A leading Coastal Zone Management official has underscored the need to make climate change more "important" to Barbadians at the individual level.
According to Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), Dr. Leo Brewster, while as a small island we have always recognised that climate change is real, we now have to become more assertive in dealing with it.
"As part of the climate change programme, disaster risk management is becoming increasingly apparent. We have been working with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Relief Agency in terms of dealing with tsunamis, the impact of hurricanes, earthquakes and such like. In terms of generating regional standards and protocols, Barbados has been part of that process as well as the rest of the Caribbean. We now have to make climate change more important to the Barbadian individual.
"Everybody knows about the polar bears, the ice caps, rising sea levels and the potential impact on the area, but because we don’t actually experience it to the extent of the Maldives and the South Pacific, where there is clear evidence that the islands are shifting, it doesn’t mean that it is not happening to us," he cautioned.
Alluding to the significance the coastline plays to the island’s tourism product, as well as to its long-term sustainability, Dr. Brewster charged "climate change can take away all of that and climate change doesn’t have to happen in 50 years.
"The mere fact that we are seeing increased storminess with hurricanes, that we are getting more category four and five hurricanes, the fact that the hurricane season is extended much longer than previously means there is a potential change.?? ???October all over’ is no longer the statement of fact – hurricanes can come in November, and we have had some as late as December. Additionally, we as a small island rely on tourism. The winter season is our peak tourist season and we have had excess swells which increased in duration and intensity especially over the last five to seven years – all of this supports the assertion that climate change significantly impacts on Barbados," he surmised.
The CZMU official contended that the loss of beaches, loss of ability to generate foreign exchange and the loss of Barbadians to work in the tourism sector would have an impact, all on the long-term sustainability and survival of the island.
"We have to do our part as the Coastal Zone to ensure that the beaches are always there – that is our motto as a coastal department," he stressed.
Making reference to the recent Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) US$30 million loan in support of the island’s Coastal Risk Assessment and Management Programme, Dr. Brewster said the next step would be the implementation of a project which incorporates climate change and disaster reduction into an integrated coastal management process.
Dr. Brewster made it clear that his department was not only considering coastal climate change, but broadening the scope to consider the impact of increased storminess on the island’s water supply, the impact of flooding and drainage on water courses, as well as on communities, since "everything runs to the coast."????