Mon | Mar 19, 2018

Earth Today | Caribbean economies under threat from rising temperatures

Published:Thursday | October 26, 2017 | 12:12 AM
Members of the audience listen attentively during the recent ‘Hurricanes and the Caribbean’ forum hosted by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute in partnership with other stakeholders at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters on Monday.

RESEARCH OUT of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revealed that low-income and emerging economies are especially sensitive to temperature increases that fuel extreme events such as hurricanes, a feature of climate change to which Caribbean islands are especially vulnerable.

In the region, natural disasters present three particular challenges, according to IMF economist Dr Sebastian Acevedo.

They include, he noted, the higher frequency of events relative to size, having on average one disaster every two years per 1,000 square kilometres, compared to one disaster every six years per 1,000 square kilometres globally.

There is, he said, also the challenge of larger damage relative to gross domestic product (GDP) and a higher impact on growth.

"The Caribbean suffers 2.2 per cent of GDP in damage on average every year (compared to the) world, which has 0.4 per cent of GDP in damage on average every year," Acevedo revealed in his presentation.

He was addressing participants at the forum hosted by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, the University of the West Indies stakeholders and the IMF, under the theme 'Hurricanes and the Caribbean: Risk, Resilience and Response'.


Particular problem


Hurricanes, the economist said, is a particular problem. Between 1950 and 2014, there were 528 events in 27 countries across the region. Fifty-five per cent of those events were hurricanes relative to five per cent droughts, four per cent epidemics and nine per cent categorised as 'other'.

Given these realities, Acevedo said the "international community must play a key role in coping with rising temperatures" and recommended that islands of the region build buffers, including accounting for annual expected damages, better preparedness and insurance.

He also recommended construction that adapts to climate change as well as the need for building codes and zoning laws, and their effective enforcement.