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Climate change

EDITOR, The Tribune.

“...one would think that over multiple geological periods the earth’s climate has never changed. Most don’t even know we are in an interglacial period right now, but let these crusaders continue their efforts to change the climate!” A comment responding to a May 5 Tribune story headlined, “Pinder: We Will Lead On Climate Change.”

The above quote is illustrative of responses to and attitudes of climate change deniers and sceptics toward the science-based evidence that the current era of climate change is (1) the result of human activity, and (2) a problem that humanity must address. This is especially true for those of us living in coastal communities; that is, all of The Bahamas. In many cases, these sceptics and deniers are the same ones who believe that COVID-19 was a conspiracy concocted by assorted evildoers, from Bill Gates to China to Anthony Fauci to pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer.

While I understand the climate change/global warming scepticism, especially as our brains are not wired to effectively deal with threats perceived to be distant in time and space, it is essential for all of us — from individuals to the private sector to the government to NGOs — to understand that climate change is a very real threat to the world and our nation.

Disclosure 1: Note: Throughout, though not scientifically synonymous, for convenience sake, I will use the terms “climate change” and “global warming” interchangeably.

Disclosure 2: I’m not a scientist or an expert of any kind. However, I can read, I can understand, and am an ultracrepidarian. Also, because I’m what the National Insurance Board considers a “Senior,” I probably will not be around when the full impact of climate change/global warming occurs — though who knows when the next Dorian will strike. However, given The Bahamas’ demographics, most of our country’s existing population will be. Ergo, we should all be concerned about and willing to take action to mitigate the impact of climate change on our communities and put into place effective adaptive measures. The people who are going to experience dislocations resulting from global warming are our friends, our family, our people. Given this, we all have skin in the game.

Deniers and sceptics, doubters of climate science and physical evidence, the following is but a small sampling of individuals and institutions who are aware of and are concerned about the impact of climate change on the world or their communities.

Excerpt from the conclusion to a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) August 1974 document entitled “A Study of Climatological Research as it Pertains to Intelligence Problems.” The focus was on the potential impact of global food security on national and international security.

Leaders in climatology and economics are in agreement that a climatic change is taking place and that it has already caused major economic problems throughout the world. As it becomes more apparent to the nations around the world that the current trend is indeed a long-term reality, new alignments will be made among nations to ensure a secure supply of food resources. [The Agency must come up with] “methodologies… necessary to forewarn us of the economic and political collapse of nations caused by a worldwide failure in food production.”

For decades, the US military has warned the US Government about climate change resulting in global catastrophes caused by wars and natural disasters. The military continues to implement mitigation and adaptation measures to reduce the impact of global warming, in part because extreme weather has caused billions of dollars in damage to US military installations and rising sea levels threaten key naval bases, both on the Atlantic Seaboard and in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

As the October 2021 US Department of Defense report, “Department of Defense Climate Risk Analysis,” notes that climate change poses a risk to US national security and defense and that “[i]ncreasing temperatures; changing precipitation patterns; and more frequent, intense, and unpredictable extreme weather conditions caused by climate change are exacerbating existing risks and creating new security challenges…” As Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin — a practising Christian and a Black man — noted in April 2021, “No nation can find lasting security without addressing the climate crisis.”

From the corporate perspective; Though a prominent climate change denier today, during the late 1970s and 1980s, Exxon (now Exxon Mobil) — yes, the oil company — was a pioneer in climate change research, and its senior scientists warned that the burning of fossil fuels was a major contributor to human-induced global warming through the buildup of greenhouse gasses, most notably carbon dioxide.

Also, in December 2021, the Walt Disney Company made public a document entitled “2030 Environmental Goals.” In it, the company notes:

Scientific guidance recommends that a mix of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, innovations in zero-carbon and low-carbon sources of energy and storage and natural climate solutions are all part of the global solution. Business has an integral role to play in the transition to a low-carbon future aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the latest science from the IPCC.

In addition, because they are concerned about the impact of global warming, countries ranging from Chile to China to the European Union have appointed cabinet-level climate “czars.” For example, Chile’s new Minister of the Environment, Maisa Rojas, is a physicist and climatologist with a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Physics from Oxford University. As Rojas noted in a March 2022 interview:

In my career as a scientist, I have studied and seen firsthand the evidence of climate change. My appointment as Chile’s environmental minister sends a clear signal that we can… go from examining the evidence to considering steps for decision-making in government. It is my hope that this can be a powerful example, domestically and internationally, of merging scientific knowledge and policymaking, and that it encourages other countries to ramp up their climate ambitions and begin urgently implementing changes within this decade to address the climate crisis.

Religious leaders from Pope Francis to US Senator Raphael Warnock, former pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was the pastor and where his funeral was held), have called for action to address both climate change and environmental justice. As the Pope noted in his May 2015 Encyclical Letter, paragraph 25, “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

And while this one may engender more cynicism than the other examples, China has expressed concerns about climate change. As noted in a document released by The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China in October 2021.

Climate change is a challenge for all of humanity. The sustainable development of the Chinese nation and the future of the planet depend on tackling it successfully. China attaches great importance to its response to climate change. As the largest developing country in the world, China has adopted a number of policies, measures and actions to tackle climate change and takes part in global climate governance, despite the difficulties this creates for its own economic and social development.

Note: While China is currently the world’s largest single emitter of greenhouse gasses, in 2021 it generated almost as much solar energy as the next top four solar producing countries combined (the United States, Japan, Germany, and India).

Closer to home, and much more relevant to our community, is Dr. Adele Thomas at the University of The Bahamas. She is also a senior Caribbean research associate at Climate Analytics and one of the authors of the comprehensive Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2021 Report, “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.” As Dr. Thomas notes on pages 158-159 of her extensively researched 2012 doctoral dissertation for Rutgers University entitled “An Integrated View: Multiple Stressors and Small Tourism Enterprises in The Bahamas.”

The projected environmental effects of climate change most significant for tourism include sea level rise, shifting precipitation patterns, hotter atmospheric and oceanic temperatures and more intense hurricanes (Scott et al., 2008). These climatic changes add a new dimension of uncertainty to the tourism industry that economically supports the nation and is highly dependent upon its ‘tropical paradise’ image.

“...With the majority of land being in close proximity to the coast, sea level rise associated with climate change is an issue of dire concern for the nation. The projected rise of sea levels due to climate change is seen to be the main threat to coastal regions (IPCC 2007; Nicholls and Cazanave, 2010). Figure 7.1 shows that The Bahamas is far more vulnerable to sea level rise than other countries within the Caribbean and Latin American region with greater percentages of land being affected by sea level rise.”

Finally, a personal note: For 65 years, my family has owned a marina on Exuma. During this time, the main dock has been raised twice due to rising sea levels for a total of eight inches. It’s time to raise them again, as extreme tides now cover the dock. Also, in October 2015, when Joaquin sat more than 50 miles to the east with Long Island a buffer between us, the dock was submerged under more than a foot of water.

Up next: The way forward.

CHRIS MINNS

George Town, Exuma.

May, 2022

Comments

ColumbusPillow 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Chris, about the only thing you can do about climate change is buy a good sweater in time for the next ice age.

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ColumbusPillow 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Netherlands reports sea level change of 1.6mm per year. In 700 years sea level will rise one meter!

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hrysippus 1 month, 2 weeks ago

i can only assume that that someone who writes a comment that in 700 years the sea level will rise by only 1.6mm listens to the US right wing media and the Russian controlled Social Media called Telegram. There is a huge amount of misinformation being generated by the PRC and Russia and some people are eager to believe it as it is a great reason to not act and not worry. Sad really.

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