Climate Crisis in the Caribbean

          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.

chantal

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.

coral

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?

Sources:

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/islands.html

http://www.pnuma.org/deat1/pdf/Climate_Change_in_the_Caribbean_Final_LOW20oct.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_issues_with_coral_reefs

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4 thoughts on “Climate Crisis in the Caribbean

  1. You make some really solid points in your piece. Your perspective as a resident of Puerto Rica highlights some of the most drastic effects of climate change and pollution, unfortunately. I feel like this is a big reason why the US and other large nations are unmotivated to change- because we aren’t experiencing the most dangerous and direct implications, such as rising sea levels taking out coasts, acidic oceans, dying coral reefs, etc. By staying on the Mainland, we’re arguably self-centered and unmotivated to make the big changes that will make a difference. But it’s only a matter of time.

  2. It’s scary how people didn’t realize how the climate is really changing and becoming worst every year, even until now.
    Everywhere on Earth is changing due to climate change, which included my country. It is common to see typhoons in my country during summer, but it is not common when there are too many typhoons. The climate change has now really affect human’s society, and I wish more and more people can discover this issue…

  3. I am terrified with climate change and by reading this- it just adds onto my fear. I have lived in Taiwan for most of my life rather than living in my country, Korea, however I think of Taiwan more as a home… however Taiwan does contain a lot of typhoon during the summer and lately they are getting worse from the climate change. Not only typhoons, but the pollution and the addition of climate change is causing a lot of earthquakes. The island itself is living volcano, however the climate change is causing the volcano to quicken its eruption. Although a lot of people think they are still safe, however there are news reports about them eruption in less than hundred years which is quite frightening. It is really frightening how we can’t control the climate change since it is already too late for us to change it… (we have caused it at some point after all).

  4. I agree, as someone who travels to the Caribbean every few years, not aware right away of the changes, but I know that my family in Dominican Republic always complains that its very hot. There are a lot of hurricanes that pass through that area, mostly Haiti, and its kind of insane to me that those hurricanes, are as strong as they are because of climate change.

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