Anyone who understates the climate change threat is living in Wonderland. Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the September 2017 floods brought the climate change reality to the Virgin Islands in a very rude awakening.
This writer firmly believes that climate change brought on the September 2017 natural disasters that wrought havoc on the territory. However, the aftermath of disaster saw prolonged suffering as a result of a total lack of preparation and a culture that reacts to change but does not engineer change.
Human beings are driving these disasters with a careless and irresponsible planetary interface — a disregard for how their material existence and excessive consumer culture damages the only environment people possess: Earth, the human habitat.
The culture of the VI and most of the Caribbean is reactive and not proactive. As much as experts preach about the impact of consumerism on the environment, most residents could care less about the environment as they dance to the music of the material culture.
But in today’s world of climate change, nimbleness, innovation, sustainable living, proactive cultures, and good and effective governance alone will prevail against the natural catastrophes that are predicted to become regular, even annual, events.
An October 2018 report from the United Nations undergirded by the world’s most prominent scientists stated that the world has less than a decade to implement policy that will stop a dramatic and irreversible deterioration in the earth’s environment.
Global warming — caused by pollution and gasses getting trapped in the atmosphere and the depletion of the ozone layer as human beings increasingly burn fossil fuel energy — is causing sea levels to rise dramatically worldwide.
Rains and hurricanes are getting more intense. The polar regions’ ice caps and glaciers are melting, dumping hundreds of billions of gallons of water into the world’s oceans and seas, causing rising sea levels.
Coastal flooding and storm surge are going to get worse as each hurricane season gets increasingly intense.
In the United States, 40 percent of coastal citizens are already threatened by rising seas. Low-lying island chains such as the Maldives and the Bahamas are under severe threat, sinking as sea levels rise.
Overheating and sun exposure will lead to millions of heat-related deaths worldwide.
Severe hurricanes and coastal flooding are set to become annual events. The world’s cities and towns by the coastline will have to build seawalls, canals, dams and various other types of flooding prevention infrastructure, costing hundreds of billions of dollars over the coming years — or these societies will simply cease to exist.
Water supply in peril
Potable water supply will become a challenge, especially in low lying regions, as reservoirs, water plants, and desalination facilities become damaged by flooding and hurricanes.
Seawater flooding is already threatening the water infrastructure in Miami. Here in the VI, the September 2017 disasters impacted water infrastructure, setting back water distribution and supply.
Weather related insurance is set to skyrocket in natural-disaster-prone regions. This has implications. The VI’s already high cost of living, for example, will increase further with climate change.
In the VI post Irma, insurance premiums are on the rise steeply. In some instances, premiums will double. This may cause people to forego home insurance, which could cost them dearly down the road.
Populations in affected regions such as the VI — which is on ground zero of climate change — will have to adapt, becoming much more ecologically aware and adopting sustainable lifestyles and minimal carbon footprints. Not becoming environmentally savvy means suffering climate change misery in financial, physical and human terms, both now and in the immediate future.
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