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Members of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre’s management team, namely Executive Director Dr Kenrick Leslie, CBE, and Deputy Director and Science Advisor Dr Ulric Trotz, were recently interviewed by Tim Padgett, Americas Editor at WRLN, NPR’s Miami affiliate, for a wide-ranging feature on sea level rise and the likely impact on South Florida and the Caribbean. Below is a transcript of the interview.
Read the full report in Miami Herald and WRLN (includes audio clip).
From the WLRN Miami Herald Studio I’m Tim Paget with the Latin America Report made possible by Espirito Santo Bank. Today, as part of WLRN’s weeklong series, Elevation Zero, about the impacts of sea level rise, we look at the threat to South Florida’s neighbours in the Caribbean. The Caribbean basin is important, not just for white sands and blue surf but, as strategic hemispheric crossroads and its Sea Level scenario is more troubling than what we face here. From the Bahamas to Belize, from Grenada to Guyana, experts say rising sea waters could do more than ruin the crucial tourism industry. They could leave some islands virtually uninhabitable if major preventative measures aren’t taken soon. Ulric Trotz is Deputy Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize.
Dr. Ulric Trotz-
In 50 years, if the projections that we are seeing from our models are correct then the entire landscape will be changed. Our beaches would have disappeared, our coastal areas eroded, our infrastructure degraded. Certainly, that will wreak havoc on the way we live.
Experts project the Caribbean face a Sea Level Rise 3- 6 feet or more by the end of this century. If it goes unchecked, they fear as much as 1200 s-m of coastal land could be lost. A recent Inter-American development Bank report that Trotz co-authored estimates half the Caribbean Community’s major tourist resorts could be damaged or destroyed by sea rise, surge or erosion. Not to mention scores of sea turtle nesting beaches.
Dr. Ulric Trotz-
All of the physical plant supporting the tourism industry, hotels, airports, would be in what we call the inundation zone.
The Caribbean Community or CARICOM started sounding the sea level rise alarm in the 1990’s. Today it is recommended that the basin nations begin erecting more than 200 miles of levees and sea walls at a cost of almost 6 billion dollars. The problem is the Caribbean doesn’t have that kind of cash in the best of times and these aren’t the best of times. In fact, the Caribbean is currently home to 5 of the world’s 12 most indebted countries. Kenrick Leslie is the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre’s Director.
Dr. Kenrick Leslie-
It would be extremely difficult for us to put in place the type of adaptation measures that we have recognized would be necessary.
The Caribbean islands and the 40 million people who live on them produces less than 1 percent of the greenhouse gases that many scientists blame for the global warming that’s causing rising sea levels. As a result, the basin’s leader say developed nations should help finance the Caribbean’s mitigation tab.
Dr. Kenrick Leslie-
We’re not looking for hands-out. We’re looking for concessional loans when we go to the international meetings. We try to make it very clear, we need to have programs supported by the larger industrialised countries.
Coastal tourism isn’t the only concern. Further inland, agriculture and fresh water supplies are also threatened by more intense storms and tidal surges.
Some islands, you know some of the smaller low lying islands may actually have to be evacuated.
Brian Soden is a Professor of Meteorology and Oceanography at the University of Miami. And like other Scientists, he believes the Bahamas Islands, just off South Florida, are some of the most vulnerable. Many of the Caribbean’s Eastern Islands were formed volcanically and have a bit more elevated breathing room but Western Isles like the Bahamas chain are just downright flat.
A vast amount of their acreage is literally within 2 or 3 feet of Sea Level. That’s well within the range of projected Sea Level Rise over the next century.
But whether it’s the Bahamas or Barbados, Caribbean Sea Level Rise may well result in a spike in immigration, especially to South Florida. And none of that seems fair to region that stands to suffer the most from a phenomenon that it has done the least to provoke. I’m Tim Paget in Miami. You can read more of our Latin American coverage at www.wlrn.org
– The Latin American coverage is made possible by Espirito Santo Bank.
This article has been updated to include the transcript of the interview.