Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean can expect more powerful hurricanes, an increase in vector and water borne diseases, more flooding and hotter temperatures if urgent action is not taken to mitigate against climate change.
The strong warning was issued by climatologist Cédric Van Meerbeeck during a presentation to the Sixth Annual Sustainability Conference in St Eustatius on Wednesday in which highlighted the impact of the changing weather patterns on tourism.
“A lot of our tourism product is based on the beautiful ecosystems of the islands, so when we think of sea level rise what we can expect is that there is going to be an increase in coastal flooding, especially when there are hurricanes,” he said.
Speaking on the topic Looking Back and Thinking Ahead – Climate Change, Van Meerbeeck, who is employed at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, also zeroed in on the devastating impact of last season’s category five hurricanes on the Caribbean, while urging the region to prepare for the likelihood of even more powerful storms.
“We are not ruled by [climate change, but] we just need to prepare [for it],” the climatologist said.
He explained that while the number of tropical storms was unlikely to change, “the strongest ones are going to become a bit stronger and a bit more likely”.
As a result of changes in rainfall patterns, Van Meerbeeck also said the Caribbean could expect more droughts.
“At the same time there is also going to be a little bit more of a flood problem,” he said, adding that there were likely to be fewer, but more intense rainfall episodes.
“So the extremes are becoming really more extreme. What does that mean? That means there is less fresh water availability, not always because of quantity but also quality. If there is flooding then the quality of the water usually goes down too, resulting in infections and parasites and so on. So you get more vectors and water borne diseases because of the changes in rainfall patterns,” he explained.
“If the world doesn’t do something about it now . . . and even if the climate stops, warming the sea levels will still continue rising for a while,” he further cautioned, while calling on regional officials to strive for higher than the recommended global climate change adaptation targets.
“Our target that we need to adapt to keeps on running away from us and that is why adapting to our climate now is the best solution for us and it is much cheaper now,” he said.