YOUNG environmental supporters have been hearing how climate change will affect the Bahamas and what Bahamians can do practically in their daily lives to help.
Using renewable energy sources such as solar water heaters and photovoltaic systems, adjusting air-conditioning thermostats, reduce use of electricity, drive less and plant more trees were some of the suggestions from Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett at the College of the Bahamas last week.
Mr Dorsett was addressing the Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation (BREEF) climate change exhibition at the PRO Gallery in the wake of the release of the National Climate Assessment Report, the largest, most comprehensive report ever to focus on climate change in the United States.
“Produced every four years, the 2014 report reveals how climate change will influence the way Americans live, work and view health,” Mr Dorseet said.
“Whilst the report educates Americans on how they will be affected individually, it also mentioned how communities will fare under such circumstances.
“For a certainty, the report gives further evidence that burning fossil fuels has led to extreme weather such as heat waves and heavy precipitation in the United States.
“Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires – all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak.”
The minister said that by virtue of its location and the fact that it is a coastal nation, the Bahamas is among the top ten most vulnerable countries that will be impacted by rising sea levels and other effects of climate change. He noted that the effects will have an impact on increased temperature changes, increased droughts and extreme weather such as tropical storms and hurricanes.
“The ocean plays a vital role in the global warming issue. It provides a huge sink for carbon dioxide. As the ocean captures this gas, it leads to ocean acidification and warmer ocean temperatures. The coral reefs of our waters are greatly affected by these responses.
“Ocean acidification prevents coral reefs from absorbing the calcium carbonate they need to keep their skeletons strong and stony. With increased acidification, the coral reefs dissolve into non-existence. When this occurs, the coral turns white and becomes bleached. In this state, the coral becomes weak and is unable to combat disease.”
Mr Dorsett explained how the health of coral reefs is intrinsically linked to the Bahamian economy and serves as a source of employment, revenue for the fisheries and tourism sectors, food security, reduction in coastal erosion, replenishment of sand on the beaches and cultural expression.
“The Bahamas boasts of having the third largest coral barrier reef in the world, just off Fresh Creek, Andros Town, so climate change is significantly important to us; in fact it is a national priority. It has been resoundingly proven that global warming is a result of human activity.
“Interestingly the Bahamas contributes less than one per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions. Less than one per cent is still too much. Therefore, great focus is now being placed on what must be done to change the behaviour of citizens – the consumers.”
As consumers, Bahamians need to appreciate the practical things they can do in their daily lives to combat this imminent and reported catastrophic events of climate change, Mr Dorsett said.
“Consuming Bahamians are encouraged to use renewable energy sources such as solar water heaters and photovoltaic systems, adjust their air-conditioning thermostats, reduce use of electricity and conduct energy audits to reduce the unnecessary use of electricity in homes and businesses, drive less, and plant more trees.
“Art has been a part of the Bahamian culture for centuries. So it is quite fitting that the Bahamas Reef Environment education Foundation (BREEF) has chosen to use art in this Consumers, Corals and Climate Change exhibition to educate Bahamians on the goods and services coral reefs systems provide, and the specific threats they face, especially from the effects of climate change.”
Mr Dorsett recognised the work of the College of The Bahamas Pro Society Art students on what they have accomplished through the use of interpretive art on climate change. “Using art and education, the environmental message can reverberate across the length and breadth of our archipelagic country. Furthermore, we look forward to the other aspects of this focused public awareness programme such as digital media displays like BREEF’s ‘Life on the Bahamian Coral Reef Film and Mural’, as well as video and audio on public service announcements that were created by COB students in the Small Island Sustainability Programme, a model house with interpreted energy conservation elements, an architectural rendition of local sustainable building designs, a hyperbolic crochet coral reef and a consumer guide for distribution of these materials.”