I’ve lived in Puerto Rico for 19 of my 20 years of life, and in that time I’ve gotten comfortably used to its warm, balmy, and rainy year-round weather patterns. This was the kind of weather I grew to love despite all the sweat and mosquito bites, and was a big reason why I went to a college in Florida in the first place. But while I’d smirk at the crazy extreme weather snowstorms in the northern US during winter these past few years, unabashedly sporting my standard shorts and flip flops and thanking goodness I didn’t have to worry about such drastic weather conditions any time soon, I was alarmingly unaware of just how much climate change was also affecting my island home, and what it could mean for its future.
There are the more predictable changes at this point, which include higher sea levels, more powerful tropical storms, and warmer, more acidic coastal waters. Rainfall is thus projected to decrease over time, especially during the heavy downpour summer seasons, while rising sea levels are likely to increase the frequency and severity of floods during storms, as well as eroding and subsequently inundating coastlines.
Home sweet home.
And these are surely already affecting many of the islands unique and varied ecosystems: coasts, rain forests, mangroves and more, already facing damage from human development and pollution. In particular, coral reefs, which provide shoreline protection and valuable fisheries, face serious threats from water pollution. Warmer, more acidic coastal waters would likely serve as a further stress on many reefs. The loss and inundation of other coastal habitats, like mangroves, from rising sea levels and storm surges could endanger species that depend on these habitats for survival as well.
One of many damaged coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea.
It always saddens me slightly to acknowledge that I truly no longer live in Puerto Rico, and though I go back often enough, this probably adds to the reasons why I haven’t really felt these changes personally. I’d probably be as blissfully unaware of the dangers the island faces if it weren’t so apparent that, at this point, every location on Earth has been affected in some way by climate change. And, without any legitimate effort put to mitigate these dangers, its only a matter of time until I, and other unaware islanders, do start feeling the changes. And what then?