This article is a joint publication of TheNation.com and Foreign Policy In Focus.
The future of our planet looks pretty bleak. The latest report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a dire picture: climate change is here to stay, and we’re not doing enough to prepare ourselves.
Extreme weather events from hurricanes to floods and droughts will leave virtually no corner of our planet untouched. Climate chaos will undoubtedly inflict damage upon wealthier nations, but no one is more vulnerable than the world’s poor.
The Latin American and Caribbean region is home to dozens of low- and middle-income countries that are still struggling to develop. Many depend on the warm waters and mild weather of the Caribbean to sustain their crucial agriculture and tourism industries. Climate change threatens the livelihoods of millions of people across the region who rely on these sectors to survive.
The small island nations of the Caribbean depend on the ocean as a source of food and income. Catching and eating fish have been traditions in the region for centuries, and fish remain a dietary staple. However, this heavy reliance on the ocean for sustenance may be upended by climate change. According to a recent report, the world’s oceans will see a 170 percent rise in acidity by the end of the century, which could prove devastating for global fish stocks that are already overexploited.
In the small country of Antigua and Barbuda, a severely impacted fish population would have dire consequences. Located in the western Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda is the largest per capita consumer of fish in the world. Not only do Antiguans consume a lot of fish, but their country’s location also makes it a prime exporter of fish products to profitable markets in Puerto Rico and the continental United States. The Antiguan export of fish commodities is currently valued at $1.5 million. For fishermen trying to make a living and the rural poor who rely on this industry for food, the future of fishing resources looks grim.
In other countries, the lucrative banana industry is under assault. The bananas grown on the tiny island of Dominica bring in a yearly profit of $68 million, a valuable source of foreign exchange for the small country. The banana industry is also the second-largest employer on the island, accounting for 6,000 jobs for a population of just over 70,000. In 2007, Hurricane Dean ripped through the island, decimating the vital industry. On Christmas Eve 2013, a day meant for shopping and preparing for the upcoming major holiday, Dominicans awoke to heavy rains that caused massive flooding and landslides throughout the island. The changing climate promises even more destructive storms, putting the banana trade—and with it much of the Dominican economy—in mortal peril.