of resources and finance over two hours, over three hours, over four hours. We can reduce the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] of countries, or lose parts of the GDP of countries up to 200 per cent, if we go all the way back to Ivan in 2004,” he said.
Addressing the issue of loss suffered during storms, Dr Farrell referred to a 2012 Standard & Poor’s statement on Jamaica which cited, among other factors for a downgrade, the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters.
He said the statement did not only apply to Jamaica, but serves as a warning to every Caribbean country that is exposed to tropical storms, that they can be downgraded based on their weather and climate readiness.
“Sir George Alleyne made a statement in 2015 that a lot of the losses that we see in the region are not about economic mismanagement, they are losses associated with weather and climate events. And, therefore, becoming weather and climate ready becomes an extremely important aspect of our society.
“If we go and look at the numbers, in terms of the World Bank figures for 1979 to 2005 which indicated aggregate losses per year due to tropical storms can range from US$0.6 billion to US$16.6 billion per year, it puts things into perspective in terms of being weather and climate ready,” he said.
Dr Farrell warned that countries could lose up to 11 per cent of GDP by 2018 if they don’t take steps to become more climate ready.
“I think that these resonate with decision-makers in terms of the amount of money that is lost. How many hospitals can we build with $16 billion? How many schools can we build with $16 billion? How much infrastructure can we update with $16 billion, even with $0.6 billion? It is a significant amount of money and it is the kind of money that keeps many of the countries in the region in a perpetual state of borrowing,” he stated.
The newly-launched Weather and Climate Ready Nations programme is expected to allow participating countries to improve planning, policy development and decision-making related to storm surge and coastal inundations, high winds, flash flooding and landslides.