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In the past week at the UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, a report paints an astonishing picture of Caribbean-wide devastation caused in the decades to come by rising seas. Sea levels mount in association with global warming because warming water expands in volume, and melting ice from land-based ice sheets and glaciers adds to the rise.
Airports, power plants, roads and agricultural land in low-lying areas, as well as tourist locations on islands from Bermuda to Barbados, and from St Kitts and Nevis to St Vincent and the Grenadines, will be all be lost or severely damaged, with dire implications for national economies and for the welfare of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people.
The report suggests that, just for the 15 mainly English-speaking Caribbean nations which make up the Caricom (Caribbean Community) regional grouping, the cost of the damage and necessary rebuilding caused by sea-level rise could by 2080 have reached a staggering $187 billion.
With a two-meter sea-level rise, by no means impossible, there would be “at least 233 tourist resorts lost” plus damage or loss of nine power plants, 31 airports, and the loss of 710km of roads. However, when a more sophisticated analysis was done on the impacts of erosion caused by rising seas, it was found that the damage leapt upwards, as one meter of sea level rise on low-lying coasts gives between 50 and 100 meters of erosion. A one-meter rise with erosion factored in would result in “at least 307 tourist resorts damaged or lost,” the report says.
Representatives and leaders of the Association of Small Island States (Aosis), spoke eloquently of the threat to them yesterday. “We are the most vulnerable countries in the world, although we pollute the least,” said Antonio Lima, Ambassador from the Cape Verde Islands to the UN.Click here for reuse options!