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Warning for Caribbean countries as sea level continues to rise

Monday, July 14, 2014    

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ST GEORGE'S, Grenada (CMC) — Director of the Environmental and Occupational Health Track of the Public Health Department of St George's University is predicting a bleak future for the Caribbean amid concerns that the rate of sea level rises beyond the anticipated three millimetres mark.

Hugh Sealy, who is also chairman of the board of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) said sea level rise for the Caribbean is inevitable regardless of what decisions are taken now.

"No matter what we do about the future of the CO2 (Carbon dioxide) we put in the atmosphere; even if we pull all the CO2 out of the atmosphere now, we still face a one meter sea level rise in the Caribbean."

He said if this rate continues as being projected, the islands of the region will see major losses along their coastlines by the year 2050.

"Don't forget the rate of sea level rise is increasing. We were two decades ago at one and a half millimetres per year; we're now at three millimetres per year. In two decades time we could be at six millimetres."

Sealy, who is attending the first ever Caribbean Symposium for Innovators in Coastal Tourism, said the sea level rise is not taking place in isolation and that changes to the weather pattern were also having an immediate and devastating effect on the economy.

"You're going to have stronger hurricanes which are going to mean that storm surge is going to be worse; you're going to have salt water intrusions into your ground water aquifers so your fresh water supply is going to be impacted.

"Your agricultural productivity is going to go down. Your yields from your nutmegs are going to get less as the temperatures get hotter and as you get more soil erosion," Sealy said adding "you're going to lose a lot of tourism assets; a lot of coastal assets. Seaports would be lost airports would be lost."

Sealy said that for small economies like Grenada, more that 50 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would have to be spent to replace lost and damaged infrastructure as a result of the effects of climate change.

He said the time to act to mitigate the inevitable effects of climate change is now and urges entrepreneurs in the tourism and hospitality industry to begin now to lobby regional governments to take defensive action.

"This is bigger than you. This has to be done on a national scale," Sealy said.

Meanwhile, a United States-based water resource planning expert is proposing the establishment of a yachting trail in the south eastern Caribbean to improve the yachting experience on the Windward Islands.

Professor emeritus in the College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University Glenn Haas outlined his proposal at the symposium which ended last Friday.

The proposed trail would be a free web-based trail of information and services that yachters and other travellers would use to experience and enjoy the Windward Islands.

Haas said In addition to providing a number of services that would facilitate travel by yachters, the trail will enhance community benefits from authentic interactions of the yachting community with local citizens and communities.

It will also engage the yachting community in the conservation and protection of marine resources and protected areas; serve as a financial engine for National Conservation Trust(s) and their conservation of protected areas and increase government efficiency; reduce costs and leakage and provide additional employment, he added.

"This trail will attract the yachting community because it would be a status symbol to say they have floated, they have boated this trail," Haas suggested.

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