Climate change poses enormous risk to Jamaica’s economy through crippling impact on its tourism and agriculture industries, writes Advira Shand, 25, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Manchester in Jamaica, who urges leaders to speak up for Caribbean interests at climate change negotiations.
It is a fact that the Caribbean is by no means immune to the catastrophic effects of climate change. Therefore, it is incumbent on our leaders to put up a valiant fight in the support of marked reduction in global emissions as they engage in negotiations in Paris at the closing of 2015.
Like most Caribbean states, Jamaica has an enormous stake in these negotiations. The future of its economic development and prosperity is hanging in the balance as the Jamaican populace impatiently awaits a sustained reduction in climate change.
The tourism sector, one of Jamaica’s most salient foreign exchange earners, has become increasingly vulnerable to the grave threats posed by the unforgiving hands of climate change. Scores of tourists are drawn to our shores because of our inviting and exciting tropical climate. However, increases in the severity and frequency in violent storms and hurricanes, along with droughts and warmer temperatures, will undoubtedly thwart Jamaica’s appeal to tourists.
Firstly, increases in harsher storms and hurricanes, similar to hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Dean (2007), will bring about irreversible damage to cultural and historical artifacts and tourism infrastructure, and unprecedented rises in sea levels. Harsher storms will also give birth to extensive coastal erosion which will put a massive dent in water sports activities. Secondly, rises in temperatures and droughts can foster adverse negative effects such as extensive water shortages, as seen in 2014, and undesirable heat stress among tourists. Widespread loss of wildlife and natural attractions, depletion of marine resources, and increases in infectious diseases will also be attributed to higher temperatures and drought.
In addition, hoteliers and other major players within the tourism industry will be burdened with the crippling effects of higher electricity cost in an effort to combat increased temperatures and the inevitable reductions in tourist vacationing on the island. This will then fuel stark reductions in prized investments within the tourism sector and exponential increases in unemployment.
The Jamaican agricultural industry can be playfully dubbed as Jamaica’s “bread an’ butta”. As with tourism, Jamaica receives a substantial portion of its foreign earnings from agriculture. Agriculture also provides employment for a large portion of Jamaica’s rural population. It should also be noted that in 2012 agriculture accounted for 6.8 per cent of the nation’s GDP. Unfortunately, this sector is also under attack by climate change.
It is common knowledge that increases in vicious drought conditions arising from climate change will have a crippling impact on agricultural production and quality, bring about distasteful increases in the cost of food and pose grave threats to cattle and livestock. Increases in the frequency and severity of hurricanes, also unwelcome offsprings of climate change, will unleash similar effects to those of severe drought conditions. Harsher hurricanes will result in widespread damage to agricultural crops such as coffee, sugar cane and bananas, agricultural infrastructure and livestock. These extreme effects arising from climate change will also cost a plethora of Jamaicans their jobs and pose a serious threat to food security.
Therefore, as our delegates entertain the prospect of leaning back more comfortably in the chairs stationed around the negotiations table, while they leisurely readjust their ties, I beg them to think about the precarious state that our economy is in because of climate change. They should also think about the scores of Jamaicans who do not stand a chance at surviving the fierce onslaught of climate change.
Our delegates have our lives in their hands. We need them to be our gladiators, and stand up and fight for us in the negotiating arena.