ISLAND INSIGHTS – Climate Change: Are we ready?


In this segment, we will explore the issues Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as The Bahamas face regarding climate change. The Bahamas, among other countries within the region, are extremely vulnerable and sensitive to the direct and indirect impact of climate change. It is a topic of concern that some countries have taken seriously while others are moving at a slower pace to address such pertinent issues.

But regardless of the pace of efforts by governments, climate change is real, and it is happening around us, whether we choose to address it or not. According to the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Office of Oversight and Evaluation (OVE) for SIDS, The Bahamas has one of the lowest efforts towards climate change adaption and mitigation on a GDP in purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita basis as of 2013. This assessment was made by considering mitigation investments, mitigation policy and institutional strengthening, adaption investments, adaption policy and institutional strengthening. Evidence such as this all share a common narrative and that is that change is needed now.

The reality of no change

The discussion of climate change has been around for many decades but in most recent years, scientific research and developments have provided us with more alarming data on sea level rises, deforestation and extreme weather changes as a result. Given the geography and size of SIDS, these islands are very susceptible to the effects of climate change. However, to date SIDS have contributed less than one percent of global carbon emissions; yet, from 1990 to 2019, the total warming effect from greenhouse gases added to the Earth’s atmosphere increased by 45 percent.

In a published study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) titled ‘A Blue Urban Agenda’ (2017), it was highlighted that more than 80 percent of the population in The Bahamas live in low elevation coastal zones (LECZs), making it one of the “most extreme” cases among SIDS. Further, The Bahamas is one of the top three SIDS that has a significant percentage of land area located less than 10 metres above sea level along with Kiribati and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

If we take these facts into consideration, SIDS are likely to see an increase in costal erosions from sea level rises, extreme weather conditions, reduced/increased precipitation, warmer temperatures and soil changes. The Bahamas in particular, will be impacted given its high dependence on international tourism and climate sensitive ecosystems. According to the country’s proposed National Development Plan (NDP), “The Bahamas is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change given its geographical vulnerabilities (limited land masses, low-relief and dispersion of islands) and environmental vulnerabilities (high temperatures, storm surges, sea level rise, flooding, increased tropical storm activity, and rising water tables).” The threat of climate change could eat out a significant stake of The Bahamas’ economy if policies are not adopted to mitigate risks. The IDB reported the cost of inaction to respond to climate change for Caribbean countries is “high”.

While the cost of inaction is one consideration, the other equally important one is time. This variable has different ranges such as 10 to 20 to 30 years. It is within this time frame that experts believe climate change will dramatically impact SIDS, leading to a devastating reality for residents across the region.

National Development Plan

In the NDP, Goal 11 outlines a plan for the Natural Environment for The Bahamas. This goal considers researching and implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. The goal was also created to address serious concerns coming out of climate change, some of which include:

• Land development practices which fail to balance between development and environmental management and protection of ecosystems and coastal areas;

• Fragmented environmental legislation and management coupled with institutional capacity deficiencies within environmental management agencies;

• Fishing policy which faces challenges with illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, lack of logistical capability and personnel and funding;

• Inadequate solid waste management system and limited recycling practices and;

• Impaired air quality as a result of burning at dumps and landfills and vehicle exhaust emissions.

The concerns listed above are challenges currently faced by The Bahamas. These challenges can become worse as the earth continues to get warmer and the environment responds to global climate changes. However, efforts are underway and have been made by past and present government bodies to address small and big risks regarding climate change.

Efforts to mitigate

Over the years, various efforts have been made to manage the risks associated with climate change for The Bahamas. In 2015, The Bahamas committed to reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions, by increasing the amount of energy generated from renewable sources. The government has also committed to reduced and/or eliminated tariffs on solar systems and energy efficient appliances. In addition, The Bahamas has joined international organizations that focus on increasing the use of renewable energy, including the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Carbon War Room. While these efforts show commitment to resolving climate change, there is a need for a plan with measurable outcomes and action goals.

To achieve this, the following steps from the IDB’s Indicators to Assess the Effectiveness of Climate Change Projects (April,2012) could be adopted as a guideline:

  1. Collect data required to perform vulnerability assessments (to relevant disasters/risks)

  2. Build national and local technical capacity to generate vulnerability assessments

  3. Build institutional framework and mechanisms to support adaptation and adaptive capacity

  4. Invest in projects that directly support adaptation and improve adaptive capacity


To some, the effects of climate change may not reach its peak of devastation within their lifetime. But we cannot afford to take this growing challenge lightly. Years from now, the earth’s response to our constant use of fossil fuels, poor waste management and consumerism will eventually force us to make hard choices. There are residual effects for such decisions, and someone has to pay. Those choices will be left in the hands of our children and future generations.

If we do not act now, will the Bahamaland we know and love, be there for our children to do the same?


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