‘Our study shows that tropical regions – mostly developing countries that are already highly vulnerable to climate change – face the biggest rise in impacts’ – Bill Hare

Have you ever wondered WHY is the weather hot today?, instead of just saying “wow, it’s hot today!.”

Trinidad and Tobago, the economy that has propelled its economic sufficiency by the constant use of hydrocarbons has lead to increasingly high levels of energy production, consumption and green house gases which has contributed to global warming. With an expanding economy that still thrives on the use of hydrocarbons as its main economic driver the human impact that we have on the environment is severe. The direct result of these human activities from the Energy, Transport, Power Generation and the Industrial Process Sector has led this country to have the highest carbon dioxide emission in the Caribbean region. The warming caused by this continued rate of carbon dioxide emission will affect ; the ability of our economy to diversify, our marine ecosystem and the existence of our country if we do not transition to alternate forms of economic activity and keep the contribution to global temperature rise below 1.5℃.

In 2016, carbon dioxide concentration levels permanently exceeded the alarming 400 parts per million threshold globally. The safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. If you did not know, carbon dioxide traps heat. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere equals more heat.

In order for this rapid warming of the atmosphere to slow down we must act quickly if we want to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5℃ or below by the year 2100 which was set by the Paris Agreement. What this means is that we need to halt the already escalating increase in global temperatures to less than 1.5℃ above average pre-industrial levels by transitioning to alternate forms of economic activities. The mean annual temperature for Trinidad and Tobago is projected to increase to 2.6 °C by 2060 and 4.3°C by 2090 thus, if we want to survive as a nation decarbonization is a must.

A recent study estimated that if the world keeps burning all our fossil fuels, Earth will be 8°C warmer by 2300, returning to the climate of 52 million years ago where palm trees grew in the Arctic. Average temperatures in the Arctic would rise by 17°C. If these temperatures do become reality, greenhouse gases would transform Earth into a place where food is scarce, parts of the world are uninhabitable for humans, and many species of animals and plants are wiped out (Nature Climate Change, May 2016).

Flood water, Trinidad and Tobago. Photo: UNDP

That is an extremely unfortunate prediction and this is why each country needs to try to curtail climatic issues by treating it as delicately as any economic issue they face. Climate change not only threatens the environment but it threatens our economy. The tourism and agricultural sectors which we need in order to further diversify the economy are under threat as we have already seen some of the effects of global warming in our country. Our corals are dying, there is an increase in hot spells across Trinidad and Tobago and our fisheries sector is at risk. Why aren’t our main ‘eco-nomic’ activities eco-friendly?

Other than the economy, climate change threatens the mere existence of our twin island as well as the rest of the Caribbean due to a projected rise in sea levels. Most of the population in the Caribbean reside along the coastal areas due to the geographical nature of these islands. We are all at risk because with a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures, by the end of this century 1300 square kilometers of land will disappear in the Caribbean: an area comparable to the whole of Barbados, Saint-Vincent and the Grenadines, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, combined.

Therefore, Trinidad and Tobago must transition from a hydrocarbon based economy by strengthening the role of clean energy in the local energy mix if we want achieve energy efficiency and limit the global temperature rise to below 1.5 °C by 2100. Our country requires sustainable development amidst the increasing temperatures. The use of clean and renewable energy overtime can more than offset the net carbon emissions that the country emits.

Earth is the only home that we have known and will know for the foreseeable future (unless you want to join Elon Musk on his SpaceX Mission to colonize Mars). We can choose to live symbiotically and mutually benefit or parasitically and watch the earth become inhospitable to life on the whole.

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Originally published in The Guardian Trinidad and Tobago

Vasu Beepath

About Vasu Beepath