'Climate change becomes an existential crisis on the islands'

WILLEMSTAD - “Climate change on the islands is expected to be an existential crisis. More attention must soon be paid to the consequences of climate change on the Caribbean-Dutch islands.” That is the view of Tadzio Bervoets, director of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA).

The reason for this is the COP26 climate summit, which was held in Glasgow, Scotland, from November 1 to November 12.

According to Bervoet, DCNA has brought attention to the existential crises as a result of the changing climate during recently held meetings with various Members of Parliament and directorates in the Netherlands.

“We had to remind politicians in The Hague that the various agreements regarding climate change apply to the entire Kingdom of the Netherlands and not just to the Netherlands,” says Bervoets.

“We had to explain issues like increased hurricanes, coral bleaching, sargassum invasions and droughts to what we assume are experts on climate change but had no idea about these effects. This is both disappointing and alarming.”

Climate summit

At the climate summit in Glasgow, nearly two hundred countries were looking for ways to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Curaçao was not present. The island therefore makes no significant contribution to the global greenhouse gas problem. However, like the other Caribbean islands, Curaçao will have to deal with the consequences of global warming.

The DCNA seizes this moment to express its concern to the Dutch government about the lack of attention for the consequences of climate change in the Caribbean Netherlands. “Despite the fact that Dutch politicians have recently discussed climate change, we are concerned that little attention is paid to the impact that climate change will have on the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, while it is clear that those living in the Caribbean are leading the way in the climate crises,” said the DCNA director.

Extreme weather conditions

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), a United Nations (UN) working group on Climate Change, has predicted that for the Caribbean region, a 1.4-degree increase in air temperature will lead to a 5- to 6 percent decrease in rainfall, an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, including a 66 percent increase in hurricane intensity; and a sea level rise of 0.5 to 0.6 meters due to thermal expansion of water and glacial melt.

These climate change predictions are especially concerning in the context of an already visible warming trend. DCNA: “According to recent data, average temperatures in the Caribbean Netherlands have risen sharply over the past forty years. In Curaçao, research by the Meteorological Department has shown that the island has seen more and more warm days and fewer cooler nights in recent decades.”

Tropical hurricanes

Since the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands form two geographically distinct groups, separated by more than 900 km of open water, climate change is not expected to affect these two archipelagos in the same way. Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao are located in the southern Caribbean, an area that is expected to become warmer and drier, with longer seasonal dry periods. Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten, which are located in the northeastern Caribbean and thus within the Caribbean hurricane belt, are expected to experience more frequent and more violent tropical hurricanes.



The economy of the Dutch Caribbean islands is largely dependent on tourism, and it is expected that this single economic pillar will also be drastically affected: “Increase in storms and hurricanes can lead to tourists experiencing the destination as unsafe; beach erosion and coral bleaching can negatively affect the perception of the destination's attractiveness. In addition, there is an increased risk of damage to residential areas on coastal towns from severe hurricanes and other storms and of damage to tourist attractions,” DCNA said.