How worried should Barbados be about climate change?
As a small island economy with little industrial production and hence small emissions of green house gases, Barbados is not considered a major player when it comes to causing problems associated with climate change.
However, its small island status, and economic vulnerability means that Barbados, like its Caribbean neighbours and other small islands is likely to be the major victim of climate change.
One of the major concerns would be the impact a hotter earth and more damaged ozone layer would likely have on tourism and the environment, including the ecosystem.
Four years ago, the United Nations Economic Commission For Latin America And The Caribbean produced a report entitled An Assessment Of The Economic Impact Of Climate Change On The Tourism Sector Of Barbados.
It observed that Caribbean islands “contribute less than one per cent to global GHG emissions, yet these countries are expected to be among the earliest and most severely affected by climate change in the coming decades and the least able to adapt to climate change impacts”.
In the case of Barbados’ tourism, a sector which is the island’s main source of economic wealth, the report concluded: “By combining the impacts due to a reduction in tourist arrivals, coral reef loss and sea level rise, the estimated total economic impact of climate change on the tourism sector in Barbados to 2050 is US$7.6 million and US$5.1 million.”
“A number of mitigation and adaptation options were considered. An economic analysis of the benefits and costs was undertaken to decide which of these options was most appropriate for Barbados. The four options that were most attractive in decreasing order were enhanced reef monitoring systems to provide early warning alerts of bleaching events, artificial reefs or fish aggregating devices, development of national adaptation plans, revise policies related to financing carbon neutral tourism and increase recommended design wind speeds for new tourism related structures.”
Outside of tourism, climate change could be costly for other sectors Barbados depends on, including agriculture, but beyond that there is also the major cost of mitigation and adaptation efforts.
Speaking on climate change during an address in Malta last month, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said: “I have placed climate change at the top of my agenda as it presents both a challenge and an opportunity for our region. It is a challenge our region cannot ignore as it threatens the very fabric of our societies and economies.”
He added: “A timely and ambitious response, however, provides an unparalleled opportunity for our region to be in the forefront of the global transformation to a low carbon climate resilient economy.”
The seriousness of climate change is illustrated by the estimate that climate change related events such as hurricanes and drought could cost the region annually US$22 billion by 2050.
Juan Cheaz Pelaez, senior programme coordinator for Agricultural Policy and Value Chains at the Technical Institute For Agricultural And Rural Cooperation, asserted that climate change had left an estimated US$136 billion in loss and damage throughout the region between 1990 and 2008.
“I can tell you there are huge economic losses every year related to climate change and, therefore, the need from all actors that are concerned and that are affected to try and mitigate and adapt and to be proactive to try to avoid that…The Caribbean region can be taken back 20 to 30 years because of the issue of climate change,” he said.
“One climate related phenomenon can do away with many livelihoods. So it is a modern part of economics and also of people’s livelihood. It’s very relevant to the Caribbean and to having an economy in general that is resilient and an agriculture that is resilient.”
Barbados Agriculture Society chief executive officer James Paul was concerned about the impact climate change would have on agriculture.
He said: “The time to sit idly by and watch it happen has passed and it is through a determined effort to effect policy changes that will counter the impact of the neoliberal economic changes and mitigate the impact of climate change that we can be successful.”
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has also addressed issues related to climate change and how they were likely to impact Barbados. Last year, while addressing a dinner for people attending the eighth meeting of the board of the Green Climate Fund, the minister said with countries like Barbados facing fiscal challenges, support was needed to enhancce institutional and technical capabilities and to design new policies and suitable adaptation programmes.
“In addition, we need to be able to have, at the ready, a portfolio of bankable projects eligible for funding under the Green Climate Fund, which we must be able to execute quickly and effectively,” he said.
Credit: Nation News