0112 GMT November 20, 2018
Caribbean states and territories rounded on the Trump administration for dismantling the US’ response to climate change, warning that greenhouse gas emissions must be sharply cut to avoid hurricanes and sea level rise threatening the future of their island idylls.
The onset of this year’s hurricane season has seen leaders in the region tell The Guardian that Trump needs to grasp the existential threat they face.
Trump is not known for his environmentalism. The 45th president has routinely denied that climate change exists, and his policies often pose a threat to nature.
The US under Trump has withdrawn from the 2015 Paris Agreement.
During the 2015 Paris climate talks, Caribbean nations were among the loose coalition of low-lying countries that successfully pushed the international community to aim to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C beyond pre-industrial levels.
This aspiration, which would provide many island states the hope of remaining viable in the face of sea level rise, drought and powerful storms, is currently far from likely, with a recent UN report warning the picture would be “even bleaker” if the Trump administration follows through with its vow to remove the US from the Paris deal.
The withdrawal from Paris deal would take three years but in the meantime the US government is working to dismantle the clean power plan, an Obama-era strategy to cut carbon dioxide, delay new vehicle emissions standards, open up new land and ocean to oil and gas drilling and even put in place a set of subsidies that would prop up the ailing coal industry.
“In 2017 we saw some of the most devastating and destructive hurricanes we’ve seen in our history,” said Selwin Hart, Barbados’ Ambassador to the US. “This needs to be recognized.”
“This isn’t some scientific debate, it’s a reality with loss of life implications. We need the US to be back at the table and engage. It’s imperative. We wouldn’t have a Paris climate agreement without the US and we need them back now.”
Hurricane Irma strengthened to a category five hurricane before slamming into the Caribbean and US in September, causing more than 130 deaths in places such as Barbuda, Saint Martin, Barbados and the US. This storm was swiftly followed by hurricane Maria, which obliterated much of Dominica and caused a widespread, ongoing disaster in Puerto Rico, leaving thousands dead.
“Even before the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria, we could already see the effects of coastal erosion, and even the loss of some islands,” said Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rossello, who called Trump’s climate policies “a mistake”.
“We really hope the US readjusts its position. It seems there will be doubters until we start completely losing islands,” said Foreign Minister of the Bahamas Darren Henfield.
“We are being forced to put up sea walls to push back the rising tides,” Henfield said. “We are very exposed and we could see the swallowing of the Bahamas by sea level rise’. “Climate change will exacerbate the issue of refugees,” he added.
“I don’t know what influences the mind of president Trump but the world will be negatively impacted by not dealing with climate change. We always talk to our neighbors in the north and part of our foreign policy is to sensitize them and the international community to the threat we face.”