It’s Hurricane Season. Small Coastal Nations Need Help.

By HSealy
August 29, 2017

Hurricane Harvey is bearing down on Texas. Meteorologists say the storm could swamp parts of the state with up to 30 inches of rain, causing mass flooding.[1]

Harvey is the first hurricane to hit the Lone Star State in nearly a decade. Small, coastal nations in the Atlantic haven’t been so lucky. In recent years, storms have repeatedly hammered these countries,[2] which lack the resources to predict, prepare for, and recover from natural disasters.[3]

Hurricanes will intensify in the coming years due to climate change. For years, developed nations have emitted huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, trapping in heat and creating the perfect environment for storm development.

Developed countries caused the problem. It’s up to them to provide poorer nations with the resources to enhance their disaster preparation efforts.

Climate change makes hurricanes much more powerful. Warmer sea temperatures cause the storms to produce more rainfall and faster winds. And higher sea levels means bigger storm surges.[4]

These stronger storms are already taking a toll on Caribbean nations.

Consider Hurricane Matthew, a Category 5 storm that ravaged the Caribbean in 2016. In Haiti, the storm claimed over 1,000 lives and caused $1.9 billion of damage.[5] Matthew also cost Cuba $2.6 billion and the Bahamas $600 million.[6]

Meanwhile, back in 2012, Hurricane Sandy killed nearly 100 people across six Caribbean nations. In Haiti, 200,000 were left homeless. In Cuba, 137,000 homes were damaged.[7]

Hurricanes cost Caribbean nations 5.7 percent of their GDP every year.[8] For context, that would be like knocking out the United States’ entire retail industry.[9]

By 2100, economic damages could surge 77 percent if climate change is left unchecked.[10]

Developed nations have an obligation to help. Since 1850, they’ve produced 80 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.[11]

These developed countries could help fund new infrastructure that is more resistant to hurricanes.[12] They could also equip coastal nations with emergency supplies like food, water, and water purification tools.[13] Following storms, they should help damaged areas recover and rebuild.

Here at St. George’s, we implore our students — many of whom are from developed nations — to consider the impact of climate change on smaller, poorer countries. Many students take courses like “Principles of Environmental Health” and “Environmental Sustainable Development,” which encourage them to consider the interactions between humans and their environments — and explore long-term sustainable development solutions.[14]

Leaving developing nations to recover from hurricanes on their own isn’t right. The international community must step up — before it’s too late.

 

[1] http://abcnews.go.com/US/harvey-expected-make-landfall-major-hurricane/story?id=49397270

[2] https://weather.com/safety/hurricane/news/hurricane-damages-effects-20120330

[3] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-compensate-small-island-nations-for-tropical-cyclone-damage/

[4] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/ClimateStorms/page2.php

[5] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/haiti-death-toll-hurricane-matthew-passes-1000-161010042033130.html

[6] http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/international/2016/11/10/432019.htm

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/29/caribbean-nations-hurricane-sandy

[8] https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2016/wp16199.pdf

[9] http://www.psdglobal.com/usa-market-entry/

[10] https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2016/wp16199.pdf

[11] https://www.cgdev.org/media/who-caused-climate-change-historically

[12] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100607192725.htm

[13] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/haiti-caribbean-hurricane-matthew_us_57f27e09e4b0c2407cdee051

[14] http://www.sgu.edu/academic-programs/graduate-studies/mph-degree/curriculum-master-of-public-health/#tab-id-2

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