Belief that the Virgin Islands may escape another devastating hurricane such as Irma, Maria or Dorian is simple delusion and dangerous complacency.
As the United Kingdom convulses in a major constitutional crisis, these beautiful islands face their own convulsion generated by climate change. Hurricane Dorian passed by last month, and new tropical systems off the coasts of West Africa continue to concern disaster-planning officials. The worst is not over yet for the 2019 season.
The VI must prepare for a new era marked by the arrival of annual and increasingly devastating hurricanes driven by a climate change anomaly caused by human impunity and environmental irresponsibility.
The equally beautiful Bahamas are a reminder that nature is no respecter of persons. Hurricane Dorian — which passed through those islands — caused hundreds of deaths, and thousands of homes were totally destroyed by high winds and powerful sea surge in the overwhelmingly low-lying areas of the Bahamian archipelago. Seawater has surged on land, submerging homes, businesses, commercial property, government facilities, and public utilities.
Islanders living in the hurricane belt will have to place personal lifestyle and behavioural change at the top of what is required to minimise their exposure to horrific annual storms. And make no mistake, life threatening and destructive hurricanes, as of today, are an annual event in the hurricane zone. That is the new reality.
But what does lifestyle change require? Lifestyle change is a rethink of how islanders living on coastal plains and low-lying islands such as Anegada and Anguilla exist and survive in a world where climate change and rising seas threatens the very existence of low-lying islands and islets.
The first matter that must be faced is economic: how these islands are going to face the crippling costs of rising home, commercial property, and vehicle insurance without a major increase in personal, corporate and national debt. Unhealthy debt and high insurance costs are a drag on economic growth as the two factors can cause a decline in consumer demand and consumer confidence.
The annual cost of recovery from tropical storms and hurricanes can run into the billions of dollars. Yearly, storms will impact the gross domestic produce of hurricane-prone islands significantly, as commerce and tourism are impacted, and government revenues are used for disaster recovery instead of social and economic development.
The cost of living in the VI is among the highest in the Caribbean. Annual devastating hurricanes will put extra percentage points on the index of inflation. Annual hurricanes will impact the consumer price index for the worse.
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