The Caribbean's Response to Climate Change Impacts

The Caribbean's Response to Climate Change Impacts

Steve Maximay (Science-Based Initiatives, Trinidad and Tobago)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6501-9.ch002
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To fully appreciate climate change impacts and adaptations in the Caribbean, several aspects of the phenomenon and the region's response must be placed in historical and chronological sequence. This chapter starts with a review of the Caribbean islands, focusing on the agricultural sector and its vulnerability to climate change impacts. It then provides a brief review of the Caribbean's foray into organized planning for climate change; the early advocacy of those who believed the issue was a serious threat to the region, and the projects that were developed. It also traces organized institutional level responses, some national efforts, and the degree to which climate change issues have now become part of the routine agricultural development discourse. An overview of the possible climate change impacts and the programmed adaptations at a regional level are presented, and the chapter ends with a look at the importance of communication to raise awareness and ultimately change behaviours.
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Agriculture is an important sector of the economy in most Caribbean countries. In addition to providing food for local consumption, the crops, livestock and seafood that are grown, raised and caught in the Caribbean contribute to valuable foreign exchange. The region is a net importer of food. At the same time, regional agriculture and fisheries are highly dependent on specific climate conditions. Thus, the overall effect of climate change on the region’s food supply can have serious consequences for regional food security. Acceptance of climate change as an issue of regional agricultural significance thus required purposeful analysis and a readiness to take appropriate actions. Recognition involved a realization that the likely impacts would be economy-wide and not limited to any one sector or academic discipline.

Between 1980 and 2004, there were several instances of extreme weather events as shown in Table 1.

Table 1.
Value and incidence of selected hurricane damage to the Caribbean agricultural sector (1980-2004)
Hurricane (Year)
Sub-SectorDamage DescriptionEstimated Value (US$)
Luis (1995)
Agriculture, livestock, fisheriesUS$ 2,978,997.02
Lili (1996)
AgricultureExtensive damage to 28 acres of bananas, limes, mangoes and coconuts in Exuma and severe damage to banana in Long IslandNo value reported
British Virgin Islands Hugo (1989)Farmers and backyard gardenersCrops, livestock, buildings, roads and dams, fisheries, agricultural stationUS$ 4,496,795.50
Luis and Marilyn (1995)
Crops, livestock, bananas, forestry90% banana acreage and 50% tree crop production destroyedUS$ 11,851,840.00
Ivan (2004)
AgricultureNutmeg, mace, cocoaUS$ 35,925,890.00
Gilbert (1988)
AgricultureSugarcane 30,000 ac, and 157,000 ac other crops destroyedUS$ 15,187,161.27
St. Kitts and Nevis Luis (1995)AgricultureWind damage to crops, soil erosion, sugar cane crop and infrastructure lossUS$ 34,999,965.00
St. Lucia
Allen (1980)
Housing, agriculture and industrial sectorUS$ 74,074,000.00
St. Lucia
AgricultureFlood, wind and erosion damage to banana and coconut cropsShort and medium term losses to banana industry estimated at US$ 740,740 per week

Source: Adapted from CDEMA (2010).

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