On the heels of a major warning from the UN's top body studying climate change, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center issued a release last week that said Caribbean leaders need to work quickly to cut greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. It found that warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius could lead to disasterous consequences for Small Island Developing States, or SIDS. Among the effects of such warming, it noted, would be increased water stress, more intense rainfall during tropical cyclones and increased exposure to irreversible sea-level rise.
“While some coral reefs would be able to adapt at 1.5 degree Celsius, at 2 degrees, their chances of survival are next-to-none; irrecoverably damaging the fisheries and livelihoods that depend on them," the release said.
Next week, ministers of health and environment as well as other partner agencies will be convening in Grenada for the third Global Conference on Health and Climate Change. Their goal will be to develop a plan of action for the Caribbean to address the impact climate change has on human health.
Reporter Andrea Polanco caught up recently with the World Health Organization’s Joy Saint John of Barbados at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, where St. John said that the Small Island Developing States grouping has been compiling data to strengthen the way climate change-related illnesses are tackled.
“We have started doing country profiles. There have been country profiles done in other regions, but we have started doing country profiles in the Caribbean," said Dr. St. John, Assistant Director Genernal for Climate and Other Determinants of Health at the WHO. "The actual status of not only the effects, but what the region has in place to address those things is being laid out. So, there is evidence being built globally and then specifically in the Caribbean there is evidence being developed."
"So, we have already the vector control issues, and when you speak of diseases related to climate, you also have to think of the effects on the body, the sun – the exposure to UV in terms of skin cancers. So, those things are there. Those things are known and luckily there are the clinical changes in how to prevent and treat illnesses," she said.
This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership, a collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.