RESILIENCEHow the Caribbean Is Building Climate Resilience

By Diana Roy

Published 17 August 2023

Small island nations in the Caribbean are among the countries in the world most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and stronger and more frequent storms. Governments in the region are taking steps to combat it, but climate finance remains a challenge as Caribbean nations struggle with heavy debt burdens, despite receiving some regional and international support. 

The Caribbean is one of the regions of the world most vulnerable to climate change. Its large coastal populations and exposed location leave it at the mercy of rising sea levels, stronger storms, and worsening drought. Increasing temperatures, meanwhile, threaten its unique biodiversity. Despite their meager contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions, the Caribbean’s thirteen sovereign nations are already bearing the brunt of these climate disruptions, putting many of these tourism-dependent countries deeply in debt and spurring increased migration across the region.

Scientists say that without immediate action, the Caribbean could eventually become nearly uninhabitable. Countries such as Barbados and Dominica have implemented a range of mitigation and adaptation measures, including increasing public spending on resilient infrastructure, and many have set ambitious targets for emissions reductions. But with the region requiring significantly more help to stave off the worst effects, some leaders in particular are pushing for fundamental reforms of global development aid and climate financing. 

How Much Does Climate Change Threaten the Caribbean?
The United Nations considers the Caribbean to be “ground zero” in the global climate emergency. Classified as small island developing states (SIDS) along with twenty-six other countries, Caribbean nations face particular risks due to their exposed location, relative isolation, and small size. Some of these include:

·  more pronounced sea-level rise;

·  increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and tropical storms;

·  increased rainfall and flooding;

·  dangerous high temperatures;

·  coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion; and

·  longer dry seasons and shorter wet seasons.

Experts say some Caribbean islands could eventually become uninhabitable. A common feature among SIDS—including those in Oceania and the Indian Ocean—is a high coastline-to-land ratio, meaning that any rise in the sea level is likely to have an outsized impact on the agricultural lands, infrastructure, and populations located along a country’s coast. Some of the most at-risk countries include low-lying islands in the Caribbean Basin, such as the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago, whose surfaces are only a few meters above sea level. Several other islands, including Barbados and Dominica, lie inside the so-called “Hurricane Alley” in the Atlantic Ocean. In the nearly two decades between 2000 and 2019, the Bahamas and Haiti ranked among the top ten countries and territories globally that were most affected by extreme weather events [PDF].