The Bahamas Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Wendall Jones told members of international community in Washington, DC on Thursday that “climate change is not a political issue, it’s a survival issue.”
Speaking at The High-Level Dialogue on Climate Policy and Other Key Issues in the Western Hemisphere at the Organization of American States, Mr. Jones told Ambassadors of the Caribbean, Americas and officials of the U.S Department of State that reefs surrounding the Bahamas are dying. This, he said, affects the livelihood and survival of Bahamians. “Once the reefs are bleached by excessive heat, it causes the proliferation of algae on the reefs. So, the reefs die and fish go elsewhere,” he said.
The Ambassador said, “my Prime Minister, the Honourable Philip Davis, since coming to office some two years ago, has made it his main focus to get leaders across the globe to take the climate threat seriously and to take action.
He quoted from the Perry Institute for Marine Science which recently reported that “the breathtaking coral reefs of The Bahamas, renowned around the world for their vibrancy and diverse marine life, are under serious and immediate threat as a powerful ocean heat wave driven by climate change is causing widespread coral bleaching and killing off reef systems.”
Bahamian Marine Scientist Doctor Krista Sherman is reported recently saying, “in the face of this crisis, we cannot underestimate the situation’s urgency. The future of our coral reefs hangs in the balance.”
It is said that with up to 135 million per square kilometers at stake in The Bahamas, local reefs hold significant ecological, economic, and touristic value. Coral reefs serve as natural barriers against storms, sustain fisheries and tourism, and nurture marine life, impacting countless communities, jobs, food security and coastal protection. A quarter or more of the world’s Marine life relies on reefs, and over half of the world’s population relies on seafood as their primary source of protein. As a small developing state, The Bahamas relies on a pristine environment to feed Bahamians.
On the issue of Climate Finance, Ambassador Jones said, “some people in the international community seem to believe that CARICOM countries come “cap in hand” looking for fee and easy money. He said, “after building the infrastructure in the islands, much of which did not exist prior to their independence, these countries are now fighting uphill battles to reduce this major threat to our survival.
“It is well understood that disaster-based loans are driving our country, The Bahamas, into deeper debt. In addition, disaster risk reduction initiatives having to be implemented and funded repeatedly will continue to impact fiscal budgets. What is telling is that the cost for addressing the impacts of climate change is growing and adequate funding is not being swiftly mobilized.”
Mr. Jones said, “we have low-lying islands in The Bahamas. The average height of most islands and cays is about 23 feet above sea level. We saw the rising sea level in Hurricane Dorian as the surge came through Abaco and Grand Bahama in the northern Bahamas at 28 feet. This means that most of our islands can be submerged by these severe tropical systems.
“What must also be borne in mind is this: with climate change and sea level rise, the water table in the islands remain high year-round; because when it rains there is now severe flooding in low-lying areas as the water has nowhere to go. This is another major challenge which impacts the finances of the government. So instead of allocating more funding to education, healthcare or other areas, this major threat to our national security must be attended to with urgency,” Ambassador Jones said.