The Atlantic Hurricane path covers the Caribbean Sea, the North Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. In 2017, hurricane season ran from June 1st to November 30th. According to national geographic, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season will go down as the most expensive hurricane season in record history. Harvey, Maria, and Irma are just a few of many storms that hit this season –there were approximately seven tropical storms and ten hurricanes between June 1st and November 30th.
In a recent article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Kerry Emanuel, a professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT states that human-influenced “climate change is expected to lead to a greater incidence of high-intensity hurricanes, which together with rising sea level, will produce increased risk of storm surge flooding, while hurricanes are projected to produce substantially more precipitation as the atmosphere and oceans warm.” The issue of climate change is directly affecting people in these regions, and as a result, they now have to change the way they build, farm, and exist based on the consequences of climate change.
The Effects of Climate Change on Small Island Developing States
The UN uses the terminology of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) when referring to islands such as The Commonwealth of Dominica, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, and Haiti along with many other islands. Although island nations are found around the world, ninety percent of them are located in the tropics. These islands are seasonally subject to cyclones, tropical storms, hurricanes, droughts, flooding, and climate variability.
The concrete effects of climate change on Small Island Developing States thus far have been rising sea levels, depletion of fish stocks, a change in sea surface temperatures, bleaching and death of coral reefs, lower quality and availability of water, and droughts.
Small Island Developing States face high rates of youth unemployment, slowly paced economic growth, a high cost of energy, limited economic diversification, a high cost of regional transport, and a particular vulnerability to the effects of climate change. According to the UN, “Although small island developing States are among the least responsible of all nations for climate change, they are likely to suffer strongly from its adverse effects and could in some cases even become uninhabitable.”
A few sustainable development challenges faced by Small Island Developing States are a low availability of resources, excessive dependence on international trade, costly public administrations, corrupt public administrations, remoteness, vulnerability to global developments, and high communication and transportation costs. The Small Island Developing States rely on a select handful of revenue streams to support their economies –fisheries, tourism, and farming are just a few examples.
Steps Governments Can Take in the Climate Change Era
One of the first steps that Small Island Developing States can take is to plan out what economic diversification looks like for their island in five, ten, and fifteen years. A meeting of the minds would then be necessary to ensure that policies and regulations that match those diversification goals can be drafted. These governments should also set funding priorities. This step will increase the resilience of Small Island Developing States during the climate change era.
Investing in education is another step that will prove beneficial for Small Island Developing States. Whatever the overall policy solution is, it will require training a newly created workforce. Furthermore, investing in education in both men and women will increase GDP. This assertion is based on the widely collected research that shows that women when given opportunity and education create on average more jobs than men. Investing in education also improves average life expectancy and overall public health.
Holding fair and regulated elections, with government officials being subject to term limits is also important. Political corruption is expensive, and it is to the detriment of the citizens of these Small Island Developing States to continue to have leaders pocketing the profit. With a fair and just government, there will be funding available to invest in programs aimed at supporting education and economic diversification. This step requires the people coming together and forcing elected officials to rewrite policy to ensure that there are term limits and fair election regulations.
Investing in innovation, and reducing costs is another step that will prove beneficial. Investing in innovation, in general, is a benefit to any nation that decides to think towards the future. The Small Island Developing States, in particular, can cut energy costs by implementing new cost-effective ways to get energy. According to the UN,“in the Pacific islands the identified need is for economically sustainable, clean, renewable and moderate-scale energy production technology to initially complement, and eventually replace, existing sources of energy.” Programs like this help the Small Island Developing States create jobs, educate a new workforce and cut costs on long-term expenses.
Overall reducing costs, investing in education, and diversifying the economies are all ways that Small Island Developing States can improve their current positioning in the climate change era. Small Island Developing States are particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change, and having a comprehensive plan to remain economically secure through natural disasters is beneficial overall. Governments need to start thinking about how they’re going to keep their economies going after natural disasters; they are no longer random acts of nature. Citizens need to take this opportunity to mobilize and hold their elected officials accountable. This will be a team effort overall.
CNN Library. “2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Fast Facts.” CNN, Cable News Network, 30 Oct. 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/05/15/us/2017-atlantic-hurricane-season-fast-facts/index.html.
Emanuel, Kerry. Assessing the present and future probability of Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 4 Oct. 2017,ftp://texmex.mit.edu/pub/emanuel/PAPERS/Harvey_2017.pdf.
Sullivan, Brian K. The Most Expensive U.S. Hurricane Season Ever: By the Numbers. Bloomberg, 26 Nov. 2017, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-26/the-most-expensive-u-s-hurricane-season-ever-by-the-numbers.
UNFCCC. Climate Change Small Island Developing States. CLIMATE CHANGE SECRETARIAT (UNFCCC), 2005, unfccc.int/resource/docs/publications/cc_sids.pdf
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Vulnerability And Adaptation To Climate Change In Small Island Development States.” UNFCCC expert meeting on adaptation for small island developing States (SIDS), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 5 Feb. 2007, unfccc.int/files/adaptation/adverse_effects_and_response_measures_art_48/application/pdf/200702_sids_adaptation_bg.pdf.