Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States, has just asked why he could find no statement made by “… one or more of the Caribbean countries that attended the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Katowice, Poland, in early December on the disastrous effects of climate change.”
His surprise is based on a premise that there, “… should be a renewed call to arms for all Caribbean island-states whose very existence is now closer to extinction than it has ever been.”
Among the several reasons this premise should be questioned is that all of the many Caribbean island-states that are not low-lying coral formations would be largely unaffected by a moderate rise in sea levels. The citizens of those that are negatively impacted could seek higher ground to mitigate the results of higher seas.
Of the coral islands, many could build levees to keep the water out, as has been done repeatedly all across the world.
In more severe cases, people adversely affected would have to move to neighbouring islands or regions, a process humans and other animals have done for millennia in response to climate change. Indeed, this would be the most economical and realistic way to cope with the problem.
The most expensive and unrealistic response would be to try to either reduce or stop increases in temperature.
This is partly because it is not entirely certain that global warming is exclusively, let alone mainly, a human-made activity, a view supported by scores of reputable climate scientists.
Even if climate change is 100 percent a product of human activity, it is unclear whether there is a reasonable chance that anything could be done to reduce or stop an alleged increase in global temperatures, especially when the effects of such increases would actually enhance the well-being of people living in many northern regions where it would allow the production of food in areas too cold and too dry to do so now.
More important is the fact that trying to control either the weather or its effects would cause massive job losses in the industrialized world that would prove politically suicidal to any government that attempted to rein in factory production and the home use of carbon-based products like coal, oil, and gas.
As for the Caribbean itself, despite our super bantamweight status as a global polluter we are still fighting well below our weight because we are huge per capita and per area despoilers of our fragile environments based on:
- rampant deforestation on volcanic islands, especially by illegal marijuana growers, with little or no tree replanting by the government or private parties thereby adversely affecting rainfall patterns while increasing soil erosion.
- unrestricted crop growing well above the legally mandated height having the same effects.
- unregulated commercial and personal sand mining on many islands where beach tourism is not important causing potential inland flooding.
- no recycling of refuse.
- the burning of household refuse, including toxic and polluting rubber tires.
- no prohibition on the use of wasteful incandescent lighting, as in other parts of the world.
- little or no legal limits on car emissions, as in other countries.
- legal import of old, less fuel-efficient vehicles.
- no residential and little commercial sewage disposal resulting in tens of thousands of tons of garbage washing into the sea.
- no aversion to throwing personal refuse like drinking bottles, cups, and fast food containers into any nearby open drain.
When it comes to aiding and abetting climate change and environmental degradation, we are no worse than the First World countries that some activists believe should see their fossil fuel companies sued “to pay for damage linked to climate change,” a sentiment Sir Ronald seems to support.
Who, then, should be sued in our own environmentally indifferent part of the world for contributing to the very same problem?
Sir Ronald concluded his editorial by arguing that, “The only solution to climate change is to stop it.” If he actually believes this, he should start by urging our very own Caribbean people to do a bit of the heavy lifting themselves by reducing their negative footprint on their local environments.