By anguillian July 17, 2017 09:57 Updated





There are many sceptics out there who refuse to believe any climate change theories. However, for those of us who believe, the evidence is all around us. The rising temperatures which we complain about bitterly, on a daily basis, have more far-reaching consequences than our personal discomfort. Scientific evidence demonstrates that the rising temperatures have resulted in the melting of ice caps in the polar regions which has caused sea level rise across the globe. This threatens the existence of islands such as ours. Rising temperatures have also been linked to an increase in the frequency and severity of storms. We have seen the devastating effects of this, firsthand, right here in the Caribbean.

Additionally, we have seen the destruction of coral reefs, either through storm surge or through coral bleaching (ie the expulsion of algae living in the tissue of the coral causing it to turn white), which is also caused by increases in the temperature of the water. The spinoff effect of this is beach erosion as we have witnessed, for example, on the eastern side of Shoal Bay East, as well as on the infamous northeastern spit, on the same beach, which used to extend into the sea almost 30 feet and now extends less than 10 feet. The effects of climate change are all around us and, as people living on a vulnerable, tropical island, we have to pay attention.

While there are natural phenomena that contribute to climate change, it ought not to be denied that human behaviour is also a major contributor. Deforestation in the name of development, harmful agricultural practices and the protracted reliance on fossil fuels are the main culprits. We have not been taking care of the planet entrusted to us. It also doesn’t help when world leaders are in denial about the effects of climate change –and hence do not assess the impact of economic decisions on the climate. A good example of this is when countries continue to invest in energy production using fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas even though these have been proven to be major players in the greenhouse effect due to the high carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
For some countries, decisions that are in the interest of the planet are sidelined by more practical considerations such as the fact that these industries which produce, or use fossil fuels, employ thousands of people. Additionally, some corporations thrive on these industries and some of those same corporations may have been responsible, through campaign contributions, of electing political leaders. In other words, leaders find it difficult to put planet earth’s wellbeing ahead of what they perceive to be the wellbeing of the voters and, by extension, themselves.

With this in mind, one may ask, if developed countries are not taking climate change seriously, then why really should we bother? Can anything we do in little Anguilla really make a difference? Aren’t we still going to be impacted by what happens globally? These are all difficult questions to answer, but the reality is that we live in one of most high risk areas of the world when we consider the potential impacts of climate change. That fact, in itself, means we cannot sit back and do nothing.

I am heartened by the fact that one of the most influential persons on earth, Pope Francis, has spoken out on the issue of climate change. Regardless of personal views on the Catholic Church, there is no doubt that over the years Pope Francis has made it his business to ensure that the church speaks out on issues that some would claim are beyond its remit. In one of his recent encyclicals (letter to Catholics around the world), the Pope said: “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.” He lamented that, “The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” The Pope gave a reminder that “the Earth was here before us and has been given to us.” While much of the efforts to combat climate change will depend on the buy-in of global leaders, the Pope’s letter is some indication that there are those who will take a stand for our planet. We at home should do the same.

Firstly, we can begin with a national ban on plastic bags, styrofoam containers etc. and insist on the use of bio-degradables. This can be reinforced by adjusting import duties accordingly. Secondly, we can ban the importation of vehicles which use petrol and insist on the sale, at gas stations, of unleaded gas only; additionally, we can encourage the use of solar powered vehicles by reducing the import duty on them. Thirdly, we should encourage ANGLEC to go solar or impose fines for the amount of carbon emissions from the Corito Power Plant. Fourthly, as a country we should invest in solar energy production and should encourage businesses and households to invest in solar energy to meet their energy needs. Fifthly, we need to crackdown on sand-mining with additional beach patrols and stiffer penalties. Sixthly, we must ensure that coastal development in particular is in keeping with recommended setbacks and does not exacerbate the vulnerability of the coastline. Seventhly, we should invest in coral reef restoration to ensure that our beaches are not further eroded. Given the importance of our beaches to our livelihood, and economic growth in general, there is no way our economists would not consider this a worthwhile investment. Lastly, but not exhaustively, we should encourage the planting rather than the removal of trees.

When it comes to climate change there are no easy answers. To make a difference will take deliberate, consistent effort on the part of many. Since our fate depends on it, we too must do our part.

By anguillian July 17, 2017 09:57 Updated


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